Tattoos used to be perceived as a lifetime commitment. That’s no longer the case. The use of specific laser energy is changing the way we deal with tattoos that no longer reflect a person’s personality.
What is tattoo removal?
Tattoo removal is the term given to various processes used to eliminate the particles of ink beneath the skin. There are several methods of tattoo removal, including creams, dermabrasion, and laser treatment. By far, the use of lasers is deemed safer and more effective than other methods.
What Lasers Are Used for Tattoo Removal?
Dr. Behr uses the PicoSure laser and RevLite Laser which is the latest technology for tattoo removal. PicoSure’s PressureWave™ gently delivers ultra-short pulses of energy to the tattoo ink in trillionths of a second without injury to the surrounding skin. This shatters the ink into tiny particles that are easily eliminated by the body.
PicoSure has proven efficacy on difficult ink colors, as well as previously-treated tattoos, for better clearance with fewer laser treatments and improved recovery time.
Am I a candidate for laser tattoo removal?
Really anyone who has a tattoo is a good candidate for laser tattoo removal with Dr. Behr and her team. You do need to wait for at least one month after the tattoo is initially created so that the skin can settle down.
The real question of candidacy is to understand that these procedures involve a certain amount of pain. This can obviously be dictated by the location of your tattoo. We apply topical numbing cream prior to your laser session, but you’ll still feel some pain. Afterwards, you’ll need to apply ice to mitigate this.
You also need to think in multiple sessions. Different ink colors respond better to the laser energy than others. Complete removal can take from 3-12 sessions, so you wouldn’t want to partially remove a tattoo and then not finish the series.
To have laser tattoo removal you cannot have open sores or skin infections.
How is laser tattoo removal performed?
Laser tattoo removal is performed as a series of treatments. During each appointment, you will wear a pair of protective eye shields. At your first appointment, we will treat a small area with the laser to see how your skin reacts and to determine the best device setting to achieve the desired outcome. Then, the laser handpiece is passed over the tattoo, emitting pulses of intense light for absorption beneath the skin.
Ink particles are foreign bodies beneath the epidermis. Naturally, the body tries to destroy most foreign objects by sending white blood cells to attack them. This doesn’t happen with tattoos because larger ink particles are deposited beneath the skin and they are too substantial for white blood cells to destroy them.
When short pulses of laser light penetrate the epidermis, the energy that comes into contact with ink particles breaks them down into smaller debris. White blood cells are then able to pick up the smaller bits of ink and carry them to the liver where they can be flushed away with other matter. Lasers shatter the particles into smaller pieces for more effective removal by the body.
How do I prepare for laser tattoo removal?
You need to limit sun exposure for a month prior to your session. Remember, you want to make it easy for the laser to differentiate between your skin tone and the tattoo inks. Avoid shaving, waxing, or exfoliating for a week or so before your appointment, as well. Avoid taking aspirin, certain anti-inflammatories, or herbal medications that can cause increased bleeding.
Is it possible to remove only a portion of a tattoo?
Many people seek tattoo removal to eliminate one aspect of a piece, such as a name. The accuracy of laser devices has improved so significantly over time that it may be possible to remove certain parts of a tattoo. However, the laser may lighten pigment around the unwanted ink, as well. This can be corrected with a tattoo touch-up.
Can I retattoo the area once the original tattoo is removed?
Laser tattoo removal works by breaking ink particles down to a size at which they can be eliminated naturally. Once the ink has completely faded, the skin can receive new pigments to fill in the now-vacant space.
How many tattoo removal treatments Will I Need?
This is a difficult question because there are many factors we do not have answers to that affect how quickly a tattoo can be removed. These include the types of ink used, the color of ink, the amount of ink used and the depth of ink placement. Homemade and traumatic tattoos are usually more quickly removed. We estimate to start with at least 6 treatments, but it may take more.
Tattoo Removal Side Effects
Most common side effects with tattoo removal are mild swelling, small blisters, and peeling. If a blister larger than the size of a pencil eraser forms, please come into the office for evaluation.
The following week after tattoo removal treatment is critical in the healing process. Proper care for the tattoo is crucial or scarring/infection may occur. You will be sent home with pre and post-treatment instructions at time of consultation, and at time of your first treatment.
How long is a single tattoo removal session?
The length of your session will depend on the size of the tattoo. We match the laser wavelength to the color in the tattoo we are targeting in that session. For instance, one session we may target all of the red in the tattoo. You need to allow for 30 to 45 minutes prior to your session for the topical numbing cream to fully numb your skin.
Is laser tattoo removal painful?
Most patients tell us that getting the tattoo was more painful than removing it. We apply topical numbing cream to the tattoo prior to your laser treatment, but you’ll still be able to slightly feel the laser energy when it is delivered in microsecond pulses. The feeling is similar to that of having a rubber band snapped on your skin as each pulse is delivered.
We apply ice to the tattoo immediately following the laser session. We then apply antibiotic cream and a bandage. It’s a good idea to continue icing the area for a little while when you get home. Not everyone feels the need to do this, but you can see how your skin reacts.
How should I care for my skin after having laser tattoo removal?
After your session your treated area may seem as if it has a superficial burn. At first the tattoo will turn a frosty white color. This is caused by the release of carbon dioxide as the laser penetrates the skin. As mentioned above, you’ll probably want to ice the tattoo and take some Tylenol to sooth any discomfort. Don’t take aspirin, as it can cause bleeding. Within eight hours and continuing for the next three days the treated tattooed skin will begin to peel or blister. This usually isn’t dramatic, but it is important to not pick any scabs that form. This can cause scarring. You’ll need to keep the area covered with antibiotic cream and a bandage for the first 3 days. After that, you’ll keep the area clean and dry. In 1-2 weeks all crusting and scabbing should fully resolve.
You can shower just a couple hours after your treatment, but avoid water pressure directly on the tattoo. You won’t be able to soak the area until all scabs and blisters have completely healed. That means no baths, no hot tubs, and no swimming pools. This minimizes any risk of infection. You can exercise immediately, as long as you follow your skin care instructions. You’ll need to keep the tattoo area completely protected with SPF 25 or higher sunscreen for 3 months.
You need to wait from 6-8 weeks between sessions. That is necessary to let your body’s white blood cells get to work removing the fractured ink particles.
Is tattoo removal safe?
Laser tattoo removal is safe and effective, but it should only be done by experienced professionals such as Dr. Behr. When you consider the other methods used for tattoo removal, dermabrasion or surgical removal, there is no comparison to the safety of laser tattoo removal.
The biggest concern is infection, but management of that is up to the patient. If you’re diligent with the application of antibiotic cream and keeping the area covered, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Risks of tattoo removal
Hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), and hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin) and scarring are possible complications of the procedure. Sun exposure, as well as not adhering to post-treatment instructions provided may increase chances of complications.
Tattoo Removal Cost
Cost per treatment depends on size of tattoo. Treatments generally start at $250.00 per session. Packages are available as well and will be discussed in detail at time of your consultation. Contact us today to schedule your tattoo removal consultation!
Schedule a Consultation
Do you want to find out if you are a good candidate for a tattoo removal procedure? Call our office in Fresno CA to schedule a consultation at (559) 435-7546. Kathleen L. Behr, MD serves Fresno and surrounding areas in California.