Do you have a tattoo that you wish would just go away? If you have tattoo regret, then consider the benefits of laser skin treatment. Don’t be ashamed. We have all made mistakes. Whether it was getting a tattoo of an ex-lover's name that you’d rather forget or a getting embarrassing ink during an awkward time of your life, there is always a chance that you will not want to keep a tattoo around.
Luckily, laser skin treatment for tattoo removal has advanced by leaps and bounds over the years. In fact, nowadays, a proper tattoo treatment regiment could make your skin look as close to what it did before the tattoo needle hit your skin for the first time. However, the process does not happen overnight, as many people think. It is best to educate yourself on the procedure before jumping in. Here are the ins and outs of laser tattoo removal.
How Laser Skin Treatment Works
The advancements of laser skin treatment have made the impossible possible by making unwanted tattoos a thing of the past. Here's how it works.
Why tattoos are tough to remove
Choosing the right tattoo is no easy task for one primary reason. Without intervention, the mark you ink onto your skin is there to stay. It will not rub or scratch off. The only way to remove it is through your choice of removal processes including cremes, dermabrasion, and laser skin treatment, among others.
So why are tattoos so hard to remove? It all comes down to your blood cells. The fact is that once you get a tattoo, your body immediately recognizes the new ink particles as a foreign object. To defend against the new intruder, your body sends white blood cells to break down the ink and eliminate it. The problem is that each ink particle is so large that the blood cells are rendered powerless, and your tattoo lasts the test of time.
Because of the resilience of the tattoo, a much stronger attack is necessary. Enter laser skin treatment.
How the procedure works
Laser skin treatment requires an ultra-short pulse laser that emits quick and very hot blasts of light into the area of the tattoo. These blasts of light transport energy into the skin that is absorbed by the ink particles. The ink particles then shatter into smaller particles. If you have a tattoo consisting of several colors, then different Q-switch lasers are used to attack different colors with individualized wavelengths.
Now that the particles are more manageable, the aforementioned white blood cells can more easily attack the ink. While they do, the blasted ink is flushed away by your immune system.
In most cases, a laser removal session will take between 30 seconds to 10 minutes.
Will the treatment hurt?
Make no mistake about it, having lasers shot into your skin is no walk in the park. The actual pain level you feel will depend on many things, especially your own personal tolerance for pain. Some people who undergo the process say the pain is not much worse than the pain of getting the actual tattoo.
In many cases, the pain associated with this treatment compares to being snapped by a rubber band or the feeling of having specks of hot bacon grease hit your skin. Others say it's about 100 times than the original tattoo.
Just as when you get a tattoo, the pain level may be determined by the location of your tattoo. The most painful places for tattoos include the rib cage, inside the thigh, on hands and feet and the head. Removing tattoos in those areas will be more painful than removing a tattoo on your hip or shin.
The laser skin treatment technician is not blind to the chance of pain. In most cases, you receive a topical anesthetic cream along with protective eyewear to ease any discomfort.
Although you may hear horror stories about the potential pain, avoid taking aspirin or ibuprofen before your appointment. Doing so will cause you to bruise after the treatments, make you bleed more during the treatment, and hamper healing time.
As with most medical procedures, the cost of laser skin treatments varies depending on the amount of care you need and the training and expertise of the surgeon. In general, the cost can range between $200 to $550 per individual treatment. That means, because of the numerous treatments that are needed, your total cost could be as high as $10,000.
Of course, larger tattoos will cost more than smaller tattoos. Depending on how badly you want the tattoo removed, this will be an acceptable cost. However, many offices offer payment plans. Keep in mind that most insurance plans will not cover laser tattoo removal.
Additionally, some treatment centers have programs that offer low-cost or free tattoo removal, such as those helping inmates and former inmates recover their lives who got certain types of tattoos that block employment.
Laser Skin Treatment Differs Based on Your Tattoo
The process of laser skin treatment is in no way immediate and will take several visits. In general, around 6 to 10 sessions will be necessary to obliterate the ink completely. These appointments are separated by at least three weeks. The reason is that after each treatment, your body needs time to heal the affected skin and to processes the destroyed ink. Numerous factors go into the length of your laser skin treatment regiment.
The color of your tattoo
If you have a simple tattoo in black ink, then your laser skin treatment regiment will be relatively short with limited pain. If you have a heavily detailed piece of artwork complete with numerous different colors, then the treatments get a bit trickier.
The more colors in your tattoo, the darker the pigments will be. If your tattoo consists only of black ink, it will more easily absorb the amplified light delivered by the laser. When your tattoo has more colors, especially lighter colors, the ink becomes more reflective, meaning that the light bounces off and is not as effective at breaking up the ink. Tattoos containing yellow and purple ink are some of the hardest to remove.
