Tattoos are a beautiful way to express who you are. More people today are getting tattoos as the stigma of inked skin fades away. The Singapore tattoo market has gone up by 30 to 40 percent since 2017. Hundreds flock to the Singapore Ink Show every year to showcase their art and get inked. Public figures such as Olympic medalist Joseph Schooling and Miss Universe Singapore finalist Nicol Hunt further help break down stigma against tattoos by wearing their ink with pride.
But not all tattoos are masterpieces, or are very well thought out. Nearly 30 percent of tattoos are gotten on a whim. Sometimes, you get a piece done when you’re younger, and it morphs into a mark of regret a few years after. The majority of people who regret getting a tattoo fall got inked when they were between 18 and 21 years old. Perhaps a piece doesn’t end up fitting the overall theme you want on your body, and you want to fade it out before covering it with a new tattoo.
Tattoos can also get in the way of your career. Stigma against tattoos is still strong in the workplace, with 37 percent of HR managers citing tattoos as the third likeliest physical attribute to limit work potential. Anti-tattoo sentiment still finds its way into Singapore’s most widely read newspaper.
Whatever your reasons may be for not liking your tattoo, getting a tattoo removed is a commitment. If you’re thinking of getting your tattoo removed, here are six things you need to know.
1. You’re Going To Get Shot With Lasers…
Tattoo removal is more complex than getting a tattoo because inserting ink onto your skin is easier than erasing it. Tattoo removal works by targeting the ink particles inserted beneath your skin. Upon tattooing, the body instantly recognizes the ink as foreign matter, and attempts to dispose of it by dispatching white blood cells to clean it off. But the cells can’t clean particles that are bigger than them, which is why ink may fade over time, but won’t completely disappear.
For tattoo removal, extremely hot lasers called Q-switched lasers are used to break apart the ink particles. The ink particles burst into smaller pieces when the laser hits them, thus making it possible for the white blood cells to take over. Once broken apart, the body’s immune response begins cleaning away the ink.
At The Aesthetics Centre, we use a device called a PicoWay which is the latest technology in tattoo removal. A picosecond is a trillionth of a second, which is how quickly the PicoWay can deliver blasts of energy. Because of how fast the lasers blasts are delivered, the surrounding skin does not have enough time to absorb the heat, protecting them and minimizing damage to nearby tissue.
2. …More Than Once
Because of the nature of the ink particles and the power of the laser, tattoo removal takes place over several sessions. Some ink particles are more difficult to remove than others, and the lasers used are so powerful that the skin needs to be given time to heal between sessions to avoid damage and permanent scarring.
Most people need an average of 5 to 8 treatments, although some complete treatment after 3 sessions, or after as much as 10. Clients should consult with their doctors about appropriate treatment plans.
3. The Treatment Doesn’t Hurt–Much
Laser tattoo removal does hurt. Don’t trust clinics that advertise a painless procedure. You’re going to get blasted with lasers that destroy ink particles with thousands of degrees of heat–that’s bound to cause some level of discomfort. For some, getting a tattoo removed is more painful than getting the actual tattoo. It’s important to manage expectations before undergoing treatments.
Fortunately, there are a number of skin numbing options available to make the pain more bearable. You can opt to use a chilling machine to numb the skin during the procedure, use numbing gels and creams, or even apply a local anesthetic if the area where the tattoo is found is particularly sensitive. Some discomfort may remain even after the procedure.
4. Beware Of Clinics Offering Cheap Treatments
Clients should be wary of clinics that offer laser tattoo removal for cheap. Treatments can cost as much as 10 times the cost of getting the tattoo. Prices can range from around 270 SGD to 680 SGD per session.
Tattoo removal is not something you would want to bargain hunt for. A large reason for high prices is the lasers used — the type of laser used for tattoo removal easily costs ten times that of normal lasers used in cosmetic procedures like skin tightening or hair removal. A botched tattoo removal using the wrong machine can lead to severe scarring and serious burn injuries.
5. Results Will Vary
How effective laser tattoo removal will be depends on many factors like your health, tattoo color, and skin tone. People with a darker skin tone generally have lower success rates, because the laser has a hard time differentiating inked skin from natural pigmentation. Lighter-colored ink like yellow or white are also harder to break apart than dark ink like black or red. And since your immune system is basically incharge of cleaning up the ink, how healthy you are will affect how fast your skin responds to the treatment.
Some pre-existing conditions such as psoriasis and eczema can also affect the efficacy of treatments. “Safe treatment of individuals of all skin types is possible, but appropriate laser, parameters, and technique is required to minimize the greater risk of adverse events in those individuals,” warns NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Jeremy Brauer.
6. There May Be Side Effects
Anyone looking into laser tattoo removal should be made aware of the risks involved. Because you’re essentially burning through the ink, clients will experience swelling and possibly blistering around the area. These are normal parts of the healing process, and should take around a week or two to resolve.
Patients should also expect some degree of hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation, meaning the skin around the tattoo can become darker, or the skin where the tattoo was can become lighter. Permanent scarring — although rare — is not unheard of and happens in approximately 2 percent of all laser tattoo removal procedures.
Just like getting a tattoo, getting it removed also requires planning and deliberation. At The Aesthetics Centre, we make treatment plans according to the needs of each patient. Consult with us to find out the appropriate course of treatment to get your tattoo removed.