Your Guide to Laser Tattoo Removal
There are many reasons why you would want to seek laser tattoo removal services. Your tattoo may be keeping you from being hired or it may be lacking sentimental value now. Or perhaps you simply made an impulsive decision way back when. Regardless of your reasons to remove your unwanted tattoo or “re-think that ink,” laser tattoo removal is an excellent option to consider.
Removing your unwanted tattoo is now easier than ever thanks to advances in laser systems. Our experienced laser tattoo removal specialists here at MEDermis Laser Clinic in Austin and San Antonio, TX, can remove your undesirable body art with hardly any side effects.
This in-depth guide is meant to help you learn more about laser tattoo removal. When you’re finished reading, we encourage you to schedule a free consultation to meet with us here at MEDermis Laser Clinic.
Introduction to Laser Tattoo Removal
Whether you’ve heard of laser tattoo removal or not, it’s indeed the only effective and permanent way to get rid of tattoos you no longer want on your body. In fact, laser technology advancements now allow dermatologists to remove just about all tattoos with little effort and pain. Because of the latest laser technology innovations, even those stubborn tattoos are no match. Once they’re gone, they don’t leave anything behind except for a memory.
Depending on your tattoo’s characteristics, laser tattoo removal will take several sessions to completely remove the tattoo. We offer you a free consultation where we’ll talk with you about the number of sessions you’ll require individually for the successful removal of your tattoos, based on specific factors like:
- The age of your tattoo
- The size of your tattoo
- The coloring of your ink
- Location of the tattoo on your body
Benefits of Laser Tattoo Removal
The benefits of laser tattoo removal include:
- Quicker sessions: Sessions shouldn’t be any longer than 15 to 30 minutes. We’ll schedule you a new session every six to eight weeks depending on your tattoo removal needs to ensure there is ample healing time in between sessions. This also helps to avoid any long-term side effects, like scarring, which can occur if the skin hasn’t had time to heal before the next treatment.
- Fewer treatments: Generally, patients only require around three to seven treatments for the complete removal of their tattoo. The factors listed above will determine how many sessions you’ll expect and we will discuss this with you during your consultation.
- Minimized side effects: With laser removal, there’s very little, if any, scarring at the area where your tattoo was or on the skin surrounding it, unlike other methods of tattoo removal such as dermabrasion, salabrasion, and surgical removal.
What Is Laser Tattoo Removal?
During a laser tattoo removal session, light passes through your skin without causing any harm and makes the pigment particles vibrate, creating heat. This process then breaks down the particles into smaller pieces your lymphatic system can remove.
Laser tattoo removal results are gradual, meaning your tattoo will fade a little more over time as the natural processes of your body occurs and with each consecutive session. Specifically, laser tattoo removal targets:
- Your skin’s pigment colors
- Your skin layer between your subcutaneous and epidermis tissues
The laser radiates light beams that the tattoo pigments absorb and then fragment. Your body then absorbs and eradicates these pigment fragments. Although this may sound like a complicated procedure, it’s fairly simple. While it’s possible to remove color tattoos, they do require specific wavelengths and lasers based on the color and some pigments are more difficult to remove than others.
The number and duration of removal sessions vary depending on the area we are treating and the size of your tattoo. You’ll likely require fewer laser pulses and fewer sessions for each treatment if you have smaller tattoos.
Also, your tattoos at the end of each of your sessions should appear visibly lighter. It’s easier for the physician to remove older tattoos than it is newer tattoos. The laser energy can typically break up the ink in older tattoos easier than fresh ink.
Why Are Lasers the Best & Safest Tattoo Removal Method?
First and foremost, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says, “An effective and safe way to remove tattoos is through laser surgery.” And “when done by a trained dermatologist, laser surgery can be safe and effective.”
Here at MEDermis Laser Clinic in San Antonio and Austin, our team is committed to safety and providing a clean, sanitary environment. To ensure safety is paramount, our clinic is operated just like any other healthcare facility with standard procedures and processes. Our Spectra lasers have complete service maintenance once per year to ensure consistent and safe energy levels with every treatment and that they are operating at peak performance.
