The Science Behind Ink Removal

Many people see getting a tattoo as an artistic expression, but have you ever considered the science that goes into it? When you think about the ink and the way your body reacts to it, you can start to see just how scientific the process is. The same goes for the removal process.

If you’re new to the topic of tattoo removal via laser, we recommend checking out a couple of our previous posts. Today we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of just how ink removal works, the importance of the laser used, and the science behind removing tattoos with lasers.

Before diving into the science of removing ink we think it’s worth looking into the science behind tattooing. Have you ever thought about how or why the ink stays in your body? Or why tattoos fade? Here’s a quick intro.

How Tattoos Work

The particles in the ink’s pigment are the MVPs when it comes to tattoos. Ink is injected into the dermis, your second layer of skin, using a mechanized needle that punctures the skin.

Depending on who you ask this may or may not hurt, but whatever your pain threshold may be, getting a tattoo is a process which damages your skin. Your body’s response to this damage? It will send white blood cells known as macrophages to the threatened area. Once the white blood cells reach your new ink they will attempt to absorb these foreign particles and dispose of them in the bloodstream. However, most of the time, the pigment particles are too large for the white cells to “eat,” so they end up sitting there and even when some macrophages absorb the ink they will remain in your dermis.

You may be wondering, “If the pigment particles are too big to absorb, why do tattoos fade?” Well, there are a few answers. For starters, sunlight exposure can gradually break down ink molecules, which is why tattoos that are always exposed are quicker to fade than those often covered by clothing. Additionally, the macrophage cells from our immune system can eventually tackle chunks of the ink and disperse them over the years.

Influential Factors of Removing Ink

Whatever your reason may be, there may be a time in your life when you decide the ink you once sported is not for you anymore. There are more options today than ever before when choosing a removal method, and we’ve spoken at length on why laser removal is the safest and most effective. While you may understand that laser removal is the best option, do you know how it works?

Deciding to have laser tattoo removal is not enough; you need to keep some other elements in mind. For example,

  • Laser technology used
  • Facility administering removal
  • Experience of the laser technicians

These three aspects will significantly impact how your body reacts and heals once treatments finish.

At MEDermis Laser Clinic, we’re committed to using the best in laser technology. At the moment that’s the Spectra laser system by Lutronic. Our Certified Laser Specialists have over three decades of experience, and we know how to recognize a great tool. The Spectra system laser offers versatility, built-in-safety, and enhances clinical outcomes making it a superior option for tattoo removal.

The Laser’s Job

The Spectra laser has four different wavelengths allowing our Certified Laser Specialists more flexibility and a chance to target and control the intensity level of the beam and modify treatments to each clients’ unique needs.

The Spectra delivers light onto the skin at incredibly high energy for a tiny fraction of a second. This breaks up large tattoo pigments, which are then removed over time by your body’s natural healing processes. You can learn more about the Spectra here, as we shift our focus to the body’s role in removing tattoos.

Our in-office procedure utilizes a Q-switch laser, considered the gold standard treatment for all colors of tattoo removal. To understand how the laser works, you’ll need some insight into the skin. Did you know that we have molecules called chromophores in our skin? These molecules absorb different frequencies of light and then convert the light into heat; when the laser’s light hits the skin, the heat destroys the chromophore.

A process called phytothermolysis, the same method used in laser hair removal, must occur to break up the particles of ink. This process is initiated by the laser and must hit the ink particle in a precise manner which only heats half of it. Why is this important? When half of the particle is heated, and the other half remains cold, the two opposing forces will break down the ink particles. Now you can see why having a certified specialist is so essential for effective laser tattoo removal!

A professional with proper training and experience, like the MEDermis team, can ensure your safety throughout the treatments as well as a more efficient removal. Your Certified Laser Specialist will assess your tattoo during your consultation and advise on how many sessions will be needed.

How Your Body Reacts

Now that you have some background on the equipment used and how the laser works, let’s look at exactly how your body reacts to the process. While we are proud of our work we can’t take all of the credit, once the laser has done its thing, it’s up to the body to work on flushing the broken ink particles out.

The tattoo removal process is reliant on the body’s lymphatic system as it absorbs the ink molecules and removes them from our bodies. As soon as the treated area has been zapped with the laser, your body’s immune system is triggered to start ridding itself of the pigment fragments.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, the number of sessions needed and the time it takes for your tattoo to fade are tied to many factors. Unfortunately, these factors are mostly out of our control. The two most significant factors include the ink used and your state of health. The government does not regulate tattoo ink, and different inks react to the skin in numerous ways. This means the ink may also respond differently to the laser removal treatment. In addition to the ink, your immune system will have a large part in how quickly, or slowly, your tattoo is broken down. Our immune systems are different and just as unique as we are, the rate at which your body breaks down ink pigment will vary from other individuals.

Where Does the Ink Actually Go?

Good question. It would be nice to think that the broken-down ink particles simply evaporate into thin air, but that’s not the case. As you know, our body is absorbing the pigments and it makes the decision on how to get them out.

As soon as the laser shatters the ink particles, they’re recognized as waste by the body. How the ink elements are eliminated can vary based on the color or type of ink used. For example, iron oxides, which are a component of black ink, are expelled via the liver through defecation. However, other elements of the ink may be eliminated through sweat and urination.

Staying hydrated and engaging in moderate exercise after your tattoo removal sessions can help your body begin the purging the ink.

Apart from the laser used and the professional handling the laser, how your body breaks down the tattoo is mostly out of our hands. Factors like your immune system, age, lifestyle choices, and the pigments used in your tattoo will all play a role in how fast your tattoo fades.

While our team of Certified Laser Specialists will undoubtedly offer you the highest quality care, there are some tips we give to our clients. Our team has seen success in healthy individuals, because the healthier you are, the faster your body will respond to laser removal. We recommend making the following lifestyle modifications, at least during treatment: make exercise a regular part of your routine, commit to a healthy diet, stay hydrated, cut out smoking and heavy caffeine consumption, and avoid alcohol. These tips will help your body stay in tip-top shape while you complete treatment.

Call the Tattoo Removal Specialists Today!

Have questions about the fading process or our lasers? Or are you ready to schedule your FREE consultation? Get in touch with MEDermis Laser Clinics today by calling our Austin clinic at 512-637-5277, the San Antonio clinic at 210-402-4030, or by filling out our online contact form.

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