Laser Tattoo Removal – Everything You Need to Know

Laser Tattoo Removal

About 40 percent of young Americans have a tattoo. So it's no surprise that laser tattoo removal is suddenly so popular. If you're one of the many with a regrettable tattoo, it's possible you've already considered tattoo removal in the past. But how much do you actually know about this procedure?

Laser tattoo removal is a safe, non-invasive alternative to other techniques like surgical excision. So before choosing to have your tattoo literally cut away, consider the pros, cons, and cost of laser tattoo removal.

How Do Tattoos Work?

How Do Tattoos Work

Even if you have one or more tattoos of your own, you might not know how they work. Yes, your tattoo artist uses tiny needles to insert ink underneath your skin. These needles puncture the skin 50 to 3,000 times per minute. But the science behind tattoos is a little more complex than just that.

Some believe that tattoo needles work like a pen, but there isn't any ink inside the needle. Instead, the ink coats the outside of the needle, and a little bit is left underneath the skin as the needle pulls back out. During this process, the needle must penetrate both the epidermis and dermis. The epidermis is the thin outer layer of skin. Age, exfoliation, and injury wear away at the epidermis. While the cells regenerate, this wouldn't make for a very permanent tattoo. Below this layer is the dermis. It is the thickest layer of our skin and holds our hair follicles, sweat glands, and collagen. This is also where the ink of a tattoo sits.

But these ink particles don't just idly sit underneath the skin. The body's immune system is responsible for the permanence of tattoo ink. As the tattoo needle cause thousands of tiny injuries to the skin, the immune system sends out ranks of blood cells. The most important of these cells is called a macrophage. The macrophage cells grab onto the ink particles. While some carry these particles through the immune system, eventually expelling them through bodily waste, others remain under the skin at the site of injury. That is what causes tattoos to fade over time, but also what makes them permanent.

What Is Laser Tattoo Removal?

Laser Tattoo Removal

One of the reasons that the immune system isn't able to carry away all of the ink particles is because they are just too big. This is where laser tattoo removal comes into the picture. Laser tattoo removal uses lights to break apart the ink particles underneath the skin's surface. Once these ink particles break into smaller pieces, the immune system can more efficiently pick them up and dispose of them.

Each laser tattoo removal appointment can last from an hour to five or more, and removing a tattoo can take several sessions. That is because the laser's light can only penetrate the top layer of ink. Once this layer is processed and removed by the immune system, the laser can reach the next layer. The treatment continues until it reaches every layer.

Removing a dark or heavily saturated tattoo will also take more sessions because there is likely more ink present underneath the skin. Tattoos with a wide range of colors might also need different laser types and wavelengths for the best results.

Many businesses offer laser tattoo removal: salons, spas, plastic surgery offices, and even tattoo studios. But no matter where you choose to go for your procedure, make sure that a licensed dermatologist performs the treatment.

Does laser tattoo removal hurt?

Are there other drawbacks to laser tattoo removal?

Who Should Consider Laser Tattoo Removal?

Laser Tattoo Removal

Even though laser tattoo removal has some drawbacks, for most people, the risk of slight scarring or discoloration is preferable to their unwanted tattoo. You should also remember that these side effects are just a possibility, not everyone is guaranteed to experience these downsides.

Laser tattoo removal is a great choice for those looking to cover up their tattoo existing tattoo with a new one. A couple of sessions can lighten the tattoo enough that is invisible underneath the new ink. Undergoing laser tattoo removal can also make your new tattoo artist's job a little easier, as they don't need to work around your old ink as much. In fact, this is why many tattoo studios have started offering laser tattoo removal in-house. If you go this route, you'll need to wait up to two months before you can get a new tattoo in the same location.

Another group of people who can benefit from laser tattoo removal is those who are allergic to their tattoo. Some people discover that their body reacts to tattoo ink only after getting a tattoo. This can cause swelling, itching, and pain in the tattooed region. Laser tattoo removal helps to remove most of the ink and subdue the allergic reaction.

In the end, it's your choice whether or not to undergo laser tattoo removal. If you're feeling unsure, you can always book a consultation with one or more local dermatologists. They can discuss the pain, risks, and expected outcome for your specific situation. They can also give you an idea of the cost to remove your tattoo.

How Much Does Laser Tattoo Removal Cost?

Laser Tattoo Removal

Most sources estimate the per session cost of laser tattoo removal between $200 and $500. Prices will vary depending on location and your chosen dermatologist. But, as with all medical procedures, it's better to invest a little extra money for higher quality work.

The main factor in calculating the overall cost of laser tattoo removal is the number of sessions you need. This number will depend on the size, color, and age of your tattoo. Whether or not your tattoo was done by a professional will also affect the time it takes to remove. While professional artists apply ink in a more even fashion, which sometimes makes it easier to remove, many amateur artists apply the ink in the skin's more shallow layers.

Unfortunately, laser tattoo removal is considered a cosmetic procedure in most cases. That means that insurance companies won't cover any of the costs of these procedures. However, it never hurts to ask, especially if you're choosing laser tattoo removal because of an allergy or other reaction.

How to Choose a Laser Tattoo Remover

Laser Tattoo Removal

It's quite possible that the reason you're getting your tattoo removed is that you didn't research and shop around before picking a tattoo artist. So don't make the same mistake when choosing someone to remove your tattoo.

Now that you know more about the process of laser tattoo removal, you might be ready to book an appointment tomorrow. But not all laser tattoo removers are equal in cost, skill, and equipment. Here are some steps you can follow to ensure you find the best laser tattoo remover for your procedure:

Choose a dermatologist

Ask to see before and after photos

Look at customer reviews

Choose What's Right for You

Whether your unwanted tattoo is big or small, laser tattoo removal is a great option for many patients. But there are some drawbacks to this procedure. And for many people, the cost of these treatments is simply out of reach. If you're certain that laser tattoo removal is something you want, your local dermatologist might be able to offer a payment plan or other financing. Either way, it's best to save for the cost of a licensed clinic than to settle for an unregulated medspa or salon offering a Groupon deal.

Tattoos and their removal can be a sensitive subject, especially when these tattoos signify an ex-partner or other negative time in our lives. But learning a bit more about the science and process behind it all can help alleviate some of the anxiety you might feel about laser tattoo removal. Hopefully, with a little help from us, you now feel educated and prepared to make the right decision for you and your body.


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