A Word About Tattoo Removal Creams
Topical options and creams, while popular, are typically not as effective for permanently removing tattoo ink and may cause damage to the skin. These topical solutions and creams have a couple of active ingredients:
- Trichloroacetic acid: This ingredient works by inducing a chemical burn on your skin and after peels your skin’s outer layers. When deciding on a tattoo cream, this is not the best option — it has a poor efficiency rate and infection and scarring is probable.
- Hydroquinone: Dermatologists use hydroquinone creams on patients with abnormal skin pigmentation. You likely won’t experience any lasting or significant results because this ingredient is much too superficial to use for tattoo pigment embedded deeply in your skin.
Although these creams are fairly inexpensive and a more convenient option than an effective and safe laser tattoo removal, they’re not very effective and often produce painful and serious side effects.
More importantly, the FDA doesn’t regulate or approve the production of these creams. At present, the FDA hasn’t cleared or approved any do-it-yourself tattoo removal creams sold online. FDA dermatologist Markham Luke, MD, PhD., is on record saying the FDA hasn’t reviewed tattoo removal creams and ointments and is not aware of any clinical evidence of their effectiveness. Furthermore, their use can come with unexpected reactions, such as scarring, burning, rashes or skin pigmentation changes.
Opting for Laser Tattoo Removal: How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?
If you decide on removing a tattoo, remember that laser tattoo removal tends to be the most successful and safest ink-removing method. The lasers target your skin’s darker pigment and break the particles into small pieces your immune system can dispose of later on.
Innovative laser technology represents the optimal way to ensure you remove your tattoo with the least amount of damage to your skin or side effects such as:
- Permanent scarring
When an experienced and certified laser tattoo removal professional performs your procedure, they’ll target your skin’s pigment using a laser that delivers exceptionally high-energy light for just a mere second. This results in significant tattoo pigments breaking up and your body naturally eliminating them over time. We use the Spectra laser system here in our Austin and San Antonio offices.
The Spectra laser uses four distinct wavelengths and allows our professionals to target and control the beam intensity. Only certain regions absorb the lasers’ light and heat, minimizing tissue damage surrounding the ink. The flexibility allows the effective removal of even stubborn ink with little thermal skin damage.
How Long Does Laser Tattoo Removal Take?
Each one of your tattoos has multiple ink layers stacked on one another within your skin layers. Since the ink is a thick concentration, our specialists typically can’t break down the pigment particles entirely in just one session.
Your tattoo’s characteristics determine the number of appointments you require to eliminate your tattoos. The coloring and age of your tattoo, along with its area on your body and its size, all make a difference. For instance, dark blue and black ink is pretty easy to remove. Lighter green colors like turquoise are often very hard to remove.
Typically, most patients require three to seven sessions to have their tattoos wholly removed. Each session lasts up to 30 minutes and sessions are separated by a minimum of six weeks.
During your free consultation, our tattoo professional will explain to you approximately how many sessions you’ll need to remove your tattoo. For complete elimination of your tattoo, in our experience, most tattoos take up to seven sessions with three typically being the minimum.
Keep in mind that your first session will probably be at least 45 minutes to a full hour long as you will have the opportunity to consult with your specialist first during this appointment.
Why Should You Be Wary of Services That Offer “Immediate Tattoo Removal” or “Fast Tattoo Removal”?
While Trend Statistics reports that, as of 2015, 23 percent of people with tattoo regret getting ink, steer clear of fast or immediate tattoo removal guarantees. If your tattoo removal isn’t done correctly, it can lead to a bad reaction from your immune system or cause scarring.
Tattoo removals aren’t always an easy or simple procedure. Even though lasers offer far more effective results than surgical excision, tattoo removal clinical results can still greatly vary among patients.
Laser light enters your skin very fast. However, all tattoo removals usually require several sessions of treatment. And while there are newer and more improved technologies that come out each year promising to produce quicker and better outcomes, the essential factors you need to take into consideration when you’re choosing your options for laser tattoo removal is the clinical team’s:
- Quality of work
- Medical credentials
- Customer service
Does Laser Tattoo Removal Hurt?
Many individuals say laser tattoo removal feels similar to snapping a rubber band on your skin. Before beginning your treatments, if you feel nervous or if you don’t have much of pain tolerance, our specialists here at MEDermis Laser Clinic understand completely and will do everything we possibly can to reduce your discomfort.
To prevent or control possible side effects, we utilize a chilling device known as a Cryo 5 to numb and cool the area before, during and after each of your sessions so you don’t experience discomfort.
