Laser Tattoo Removal
Laser tattoo removal is a procedure designed to remove tattoos. Tattoos are pigments of colour that are placed under the skin at a deep level using a needle. Once thought to be irreversible, tattoos can now be removed using a laser procedure. Laser energy penetrates the skin, in turn forcing white blood cells to rush to the treated area. The white blood cells see the tattoo ink as unfamiliar and so begin to attack it. The ink eventually shatters under the heat of the lasers and gets carried away by the white blood cells to pass through the body naturally.
Preparing for your procedure
You need to ensure that your skin is in good condition, that you have no sunburn or damage to your skin. The area should be clean shaven and free from moisturisers, serums, or perfume. Loose clothing over the treatment area is recommended. If you are concerned about pain during the procedure you can take paracetamol beforehand. Do not take aspirin or ibuprofen as they can cause bruising.
When meeting with your practitioner, they will assess the tattoo you wish to have removed. The removal of a tattoo will be performed over a few sessions and months depending on the size and depth of the pigment. Attempting to remove the tattoo in one session would cause damage and scarring to the skin.
Lasers used in tattoo removal usually have six levels of frequency as each colour pigment responds to a different frequency of energy. In some cases, if the tattoo includes many different vibrant colours, your practitioner may need to switch between frequencies to maximise results.
You will be given goggles to protect your eyes. Your practitioner may use a numbing cream before they start the procedure. A handheld device will be pressed against the skin to trigger the laser. You will experience some discomfort, please be warned, it could be a lot of discomfort, during laser tattoo removal. The pigment will become lighter after each session.
A soothing gel will be applied at the end of the session and on some occasions a dressing to protect the skin.
After care and down time
Your skin may be red and raised for a short while after the treatment. You can use an ice pack on the skin.
You should experience something called ‘frosting’. ‘Frosting’ is a white layer that appears over the ink. This indicates a successful treatment; it proves that the reaction between the laser and pigment has begun and the energy has penetrated into the skin.
Avoid sun exposure for at least a week on the treated area and always use sun protection.
You may have some slight bleeding before your skin scabs over. Use aloe vera gel or Vaseline to help it heal.
Avoid picking or scratching the scab.
Avoid using soap or perfumed products on the area for the first 48 hours
Avoid strenuous physical activities for a couple of days
Avoid swimming and saunas until the scab has dropped off (they may slow down the healing process)
Some colours not completely fading – yellow, green and purple ink requires more sessions to fade than black, blue and red
There is a small chance your skin may become temporarily darker or paler than the surrounding skin
There is a slight chance of permanent scarring (3 in 100 people develop a scar)
People with fairer skin are likely to achieve more noticeable results in a shorter period of time. The laser is more effective on darker colours so the contrast in fairer skin and tattoo pigment allows the practitioner to target the area better. People with darker skin may require more sessions to achieve their desired result.
Tattoos that have been created using black ink will take fewer sessions. Black ink absorbs all the laser frequencies and in turn will fade faster.
It is important to have realistic expectations of laser tattoo removal and remember that it can become a lengthy process. You will not be able to remove the full tattoo overnight, so it will take both time and patience to achieve maximum results. Some tattoos fade within 5 sessions others may require 10. Every tattoo and skin type are different.
The procedure of laser tattoo removal can continue over several months. You will need to wait 6 weeks between each session to allow the skin to heal. Lots of people chose the winter to have the procedure to avoid sun exposure.
Laser tattoo removal costs
Prices vary between £50 and £150 per session. The amount of session required will be dependent on tattoo size, colour and your skin type.
Non-Laser Tattoo Removal
In terms of tattoo removal, it is nearly always recommend using laser tattoo removal over non-laser methods. This is because the laser tattoo removal has a much higher success rate of removing the tattoo and less risks of scarring. However, laser tattoo removal unfortunately cannot remove green, blue or purple pigments.
Non-laser tattoo removal may be effective at working to remove a tattoo that has not been able to be fully removed by laser. Non-laser tattoo removal is most effective at removing blue and purple inks and especially effective for semi-permanent eyeliner removal.
The main obstacle for non-laser tattoo removal is penetrating through the epidermis into the dermis to reach the tattoo ink. This is the concept behind non-laser tattoo removal, which combines the tattooing process with a proprietary liquid or gel that claims to lift tattoo ink out of the dermis and up into the surface of the skin where a scab will form. Once this scab falls off, the ink will fall off with it.
