Laser Tattoo Removal Overview
If you have any unwanted tattoos, which is quite common for many people, you can experience the convenience of laser tattoo removal!
Laser tattoo removal works similar to laser hair removal in that it will penetrate pulses of light into the top layers of the skin to affect the pigment of the tattoo. This laser energy will be absorbed by the pigment in the tattoo to break it up into smaller particles that can be naturally removed through the body. There are different wavelengths of light that can be used to easily remove tattoo pigment, which will not affect the color or pigment of the skin. Laser tattoo removal procedures will effectively break up and lighten the pigment of the tattoo without causing any damage to the skin.
The reason that this is effective is because a tattoo is permanent pigment deposited underneath the dermis of the skin, making it difficult to remove without the use of a laser. There are a few choices in tattoo removal, one of which is using dermabrasion to remove layers of the skin so that the tattoo pigment is removed. Of course, this is highly painful and damaging to the skin, so it is not a recommended treatment. Another option in tattoo removal is cryosurgery, which freezes the surface of the skin to remove the tattoo pigment. Lastly, a tattoo can be removed through surgery with an open wound that requires stitches to remove the pigment of the tattoo. Of course, overall laser tattoo removal is highly preferred to these procedures because it will lighten the pigment of the tattoo with heat energy without affecting or damaging the skin involved.
Laser tattoo removal can be somewhat painful, especially since heat energy is required to break up the pigment of the tattoo so that it can be removed by the body. This pain often feels like a rubber band snapping on the skin, and black tattoo pigment is normally the easiest to remove. In a regular laser hair removal procedure, tattoos cannot be treated with the laser since they will turn black or blister. However, laser tattoo removal works with a different wavelength of laser to target this black pigment that often attracts the laser in laser hair removal. If your tattoo has different colors, like red or green, it may be difficult for removal and treatment since the laser will not target the pigment as effectively.
After you have completed your first laser tattoo removal treatment, you will be able to use a numbing cream several hours before your next treatment. This will numb the surface of the skin to make it easier for the treatment to progress in targeting the tattoo pigment. Once the pigment has been broken up by the laser energy, the immune system of the body will work to push out the excess pigment and remove the color from the surface of the skin.
Several sessions are required to completely remove a tattoo, especially depending on how large or deep it may be. If it is a smaller tattoo, you may see better results in complete removal in a shorter amount of time, but if you have a large and intricate tattoo, it may take quite a few treatments to see a complete removal of the tattoo.
There are minimal side effects involved with laser tattoo removal, including hyperpigmentation. This is a darkening of the pigment on the surface of the skin, leaving a brown color. Another potential side effect is the opposite, called hypopigmentation, which is a lack of color in the skin. This will look like white spots where the tattoo was treated. Both of these side effects can be treated with topical creams or protected sun exposure to either lighten or darken the surface of the skin where there has been a discoloration.
Not all tattoos can be removed, but the majority of tattoos can be treated with laser tattoo removal. In very rare cases, scarring may be another side effect, though it is highly uncommon. The best results seen in laser tattoo removal are on those who have fair skin and tattoos with black ink. If tattoos are found on darker skin or hard to reach areas, like the fingers and ankles, it may be more difficult to remove them completely. One of the reasons for this is that tattoos in bony areas have less body fat underneath them, making it more difficult to target the pigment of the tattoo with laser energy for removal.
This article was written by Bethany North. Bethany is a licensed esthetician with experience in hands-on experience in chemical peels, microdermabrasion, facials, laser hair removal, makeup applications, skin analysis, waxing, spray tanning, and product ingredient assessment. She has also worked as a salon sales and training consultant, as well as a consultant for beauty and hair care product lines in branding and marketing.