How is a tattoo removal procedure performed?
You will typically get a laser tattoo removal procedure in a surgeon’s office. Below outlines the general steps for tattoo removal.
- You will wear an eye shield to protect your eyes from the laser light.
- Your surgeon will test your skin's reaction to the laser to determine the most effective energy level for treatment.
- Your surgeon places the handpiece against the surface of your skin to activate the laser light. The laser technology produces an extremely short laser pulse that the tattoo absorbs, causing the ink particles to break down with very little damage to the surrounding tissue. Your body’s immune system will naturally remove the resulting by-products as part of the healing process.
- Smaller tattoos require fewer pulses, while larger tattoos require more.
- You will likely need multiple treatment sessions to achieve optimal results. The number of treatments will vary depending on the particular nature of your tattoo. Your tattoo should become progressively lighter with each session.
- Immediately following treatment, your surgeon should give you an ice pack to soothe the treated area. You will need to cover your tattoo site with a non-occlusive dressing, and you should use sunscreen.
What are my tattoo removal options?
Q-switched laser therapy is currently the preferred method of noninvasive tattoo removal. There are a number of Q-switched laser devices available. Different lasers are better for treating different tattoo colors. After evaluating your particular tattoo or tattoos, your aesthetic plastic surgeon will choose the best option for your particular situation.
Variables affecting laser device tattoo removal:
- Skin and tattoo color
- Tattoo type and the age of the tattoo
- Amount and depth of ink
- Laser light color, frequency, pulse duration, spot size, and fluence
- Skin temperature
- Cooling and treatment timing
Surgical excision is more invasive, but might be a good, one-time, guaranteed removal method for a smaller tattoo. This technique is more precise than a laser, but there will be some scarring and higher risk.
What are the types of lasers for tattoo removal?
Your surgeon may use one or a combination of the following devices, depending on your skin type, the color of your tattoo, the age and type of your tattoo, the size and location of the area being treated and treatment timing:
- Q-switched Ruby laser
- Q-switched Nd:YAG laser
- Q-switched Alexandrite laser