During the procedure, your practitioner typically numbs the skin with lidocaine cream, perforates the unwanted tattoo with a tattoo needle, and applies the particular formula to the tattoo for a set amount of time. Some variant methods inject the solution directly into the tattoo rather than applying it topically over the broken skin. Regardless of the application method, the treated area will form a scab after the procedure. Once the scab falls off after a few weeks, it is supposed to reveal faded ink beneath.
Non-laser tattoo removal methods claim that clients will see complete results in 4 or fewer sessions. Prices per treatment vary depending on the size of the tattoo, but often cost about £100 and last about 30 – 45 minutes.
There is a lot of controversy about whether or not non-laser tattoo removal actually works. Some experts claim that it cannot possibly work because the procedure involves opening the skin with the tattoo needle and applying the solution, the method is simply applying salt to a wound. It is painful for patients, and comparable to salabrasion, an out-dated technique that is widely known to cause permanent scarring to the skin.
However, non-laser tattoo removal practitioners will completely disagree with this and tell you that it is safer than laser tattoo removal as there are fewer side effects than laser tattoo removal and that it is also safer because it removes the ink from your body instead of it being absorbed into your skin. It also removes all ink colours, unlike laser tattoo removal.
Other Methods of non-laser tattoo removal (not recommended)
Dermabrasion is a painful method of scraping or sanding down the skin with the help of an abrasive device, including a wire brush, a diamond wheel, or sterilised sandpaper. It is conducted after administering local anaesthesia to minimise the pain.
However, it can lead to various problems such as bruising, burning, swelling, permanent scarring, infection and oozing pores. Also, the treated area can take months to heal completely. Dermabrasion is meant for removing the dead skin cells from the surface to bring out refreshed skin with a glow.
However, when it is utilised for tattoo removal, it has to remove a lot of epidermis to reach the dermis, and this causes various skin problems.
It utilises salt and water along with an abrasive device to remove the upper layers of the skin. The salt is rubbed with force on the skin to peel it off, followed by the application of antibiotic cream and covering the area with sterile gauze.
The whole procedure is repeated after a few days and is quite painful. It ends up leaving a scar on the skin and may not even reach the dermis where the pigment is stored. It can also cause the same side-effects as dermabrasion, such as burning, swelling, itching, bruising, bleeding, skin discolouration, etc.
Some people go to the extent of using acid to get rid of the tattoo, but this is a highly dangerous process and should be avoided altogether. The standard methods used in this treatment include the TCA peel wherein the TriChloroacetic Acid present in the chemical peel burns the outer layer of the tattooed skin.
It acts as a bleaching agent and only lightens the skin and doesn’t reach the ink. Another method is Glycolic Acid Peel which is made from tartaric, lactic and malic acid and works by burning the skin to remove the ink.
However, it is not able to achieve the desired result and can lead to problems like extreme pain, de-pigmentation and scarring. Some other people take the third route and get acid injections. The injected acid expels the ink from the deeper layer and brings it on the top.
This is followed by scabbing and falling of the skin, which takes the ink along with it. This method has its share of problems like skin infections, scarring and pigmentation.
Surgical Excision Method
It is one of the dreaded procedures where a surgeon uses a scalpel to cut deep into the skin and remove the ink. It involves stitching back of the wound and is quite painful.
Naturally, most people prefer laser tattoo removal than this technique which leads to infection, bruises, thickened skin, permanent scars and discolouration of the skin. Moreover, laser works efficiently on the face and neck, which is often considered sensitive.
Tattoo Removal Cream Application
Many people fall for this treatment as it is a pain-free method of tattoo removal which takes a long time to show results. These creams are made from a variety of chemicals, such as hydroquinone, TCA, alpha arbutin, etc.
They are only able to make the tattoo lighter and do not reach the deeper layer to remove the ink. Also, this method has its own set of side-effects, including burning sensation, infection, swelling, scabbing and itching.
The process involves removing the upper layer of skin through the use of a freezing agent. It is a painful procedure and can be performed after giving local anaesthesia to the patient.
The freezing agent leads to frostbite, and this layer is then sanded off to remove the tattoo. It leads to scarring in most cases, and the results are not as effective as laser tattoo removal. It can also harm the surrounding tissues in the affected area.