Tattoo Laser Removal
Tattoo removal has been performed with various tools during the history of tattooing. While tattoos were once considered permanent, it is now possible to remove them fully or partially.
The expense and pain of removing tattoos will typically be greater than the expense and pain of applying them. Pre-laser tattoo removal methods include dermabrasion, salabrasion (scrubbing the skin with salt) cryosurgery and excision which is sometimes still used along with skin grafts for larger tattoos. Some early forms of tattoo removal included the injection or application of wine, lime, garlic or pigeon excrement.
Tattoo removal by laser wavewave lasers initially, and later with Q-switched lasers, which became commercially available in the early 1990s. Today, "laser tattoo removal" usually refers to the non-invasive removal of tattoo pigments using Q-switched lasers. Typically, black and darker coloured inks can be removed more completely.
Some wearers decide to cover an unwanted tattoo with a new tattoo. This is commonly known as a cover-up. An artfully done cover-up may render the old tattoo completely invisible, though this will depend largely on the size, style, colours and techniques used on the old tattoo and the skill of the tattoo artist. Covering up a previous tattoo necessitates darker tones in the new tattoo to effectively hide the older, unwanted piece. Many tattoos are too bright to cover up and in those cases, patients may receive laser tattoo removal to lighten the existing ink to make themselves better candidates for a cover-up tattoo.
As a sister company to TattooShed, all semi removal patients (lightening) using one of the artists in TattooShed, will qualify for discounted lasering prices.
Tattoo removal is most commonly performed using lasers that react with the ink in the tattoo to break it down. The broken-down ink is then absorbed by the body, mimicking the natural fading that time or sun exposure would create.
All tattoo pigments have a specific light absorption spectra. A tattoo laser must be capable of emitting adequate energy within the given absorption spectrum of the pigment to provide an effective treatment. Certain tattoo pigments, such as yellows, greens and fluorescent inks are more challenging to treat than darker blacks and blues. This will be because they have absorption spectra that fall outside or on the edge of the emission spectra available in the tattoo removal laser.
Widely considered the gold standard treatment modality to remove a tattoo, laser tattoo removal requires repeat visits. There are several types of Q-switched lasers, and each is effective at removing a different range of the colour spectrum.
Lasers developed after 2006 provide multiple wavelengths and can successfully treat a much broader range of tattoo pigments than previous Q-switched lasers. Another type of tattoo removal is the manual or machine method. This practice is very unpredictable and uses a specialized type of gel, commonly mixed with saline, which is tattooed into the skin over the tattoo causing the ink in the dermis to bond with or be displaced by the gel and migrate to the surface of the epidermis. The incidence of scarring, tissue texture changes, keloids, prolonged healing, pain, discolouration (hyper- and hypopigmentation) and ink retention is extremely high with non-laser removal methods; the person performing this treatment modality exposes him or herself to considerable liability. Methods like this are now only very rarely performed and in modern countries have been replaced by Q-switched laser treatment. Still, other methods including thermal injury, dermabrasion and cryotherapy, are used but with the same unpredictable results and adverse side effects.
Number of Sessions
At each session, some but not all of the tattoo pigment particles are effectively fragmented, and the body removes the smallest fragments over the course of several weeks. The result is that the tattoo is lightened over time. Larger remaining particles of tattoo pigment are then targeted at subsequent treatment sessions, causing further lightening.
The number of sessions and spacing between treatments depends on various parameters, including the area of the body treated and skin colour. Tattoos located on the extremities, such as the ankle, generally take longest. As tattoos fade clinicians may recommend that patients wait many months between treatments to facilitate ink resolution and minimise unwanted side effects.
The amount of time required for the removal of a tattoo and the success of the removal varies with each individual. Factors influencing this include skin type, location, colour, amount of ink, scarring or tissue change, and layering.
It is never possible to determine an exact number of sessions required as each individual client carries these different variables. But by evaluating after a response is shown, should give a far better idea and this should be discussed in your consultation and throughout your treatment.
(leading dermatologists & plastic surgeons regard laser as the superior method of tattoo removal)
How does the laser treatment work?
Tattoos stay under the skin and the ink particles are too large for the body’s immune system to remove. The laser passes a short pulse of high-energy light through the skin and breaks it up into much smaller ink particles. The body’s immune system can then remove the ink naturally by passing it through the bloodstream naturally. This is a gradual process and several treatments will be needed to successfully diminish the tattoo.
Does it hurt?
The treatment can be uncomfortable and has been described as being pinged with an elastic band. During the treatment with the laser the area is cooled, this minimises any discomfort and a cold compress is applied before, during and after treatment to further reduce discomfort.
How much does it cost?
The cost of each session depends on the size and colour of the tattoo. Prices start from £50 per session. Feel free to come in and discuss your treatment plan and price. This helps to assess the tattoo and the work that will be required.
Can any tattoo be removed?
Unfortunately, complete removal can never be guaranteed. Some colours are harder to remove than others and we will be able to discuss the expected outcome during the consultation.
How long does a session take?
A treatment session can take from 5 to 45 minutes depending on the size and density of the tattoo.
How long is there in between sessions?
The least amount of time is 6 weeks. It is the specified time allocated to that the area of the skin allowing it to fully heal from the trauma whilst the immune system is flushing the ink from the area and body. Following the aftercare can also increase the rate of removal and keep your skin in the best condition possible. Personally, I have found that the deeper we get to ink, the more I may add on a week or 2 as an extension of natural body removal, it has been proven to be successful as not over doing the area for the sake of it is my primary. This is something I will discuss individually.
Are there any after-effects to the laser treatment?
Redness and swelling may occur, similar to sunburn. This settles within a few days some patients may blister, which is quite normal, blistering does not require treatment and will usually clear within days. You will receive written aftercare following your treatment.
*The Treated area should not be exposed to sunlight between sessions without the use of sunblock SPF50*
Does the laser treatment leave any scars?
Generally speaking lasering does not cause scarring and the active Q-Switched laser which we use is designed with this in mind. It is important that the aftercare is followed and this will be explained to the client. Sometimes the original tattoo would have caused scar tissue which will become noticeable when the tattoo pigment is removed and we can advise as to this situation prior to this situation prior to the removal. There is normally no lasting damage to the skin. Very occasionally mild changes in skin texture and colour may occur. There can be a change in pigment colour which usually returns to normal after 6-12 months.
Is everyone suitable for laser treatment?
No. There are some medical conditions that mean you may not be suitable for treatment. For example: If you have ever had any gold medications/injections, have lupus disease (Incurable immune system illness), are currently pregnant or use/ have used St. Johns Wort, Roaccutane or Retin A. If you have any medical condition or use any medications (prescribed or not) please contact us for further advice. A full consultation will be undertaken before any laser treatment will be carried out. You will have the opportunity to also discuss any concerns you have.