1. How does laser tattoo removal work?
Tattoo lasers produce a very short burst of intense but gentle laser light. This light has the proper wavelength “color” to be absorbed by the tattoo pigment. Absorption causes “photothermolysis” or heat damage, preferentially to the implanted tattoo pigment without significantly damaging surrounding skin tissue. Laser treatment usually leaves other adjacent tissue relatively intact, so that healing occurs with normal pigmentation, or skin color in most patients.
2. Are there other ways to treat my tattoo?
In the past, tattoos have been removed by excision, salabrasion, dermabrasion, and chemical peels. Excision may be an acceptable alternative for some small tattoos, although will result in scarring. Scar can grow larger than expected into a Keloid scar or be itchy/painful/tender. Salabrasion, rubbing salt onto the tattoo under pressure, produces inflammation, removes tattoo pigment unevenly, may require several attempts and cause scarring. Dermabrasion, which involves removing the upper layers of skin and tattoo with a rapidly rotating brush or similar instrument is essentially similar to salabrasion and also usually causes some degree of scarring or skin discoloration. Chemical peeling is not very helpful, less predictable as to results, often requires multiple treatments and usually causes scarring when uses as a tattoo removal technique.
3. What should I expect from the laser treatment?
Laser treatment of tattoos requires several sessions; each given usually every 6-8 weeks or more apart. Waiting 6-8 weeks allows your body time to “carry away” the laser damaged tattoo pigment, which you will see as the tattoo begins to fade. Because the fading process is somewhat individual, tattoo ink is not standardized, and the tattoo depth depends on age of tattoo and the depth it was applied, we cannot guarantee 100% complete removal of all tattoos. In general, amateur tattoos respond more quickly in 3-8 sessions. Professional tattoos may take between 6-12 treatments. You may have some temporary “pin point” bleeding points immediately after each treatment. Most people report some swelling of treated site(s) for a day or two after session. Patients may experience some temporary discoloration or redden of the skin near the treatment site(s). These are normal and expected and do not represent an infection.
4. Are there any potential adverse effects?
There may be lightening of the skin for up to a few months after treatment, after which normal pigmentation usually returns. Occasionally, removing the tattoo “unmasks” mild scarring or lightened skin already present, but not readily visible before tattoo removal, that was due to the original tattooing process. Scarring is a risk with any procedure, but with the tattoo lasers we use, the risk is under 1%.
5. Will the treatment hurt?
The laser causes mild discomfort. Patients describe the feeling of a laser pulse as “being snapped by a rubber band”, or like “slight mosquito sting”.
6. How long will the laser treatment last?
The time your laser treatment will take depends on the size, number of tattoos, and how well you tolerate the procedure. Most sessions last less than 15-30 minutes.
7. What safety measures are needed during laser treatment?
The laser produces a very bright beam of light. Everyone must wear protective eyewear while the laser is in use. If there is hair near the treatment area, we recommend you shave this area on the morning of the procedure. If this is not possible, we may moisten it with water or a water-based lubricant to prevent heat build-up. Even if the hair is singed by the laser, it will grow back normally.
8. What will I have to do to take care of the treated area?
We provide each patient with aftercare instructions, which clearly describe appropriate care for the period after treatment. We encourage each patient to read these before leaving out office and to call with any questions and/or concerns.
9. What should I do if I still have questions?
Ask US! We don’t want you to consider laser treatment until you are completely comfortable. We encourage you to bring any questions or concerns to our attention. We will do our best to answer them.