What Types of Tattoos Can and Can’t Be Removed?
Your tattoo’s characteristics will determine how many sessions it will take to remove them completely. Characteristics may include:
- Ink density and age: Older tattoos’ ink density decreases over time, making them easier to remove.
- Location: When we use laser technology to remove a tattoo, the laser targets and breaks down the ink particles. The circulation and natural processes of your body then remove the ink. It can be harder to completely remove a tattoo from lower circulation body areas like your feet, hands and face versus your arms and chest.
- Coloring: Laser technology can remove just about any color of ink these days. Still, some colors are harder to remove, including yellows, light greens and turquoise. The lasers can’t remove white ink tattoos at all because they can’t detect the ink.
Of course, there are other factors that can help to figure out how quickly and how well your tattoos will fade apart from their coloring, age and location. If it seems some tattoos are taking more time than you expected to fade, remember that certain conditions can also make it hard to remove tattoos:
- Smoking: Since the circulatory system of your body helps eliminate broken-down ink parts, if you smoke, it can take even longer to remove the ink and allow the area to heal after your appointment because smoking affects your circulation.
- Size: Obviously, a more prominent tattoo will require more sessions than a smaller tattoo to remove.
- Artist training: Professionally-designed tattoos take longer to get rid of because the density, concentration and evenness of the application of ink is greater than that of ink designed by an amateur tattoo artist.
- Layering: If you’re covering up an old tattoo with a new tattoo, the ink density will be more significant and require more sessions than an average tattoo to remove the ink completely.
- The color of skin: If you have light-toned or medium-toned skin, you’ll see better success with the removal of your tattoos because lighter-toned skin doesn’t absorb laser light enough. Darker skin tones require more sessions because the specialist will use lower settings for the wavelengths to avoid side effects.
What Is the Recovery for Laser Tattoo Removal Like?
Recovery and healing times will vary significantly depending on which laser technology the specialist uses to remove your tattoo. You may experience:
- Temporary soreness
It may feel like you have a mild sunburn and you may also have some bruising. Red ink and other colors sometimes cause mild blistering. The sunburn sensation tends to dissipate after a couple of hours. However, your skin will still require healing time between appointments. Your specialist will provide you with instructions for caring for the treated area after your session.
The Lutronic Spectra Laser leaves hardly any scarring. If you have a scarring disorder like keloids, you do have a higher risk of scarring.
How Long Does Recovery Take?
It usually takes several days to recover after treatment and six to eight weeks for the skin to completely heal. However, it all depends on which laser technology the specialist used to remove your tattoo. You may go back to normal activities after a session, including:
- Other normal activities
The specialist will protect your skin with a thin dressing while it is healing. You may remove the dressing after a few hours. Try to keep out of the sun and heat for the first several days after treatment.
Usually, specialists wait around six weeks for your skin to fully recover before they perform another laser tattoo removal process.
Between treatments, it’s important you have plenty of downtime. If you receive laser treatment again before you’ve had sufficient downtime, it puts you at risk of side effects like open wounds and skin irritation. The average downtime between each session is four to eight weeks.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Just like with other procedures, side effects are possible.
These side effects are minimal when you compare them to other removal techniques. Plus, they’re easily treatable. While side effects with laser tattoo removal are mild, minor and not permanent, there’s no guarantee you won’t experience any. Laser tattoo removal side effects may include:
- Hyper and hypopigmentation
Which Aftercare Processes Should Be Followed to Minimize Side Effects?
Laser tattoo removal is a popular procedure that’s growing in popularity. Allowing your skin to properly heal after you’ve received a tattoo removal treatment is vital for various reasons. When you follow the specialist’s aftercare instructions, you help prevent the undesirable side effects mentioned above. Proper aftercare increases each treatment’s efficacy and leads to your full tattoo removal in only a few treatments.
Visit Us at MEDermis Laser Clinic in Austin and San Antonio, TX, to Learn More
Contact us to schedule your free consultation to receive more information on laser tattoo removal and determine the number of sessions needed for your complete tattoo removal. Don’t hesitate! “Re-think that ink” today — and give us a call so we can discuss how we’re going to effectively remove your unwanted tattoos with little to no side effects. Call 512-637-5277 for our Austin location or call 210-402-4030 for our San Antonio location.