Tattoos can be a great form of self-expression, but sometimes we may not love them after some time passes. Whether it’s a reminder of something you’d rather forget or an image or saying you don’t relate to anymore, we understand the desire to remove a tattoo. Here at Dermatology Realm, we’ve got everything you need to know about tattoo removal.
We offer laser tattoo removal to patients throughout Memphis and the Mid-South. While most people know that laser removal exists, there are still some misconceptions about how the procedure works. If you’ve been considering laser tattoo removal, keep reading to learn all the basics you need to know before making your decision.
What is laser tattoo removal?
Laser treatment is the most common and effective way to remove tattoo ink from your skin. This is thanks to the high success rates, lack of any severe side effects, and no downtime. Over the years, laser tattoo removal has become much more affordable and mainstream, but it remains a bit of a mystery to the general public.
The truth is that it is quite difficult to remove ink particles from the skin. Your body views those particles as foreign objects and constantly tries to break them down and eliminate them using an army of white blood cells, but the ink particles are bigger and tougher. The most the white blood cells can do is slowly erode the ink, which is why all tattoos fade over time.
Tattoo ink particles are harsh, so tattoo removal requires a specialized ultrashort pulse laser that emits hot blasts in quick bursts to heat up and break apart the ink particles.
The color of the ink makes a difference as well. Different pigments absorb different wavelengths of light, so the laser must be set to the right wavelength to break down the ink effectively. Tattoos with different pigmentation will require more than one adaptor to break down each type of ink particle, so they typically require more sessions.
After the laser breaks the ink down into small enough particles, the white blood cells seize and carry them to the liver, where they are flushed out with any other foreign objects or toxins.
Laser tattoo removal is very effective and will work for almost anyone. It’s important to know that it is not a one-time procedure and will generally take multiple sessions to remove any tattoo.
How many sessions does it take to remove a tattoo?
The average number of sessions to remove a tattoo ranges from six to twelve, depending on the specifics of your particular tattoo. In some rare cases, removal may require a dozen or more sessions. Your body will need about seven weeks between sessions to heal and avoid additional irritation. This gives you time to recover from any temporary damage done by the laser and gives your body time to flush out the broken down ink particles.
It’s essential to have realistic expectations about the laser removal process. If you require eight sessions and have at least seven weeks of healing between each one, the entire process will take about a year.
There are a few factors that will determine how many laser removal sessions you need, including:
The location of your tattoo
Tattoos fade the fastest in the parts of your body with the most blood circulation. That’s why tattoos that are further away from your heart, like those on your hands or feet, will look more vibrant for longer. Removing a tattoo from somewhere on your torso is typically easier than removing one from your arms or legs.
How long you’ve had the tattoo
Tattoos are permanent, but they do fade over time. The older and more faded your tattoo is, the fewer sessions it will take to remove.
The colors of your tattoo
The color of your tattoo will play a significant role in how effective laser removal will be. Darker pigments take fewer sessions to break down than lighter ones. Why? A laser is amplified light, and like any black surface, dark or black ink will absorb the most light. That means the laser will be at its most effective on tattoos that are primarily black or dark ink colors.
Tattoos with lighter-colored inks are more reflective, so light bounces off them. When the skin absorbs less light, the laser becomes less effective. For example, yellow and purple ink is more difficult to remove and may require a few extra sessions for the best results.
Is laser tattoo removal painful?
Laser removal involves applying extremely hot, concentrated light to your skin, so some discomfort is expected. However, everyone’s tolerance for pain is different, so some people express significant discomfort, while others say it’s no worse than getting the tattoo in the first place. There can also be some lingering soreness after each session, usually similar to what you feel with a small burn or blister.
Side effects of laser tattoo removal
When the procedure is performed by an experienced professional, the laser tattoo removal process is entirely safe. As with any medical procedure, there are some potential side effects to be aware of before your treatment.
Hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation
The most common side effect of laser tattoo removal is a change in skin pigmentation, especially for those with darker skin tones. Your body may respond to laser treatment by producing too much or too little melanin in the affected area resulting in a darkening of the skin (hyperpigmentation) or lightening of the skin (hypopigmentation.)
These issues are cosmetic and not associated with any adverse health effects. In most cases, any pigmentation changes are temporary and will resolve themselves within 6 to 12 months of your tattoo removal.
Many worry that laser removal will lead to noticeable scarring, but this is extremely rare. Caring for the treated area after tattoo removal does play a part in the effects of scarring. You should always ensure you’re taking the appropriate steps to treat the lasered area as directed so it can heal properly. If blisters and scabs form, do not pick at them! This can result in permanent scarring.
Redness, tenderness, and swelling are common after laser tattoo removal. Some bruising and blistering may also occur. Like pigmentation issues, these will resolve themselves naturally with time. While the treated area is healing, it’s at a greater risk for infection, so it’s essential to follow all of the recommendations we give you to minimize the risks of any adverse effects.
Say goodbye to unwanted ink with Dermatology Realm
If you’re looking to get rid of a tattoo you no longer want, laser tattoo removal is one of the safest and most effective ways. Most sessions last 15 minutes to one hour, and there’s no downtime, so you can go about your day as usual. Since all sessions are outpatient, it’s easy to fit tattoo removal into your busy life! Get in touch today to schedule a free consultation in our Germantown office.