That tattoo that seemed like a good idea at the moment may not feel like such a good idea at a later time. If and when that becomes the case, class IV medical lasers offer a good option for long awaited tattoo removal.
How does laser tattoo removal work?
The laser technology is fascinating and quite advanced. By using high powered, "Q-Switched lasers", we are able to actually fragment the tattoo ink particles, breaking them apart. In this way that the body's lymphatic system can then absorb and process the pigment over next several weeks.
Which skin types are good candidates for laser tattoo removal?
All skin types (light to dark-skinned) can have their tattoos removed with lasers.
Does it matter if a tattoo is new or old?
No. There are many factors involved in determining how quickly a tattoo will respond to laser tattoo removal treatments. Although some patients believe that their older tattoos should be less challenging, the ink has already faded (something the body and sun exposure does over time regardless of laser treatments) which makes it more challenging to find the right energy for the ink to respond to while being safe at the same time. Newer, professional tattoos tend to have higher quality, more dense ink which may require many treatments to obtain good results. Very new tattoos are treatable as long as the area has completely healed. Sometimes, very new tattoos obtain excellent results because treatments begin before ink has begun to shift in the skin/tissue.
Are non-professional tattoos treatable?
Yes. Often, patients are not aware of what type of ink or substance was used when they received the tattoo. Certain ink (ex: Indian ink) may represent more of a challenge or can resolve more quickly than expected. The number of treatments required for laser tattoo removal is variable and has a lot to do with the type of ink that was used.
Are all ink colors treatable?
Most colors are treatable with the correct laser wavelength and the correct fluence (energy) with dark ink being the least challenging. The patient's skin type also determines what treatment settings are safe and appropriate. Colors that are challenging are purple, yellow, and orange. Red pigment is treatable with a shorter laser wavelength which may represent a risk to those patients that are dark-skinned. Colors that are difficult and may not be treatable with current laser technology are those that lack enough pigment such as peach and white.
Does laser tattoo removal hurt?
Yes - there is no way getting around that fact. Most patients will say that the treatment hurts as much or more removing the tattoo versus having it put on. However, the positive to this is that the laser treatment is generally very fast - much more so than having the tattoo put on. At Celibre, we offer two forms of numbing cream as well as a machine that provides very cold air to the area during treatment. Any discomfort ends when the treatment ends.
Why are laser tattoo removal treatments done six weeks apart?
At Celibre, our protocol is to wait six weeks between treatments to allow for complete healing. Also, research supports that it generally requires six weeks for the body's lymphatic system to completely clear the fragmented ink from the treated area. Performing treatments any sooner is not advisable as the laser may be treating the same ink particles that have yet not cleared from the area. We believe that following this protocol is in the best interest of our patients.
How will the tattoo look as I'm getting laser treatments?
A common belief is that the tattoo will fade consistently and uniformly. On the contrary, pigment will fade quickly in some areas but may take longer in others. A "breaking up" of the pigment is usually what is observed initially. Each treatment should render slow but progressive progress. Using photos throughout the process will offer encouragement that things are moving forward.
Why does it take so long to get good results?
This is a frequent question because patients do not fully understand the process of laser tattoo removal. The length of time required to receive optimal results is in part due to treatments being spaced six weeks apart. Some patients request to have treatments more frequently, but this would not only be unsafe, but a waste of their time and money. Another misconception is that by turning up the energy to its highest setting - the results will be accelerated. Not only does this not offer a more effective treatment but actually causing more harm to the epidermis, increasing the potential for scarring. A good practitioner will use effective but safe settings with each and every treatment. There are very specific skin and tissue reactions that the nurse or physician observes to be confident that the appropriate outcome is achieved.
What are risks associated with laser tattoo removal?
What the patient does at home is extremely important in minimizing potential adverse outcomes. Wearing sunscreen daily to the treated area is mandatory while receiving laser treatments in order to minimize any discoloration to this area. Complete sun avoidance is necessary during the healing phase following each treatment which is generally less than a week. Keeping the area protected by clothing or a bandage will easily accomplish this during the short time of healing. Blistering following a treatment is not a desirable endpoint but is sometimes unavoidable. Not picking at the healing skin will minimize the risk for scarring. Sometimes, a lightening of the treated area (hypopigmentation) is observed. Although this is not common, it is necessary to avoid treatments to this area as well as sun exposure in order to allow the body to repigment the skin.
What expectations should be set for laser tattoo removal?
It is difficult for the laser tattoo removal practitioner to predict the number of treatments required for optimal results because there is no way to determine how the ink will respond. A wide range in the number of treatments should be expected such as six to ten or more treatments. By using the term "optimal results", it is suggested that there may be a point wherein the tattoo ink is no longer responding even at the highest energy/fluence available. A correct, realistic expectation should be dramatic fading if not complete resolution.
At Celibre, we believe in setting the correct expectations by offering necessary patient education and involvement in the process. Our nursing staff is highly trained in delivering effective yet safe treatments for all skin types. We utilize the most advanced Q-Switched lasers for laser tattoo removal, and we stay on the forefront of research for all of the services that we offer. Visit www.celibre.com/tattoos.aspx for more information.