Laser Tattoo Removal
About ten percent of the people in the United States have at least one tattoo, and close to 50 percent of them want to have a tattoo removed. People who are looking to have their tattoos removed often opt for laser removal because the procedure is quick and has minimal side effects.
How it Works
Laser tattoo removal works by using high-intensity light beams to break up the pigments that give the tattoo color. The pigments are shattered into microscopic particles that are removed by the body’s natural processes. The laser beams are so exact that physicians are able to break up the pigments in the tattoo without causing damage to the skin surrounding it. Black tattoos are the easiest to remove because the color black absorbs all wavelengths, however most colored tattoos can also be removed using this method. The MedLite C6 is one of the highest quality lasers used for tattoo removal. It employs up to four wavelengths to remove different tattoo ink colors.
Anyone with a tattoo they would like to have removed may be a candidate for laser tattoo removal, depending on their particular tattoos. It’s important to talk to your physician about whether you are a good candidate for laser removal. Every tattoo is unique and laser is considered to be the best way to remove tattoos because it usually doesn’t cause scarring. You may need several procedures to completely remove your tattoo, depending on the size and color. Most tattoos require between two and four visits, although sometime additional sessions are necessary. Your physician should be able to advise you during your consult.
What to Expect During Removal
Generally an office visit for the removal of a tattoo begins with protective eye shields being placed on the patient so that their eyes aren’t damaged during the procedure. Topical anesthesia may be applied if the tattoo is located in a sensitive area. Most physicians will treat the area with a topical anesthetic or apply ice to the treatment area before using the laser to minimize discomfort. Talk to your physician if you are particularly sensitive to pain and would like anesthetic to be used during your procedure.
The skin is tested using a laser to determine the energy point that is most effective for treating that patient. The laser is placed near the surface of the skin and pulses against the pigment to remove it. Most patients describe the pulsing as feeling like a rubber band snapping against their skin. The tattoo generally becomes progressively lighter as it is treated with the MedLite C6 laser. Small tattoo generally require fewer visits for removal than larger tattoos. Multicolored tattoos usually take the longest to remove because of the number of pigments that must be removed from the skin.
An ice pack is generally applied to the treated area immediately following the laser treatment to soothe the skin. Your doctor will advise you to apply an antibiotic ointment or cream to the area and a patch or bandage will be placed over the affected area. Make sure to cover the treated area with sunblock if you will be out in the sun.
Possible Side Effects
One of the main concerns of patients who undergo laser tattoo removal is potential side effects. Fortunately most patients don’t experience anything more than slight discomfort of the affected area. It is important to note that the removal site may be at risk of infection.
Hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation may also be concerns with laser removal. Cosmetic tattoos such as eyeliner and eyebrows may become darker after they are treated with lasers, but further treatment generally results in lightening.
New technology has increased the safety of laser tattoo removal so that it is now considered the safest way to remove tattoos. It’s ablility to treat pigments selectively makes laser removal safer than dermabration, excision and salabrasion methods. Some colors can be treated more effectively than others, with black and dark blue being the most responsive to laser treatment. New methods are being developed all the time to increase the effectiveness of laser removal on other colors of ink. It is vital that you discuss your skin and tattoos with your physician before your laser tattoo removal procedure, as everyone’s situation is unique.