There are several factors that determine how quickly a tattoo will respond to laser treatments.
The first is whether a tattoo was done by an amateur or professional. Professionals may use higher quality ink, better needles and are usually better at what they do. But, even in light of these facts, we don't always know how quickly an amateur tattoo will resolve with laser treatments. We have had patients whose expectation it was that an amateur tattoo should resolve with one or two laser treatments. Although this may be the case infrequently, it is more the case that they will require more than 1 or 2 laser treatments for complete laser tattoo removal for amateur tattoos. The reason is that amateur tattoos may have ink placed in different layers of the skin because of the inexperience of the artist. It is also happens that some amateur tattoos have used ink that does not degrade as quickly as professional ink. The result is that more laser treatments (with a variety of laser settings) are needed for optimal results for laser tattoo removal of amateur tattoos.
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Laser tattoo removal before and after pictures by Celibre Medical, Long Beach and Irvine, California.
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On the other hand, professional tattoos usually respond well with each treatment (in the preliminary stages) because of the density of the ink. But professional tattoos usually require more laser treatments than amateur ones due to the quality, depth and density of the ink used.
Having more than one color of ink in the tattoo being lasered is also an important factor in how many laser treatments will be needed for optimal laser tattoo removal results. In general, the lighter the color of the tattoo, the more challenging it is as this will require a variety of wavelengths of laser light and energy settings to break down the ink.
A patient’s skin type is an important factor in how many treatments will be required for optimal laser tattoo removal results. Although all skin types can be treated safely, there are certain treatment protocols that should not be used on darker skin types. This may extend the number of tattoo laser treatments for darker skin types.
It is not uncommon for us to hear patients express concern over why their experience is different from someone else they know that had laser tattoo removal. As discussed above, it isn’t helpful to compare experiences as there are a variety of reasons why one person’s tattoo responds more quickly than another person's and it is difficult to say up front how long each will take.
When choosing a practitioner to provide laser tattoo removal, make certain that they are equipped with the correct technology, knowledgeable with your skin type, and willing to set realistic, clear expectations while demonstrating effective and safe treatments.
Lori Haney, RN, MEP-C
Certified Medical Laser Safety Officer