Tattoos no longer have to be permanent. Intense, fast-pulse Q-switched lasers can remove or significantly lighten a tattoo by training pulsing light on the tattoo’s ink particles, which convert the energy to heat and break up into tiny pieces that are absorbed harmlessly by the body, without any damage to surrounding tissue. Ideal candidates for laser tattoo removal are typically fair-skinned and have tattoos that are on areas, such as the arms, legs, buttocks or chest, that have a greater concentration of body fat. Prior to laser, techniques for removing tattoos included dermabrasion, cryosurgery and surgical excision.
A few hours before the laser tattoo removal procedure begins, it is recommended that acetaminophen be taken to help minimize discomfort. Just before the procedure begins, the patient is given a shield to protect his or her eyes from the laser. A topical anesthetic is applied to the skin; in some instances, a cooling system is used before, during and after the procedure to help with discomfort. The tattoo removal specialist then tests the skin’s response to the laser to determine the most effective approach, and intense nanosecond pulses are sent from the Q-switched laser to the skin.
Each laser tattoo removal session lasts only a few minutes and, at the end of each session, the tattoo is iced for about 30 minutes. A topical antibiotic and a bandage are then applied. Patients are advised to keep the skin around the tattooed area dry, and to treat it as if it were sunburned.
Until Dr. Ragi or other members of our team see your tattoo it’s impossible to estimate how long it will take to remove it. The number of sessions you’ll need is directly related to the size, color, type of ink used, and the age of your tattoo. Color is the main determinant, as is the density of that color. Different colors require different wavelengths. Black and red are the easiest colors to remove; turquoise is the most difficult single color to target. All tattoos have layers of ink that are stacked on top of each other within the skin. Shaded areas clear more quickly because those areas have a lower ink density. Older tattoos can be removed with fewer treatments than newer tattoos.
Once we see your tattoo, we can give you a better idea, but expect from 6-12 treatments to fully remove it. These treatments need to be spaced about seven weeks apart.
Most of our patients say that getting the tattoo was more painful than removing it. They equate the feeling to that of having a rubber band snapped on the skin with each pulse of the laser. The Q-switched lasers we use at Advanced Laser and Skin Cancer Center deliver very short-duration pulses; this minimizes any discomfort. The laser tip also has a cooling mechanism to help keep your skin cool.
We apply an ice pack immediately after your treatment, followed by antibiotic cream and a bandage. You’ll probably want to continue icing for a bit when you get home.
You need to limit sun exposure for a month prior to your session. That’s why a New Jersey winter is a great time to remove your tattoo. Remember, you want to make it easy for the laser to differentiate between your skin tone and the tattoo inks. Avoid shaving, waxing, or exfoliating for a week or so before your appointment, as well. Avoid taking aspirin, certain anti-inflammatories, or herbal medications that can cause increased bleeding.
Expect from 6-12 treatments to fully remove it. These treatments need to be spaced about seven weeks apart. Older tattoos with fewer colors are easier than new tattoos with numerous colors. When we see your tattoo, we can give you a good estimate of what will be involved, although much depends on the ink depth and complexity of the tattoo.
The mechanism of removing your tattoo with laser energy is far different than former options (dermabrasion or surgical excision). The laser energy simply breaks up the pigment under the surface of your skin. As the pigment is broken into tiny pieces your lymphatic system then scavenges and removes these. The laser energy does not damage your skin, so it doesn’t create any scarring.The only question with some very complex tattoos with many different colors is if the laser can break up all the pigment. That can mean the tattoo will be dramatically lightened in appearance, but there may still be a ghost of the tattoo. As mentioned above, some colors are harder to remove.
“Dr. Ragi is a professional who hired an outstanding team. Not only is he an excellent technician, he is friendly, pleasant and takes the time to explain the process of the procedure.” -Steven E.
No. That’s why we can’t say it will take “x” number of sessions to remove your tattoo. Black and red respond very well to laser energy. Yellow, purple, and turquoise are the hardest to remove.
We can remove portions of a tattoo, but intricate revision is not an option. For instance, we can remove an unwanted name from a tattoo and leave the rest of the design. But if that name is fully embedded intricately in the tattoo design, we will have to remove some of the design around the name with it.
Depending on the complexity of the tattoo, removal results vary. Simple tattoos may be eliminated within four treatment sessions, while more complicated tattoos might require ten or more. Although they rarely occur, there are certain side effects associated with laser tattoo removal. They include hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, infection and permanent scarring.