Getting a tattoo is a life-changing decision, for better or worse, but we’re all guilty of making impulsive choices, and that’s fine! So, if you’ve outgrown your tat or it doesn’t fit your personality and lifestyle anymore, then laser tattoo removal is an option.
First, consult your doctor to check if you have pre-existing conditions that could cause complications or allergies that could make the treatment ineffective and even harmful.
For instance, psoriasis and eczema may complicate treatments, and you could develop itching because of the laser’s dehydrating effect.
You’ll also want to be sure the meds you’ll be taking as part of the treatment are safe. Acetaminophen helps with the soreness, but Aspirin and Ibuprofen have a blood-thinning effect that increases the risk of bruising or excessive bleeding.
So, now that you’ve decided to move on from that tattoo regret, then read on for the most important facts about laser tattoo removal to guide your next steps.
1. How Laser Tattoo Removal Works
When you get tattooed, the ink seeps into the outer layers of the skin and stays there. During a tattoo removal procedure, the laser shatters the ink particles embedded in the skin.
You could opt to have your ink erased or lightened to the point where it’s barely visible. You can also get a “fade” procedure to partially erase your ink and have your artist tattoo over it. For instance, you want the name of your ex gone but not the floral design around it.
The procedure uses a machine that’s configured to the colors of your tattoo. With the wrong wavelength settings, the treatment wouldn’t work or, worse, could harm you.
The machine shoots rapid pulses to the tattooed area, with each pulse sending light energy into the skin. And as the ink particles absorb heat, they shatter into tiny fragments.
Your tattoo lightens as the body flushes out the ink particles, but this doesn’t happen in one go. You’ll need follow-up treatments and recovery time to get the tat removed entirely.
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2. Results Vary From Person to Person
If you want your tattoo removed, you’d naturally want to ask, “Can they get it all out?” Well, that depends on the color of the tattoo, your skin tone, and your health.
Generally, dark ink like black or red is much easier to get rid of than light ink, especially yellow or white. Green and purple are harder to remove regardless of skin tone. Plus, it’s less challenging to get the ink out when you have lighter skin.
Remember, the lighter the skin, the better it absorbs light. The laser targets the tattoo’s pigment, so in darker complexions, it’s harder for the laser to distinguish ink from skin tone.
Tattoos on the torso are also easier to remove than, say, on the feet. Body parts closer to the heart get more blood circulation, making it easier to flush out the broken-down pigments.
It’s harder for the body to pass out the pigment if you’re a smoker because you have constricted blood vessels. Hence, it takes longer to remove the tattoo.
Check your skin type according to the Fitzpatrick System here!
3. It’s Not Supposed to be Cheap
Laser tattoo removal could cost ten times more than what you paid for that tattoo. And the more prominent (or more colorful) your tattoo, the pricier it gets. But trust us, it’s something you don’t want to scrimp on.
Imagine this: your skin will get zapped with lasers, you’ll be taking pain meds or anesthesia, and there could be side effects. So, if you’re comparing prices, consider only the treatments done at licensed facilities by certified medical professionals.
However, there are other ways to get rid of a tattoo aside from lasers. You can have it cut out through surgery. Or undergo dermabrasion that repeatedly exfoliates the skin using a device. Then there’s salabrasion, which involves rubbing salt on the tattoo (ouch!).
As Web.MD puts it, “laser treatment is often safer…because (it) selectively treats the pigment in the tattoo,” sparing the surrounding skin. After all, your safety should always come first.
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4. There Will Be Discomfort
Will it hurt? Without the pre-treatment skin-numbing procedure, yes. We won’t lie to you, it’s not an entirely painless procedure. Some say that getting a tattoo removed hurts more than getting inked.
Remember: you’re going to get blasted with lasers to destroy ink particles. A laser beam has energy, which becomes heat when it’s absorbed by the skin.
The good news is, clinics like The Aesthetics Centre use numbing gels before and after the procedure. For sensitive areas, there’s also cooling devices and anesthetic injections.
We can’t stress it enough: you’ll want a licensed medical professional for this procedure because using the wrong machine or wrong device settings could cause burns or scarring.
It takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the treated area to heal completely, depending on the aftercare you give it, how healthy your immune system is, and the quality of the procedure. It’s about the same amount of time it takes for the body to flush out the laser-blasted pigments.
To speed up the healing process, we suggest vitamin C-rich and anti-inflammatory fruits or vegetables. Use sunblock with 25 or higher SPF up to 3 months after the procedure. And try not to get stressed because that too will slow down your recovery process.
CHECK OUT OUR SLIDESHOW to get a clear picture of what laser tattoo removal can do for you.
5. The Laser Treatment We Recommend
We’ve used different tattoo removal machines at The Aesthetics Centre, but most of our patients prefer PicoWay™. It’s an FDA-approved laser and the industry’s most current.
Picture this: 1,000ps is equivalent to 1 nanosecond (ns), 1ns is a billionth of a second, and PicoWay operates at 300ps. Simply put, the lower the number, the faster the laser.
In turn, the faster the laser, the less energy it gives off, and the less likely it is to damage the skin.
We’ve also found that PicoWay is more effective on Asian skin and darker complexions. Because of its different wavelength settings, it works on a broader range of tattoo colors, too.
If you want to learn more about PicoWay and how it can help you get over ink guilt, check out our FAQ, or set up an appointment with our doctor at The Aesthetics Centre for a more detailed discussion.