Laser Tattoo Removal
Lasers work by producing short pulses of intense light that pass harmlessly through the top layers of the skin to be selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment. This laser energy causes the tattoo pigment to fragment into smaller particles that are then removed by the body’s immune system. Researchers have determined which wavelengths of light to use and how to deliver the laser’s output to best remove tattoo ink. (If you’re wondering if the laser might also remove normal skin pigment, don’t worry. The laser selectively targets the pigment of the tattoo without damaging the surrounding skin.) Because black pigment absorbs all laser wavelengths, it’s the easiest to remove. Other colors, such as green, selectively absorb laser light and can only be treated by selected lasers based on the pigment color.
What does a laser tattoo removal treatment feel like?
Laser tattoo removal can be uncomfortable but is very tolerable in most cases. The impact of the energy from the laser’s powerful pulse of light has been described as your skin being snapped by a thin rubber band. Depending on the patient’s pain threshold, some patients may forgo anesthesia altogether, most patients will require some form of anesthesia. To mitigate pain, the preferred method is simply to cool the area during treatment with a medical-grade chiller/cooler and to use a topical anesthetic.
How does the treatment work?
Tattoos consist of thousands of particles of tattoo pigment suspended in the skin.While normal human growth and healing processes will remove small foreign particles from the skin, tattoo pigment particles are permanent because they are too big to be removed. Laser treatment causes tattoo pigment particles to heat up and fragment into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces are then removed by normal body processes. The amount of energy (flounce/joules/jcm2) is determined prior to each treatment as well as the spot size and treatment speed (Hz/hertz). During the treatment process the laser beam passes harmlessly through the skin, targeting only the ink resting in a liquid state within. While it is possible to see immediate results, in most cases the fading occurs gradually over the 7–8 week healing period between treatments.
How is this different than other procedures?
Other procedures available for tattoo removal are: Excision, which involves removing the tattooed area of skin and then stitching it closed. This method is more ideal for smaller tattoos; however, for larger tattoos, the skin is removed and a skin graft from another part of the body is used to cover the area. Dermabrasion or Salabrasion is a surgical procedure where the surgeon uses a sanding tool to go over the skin in order to rub off the top layers of the skin to reveal fresh skin beneath. Local anesthesia is used during the treatment. When the procedure is over, the skin appears to be red in color and is tender. It usually takes the skin a few weeks to heal. This procedure is not recommended if the patient is prone to scarring, hyper or hypo-pigmentation.
What equipment/product do you use?
At Blue Seas Med Spa we use a Q-Switched laser device, from the company Alma Lasers. The type of energy chosen for treatment is based on the client’s skin type and color of the tattoo to be removed.
What is the pre-treatment care?
In preparation for a laser procedure, we recommend that non-aspirin products, like Tylenol, be used for minor aches and pains prior to the procedure. Because aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, such as Ibuprofen, can possibly produce bruising, they are not recommended. Another recommended pre-treatment step might include the application of a prescription anesthetic cream 20 minutes prior to the laser session.
What is the post-treatment care?
Following treatment, the provider will apply an antibacterial ointment and dressing to the area, which should be kept clean with continued application of ointment as directed by the provider. A shower or bath the day after treatment is okay, but the treatment area should not be scrubbed. Your skin might feel slightly sunburned for a couple of days and the treated area may remain red for a few weeks. The site might also form a scab, which should be handled gently.
Who are the best candidates?
Multiple factors contribute to the success of laser tattoo removal, one of which is a patient’s own immune system. A healthy patient will get the best results. Adequate hydration, eight hours of sleep at night, and non-smoking may improve results.
Patients with previously treated tattoos may also be candidates for laser therapy. Tattoos that have not been effectively removed by other treatments, or through home remedies, may respond well to laser therapy providing the prior treatments did not result in excessive scarring.
Patients who should not be treated?
✔ Pregnant woman or patients trying to become pregnant.
✔ Patients receiving chemotherapy treatments within the last 6 months, due to sensitivity to light and a compromised immune system.
✔ Accutane within last 6 months.
✔ Sunburned skin in area of the tattoo.
Can all skin types be treated?
Fitzpatrick Skin Types V and VI may require additional treatments due to skin tone. These skin types may require hydroquinone treatments twice a day.
When can you expect the results?
Complete laser tattoo removal requires numerous treatment sessions, typically spaced at least six weeks apart. Treating more frequently than six weeks increases the risk of adverse effects and does not necessarily increase the rate of ink absorption. At each session, some but not all of the tattoo pigment particles are effectively fragmented, and the body removes the smallest fragments over the course of several weeks. The result is that the tattoo is lightened over time. Remaining large particles of tattoo pigment are then targeted at subsequent treatment sessions, causing further lightening. The number of sessions and spacing between treatments depends on various parameters, including the area of the body treated and skin color.
Are there potential risks or side effects?
Laser tattoo removal has been declared the gold standard removal method and is very safe; however, there are certain complications that may occur, which are extremely rare, such as hypopigmentation, hyperpigmentation, paradoxical darkening, scarring, redness and swelling.
Why should I receive this treatment from Blue Seas Med Spa?
You should receive treatments from Blue Seas Med Spa for multiple reasons. We have highly skilled professionals with excellent client satisfaction. We are very cautious with treatments taking all necessary steps to ensure safety and efficacy. We pride ourselves in our client services, creating relationships that make our clients our number one referral source. We are under the medical direction of Dr. Christopher Olson.
How much does the treatment cost?
The cost of Laser Tattoo Removal varies depending on treatment area. Treatment packages are available for additional treatment savings. A specific cost will be provided to you in your one-on-one Cosmetic Consultation.
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