For these reasons, laser skin treatment may not only be more expensive for colorful tattoos, but it might also be less effective.
Experts have found that tattoos completed with ultra-vibrant or fluorescent ink are almost impossible to remove due to their light and highly reflective nature. In most cases, those with these tattoos should look at an alternate tattoo removal method.
The location of your tattoo
The location of your tattoo might affect not only the level of pain but also the effectiveness of laser skin treatment. The general rule is the closer the tattoo is to your heart, the easier it is to remove. Remember that the treatment laser is only starting the process by breaking up the ink. Most of the work is done later as your blood cells work to destroy the smaller pigments. So the closer your tattoo is to your heart, the easier it is for the blood circulation to reach the area.
Not only does distance from the heart hamper your bodies ability to remove the ink, but your body needs time to heal after each treatment and the more blood available for the target area, the quicker it will recover.
The further away your tattoo is from your heart, the more treatments you may need. Tattoos on wrists, hands, ankles, and feet can take the longest for your body to heal and dissipate.
How long you have had your tattoo
The age of your tattoo can also affect removal time.
If you got a tattoo many years ago and you have not continually touched it up, there is a chance that it has begun to fade. The more faded the tattoo is, the more effective that laser skin treatment will be because the ink is already dissipating.
On the other side of the coin, if you just got a new tattoo and you are having immediate regrets, then the treatment period will extend accordingly.
Preparing for Your Laser Skin Treatment Appointments
So now that you know what you can expect during the removal procedure, how do you prepare?
Before going under the laser, you will first meet with the medical professional who will explain to you what type of regiment you want. They will also give you instructions for your first treatment session. The guidelines will include a list of tasks and habits that you should avoid before your first real treatment comes along.
In the weeks leading up to your treatment, they will likely ask you to wear additional sunscreen or avoid direct sunlight to the tattoo completely. They will also recommend that you avoid any artificial tans as well as skipping any usual shaving, waxing, or exfoliating.
Since half of laser skin treatment is letting your body heal as efficiently as possible, the doctor will encourage keeping your body in peak shape. It is wise to quit smoking up to six weeks before the treatment. You should also stay well-hydrated in the days leading up to and after each treatment.
Side Effects of Laser Skin Treatment
In many cases, laser skin treatment regiments will go off without a hitch, and after proper healing, your skin will look as if there was never a tattoo there in the first place. However, there are some risks of long-lasting side effects. Consider these possibilities before you commit to undergoing the procedures.
Changes in skin lightness
After completion of these treatments, you may notice a difference in your skin color with either temporary hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation making an appearance. Hypopigmentation means that the skin where the tattoo used to be will be darker. Hypopigmentation means that that area of skin will be lighter.
Sometimes the effects are very faint, and in other cases, the skin can look a bit more blotchy. This discoloration should correct itself over the next 6 to 12 months. Also, keep in mind that this discoloration is only cosmetic and does not cause any other medical issues.
You may also experience other skin reactions such as bruising and blistering along with swelling, redness, and tenderness. While these all seem scary, remember that every person will react differently to the treatment. Also, remember that any of these imperfections are only temporary.
Although the risks of laser skin treatment have heavily declined as the technology has advanced, there is always the chance of permanent damage in the form of scarring. You have control over a possible scar by effectively caring for your skin after each treatment.
Caring for Your Skin After Laser Removal
While the laser does its job to scatter your large ink particles, that is only half of the process. Properly caring for your skin at the tattoo site is essential. Doing so makes sure that the tattoo continues to fade and that you're ready for the next round of treatment.
Within the first day of receiving treatment, apply a cold compress to the area and elevate it if possible to reduce inflammation or discomfort. For the next 48 hours, avoid applying makeup, creams or medications directly to the area.
Remember that you will likely have a few weeks between treatments. During that time, keep the area of the tattoo out of direct sunlight. Also avoid pool water, hot tubs, and ocean water. Of course, keep the area clean and dry during healing.
While you are healing, you may start to see of the side effects listed above. If you begin to see, blisters develop, avoid picking at them and instead use a prescribed ointment. Picking at the skin in any way could lead to scarring.
Follow all the aftercare instructions given by your doctor and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Laser Skin Treatment Is Proven to Work
For a long time, getting a tattoo meant that you had a permanent mark on your body that would stay with you until the end of time. However, the advancements in laser skin treatment have made tattoo removal a reality, and the technology will only continue to improve.
If you have a tattoo that you simply cannot stand then this procedure will do wonders, and with proper care, that ex-lover's name etched on your neck will be a thing of the past.
What is the one tattoo that you wish you never got in the first place? Do you have a laser removal success story that you would like to share? If so, sound off in the comments.