The tattoo business is bourgeoning, with tattoos having become nothing short of a staple among Generation Y. Customers spend thousands every year getting inked with designs that pay homage to such talismanic triggers as a favourite celebrity, star sign or close family member etc. Tattoos have long been considered a way to make a personal statement. For many, having one is, in fact, a complex fashion accessory. For others, tattoo removal is the newest fad.
Despite the high number of people getting tattoos, the number of people wanting to remove them is also on the rise. Whether you want to change your tattoo or erase it completely, laser removal is a viable option to get the job done. Naturally there are plenty of factors to consider before taking the plunge. There are many reasons people opt to remove tattoos. The most prominent reason is simple regret, what seemed like a good idea at the time may no longer fit into your current lifestyle. Many have regrets about the size, shape, colour, location or content of their tattoo, while others regret getting one altogether. Secondly, many people choose to reverse their ink due to what’s become known as the “tattoo taboo”. Many institutions employ a “no visible tattoo” policy, as a result having one can be detrimental to your livelihood and make finding employment or switching jobs difficult. Another common reason for seeking laser removal is an allergic reaction or skin condition that has developed around the tattoo, causing it to become unsightly and painful.
How does laser tattoo removal work?
There are other methods of tattoo removal such as dermabrasion and cryosurgery, but laser removal is widely regarded as being the most effective method to remove tattoos. A laser injects the skin with intense light, which penetrates the skin to break up the ink particles and leads to tattoo fading. The body’s immune system will then remove these pigments over time. The laser energy is harmless and only targets the pigmented skin, leaving the un-inked surrounding skin unharmed. The laser treatment, IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) uses bursts of light as opposed to the concentrated light of a laser to achieve the same effect. Multiple sessions are needed to break down the tattoo, the number of which depends on the size and scope of the affected area. As the body needs to remove the fragmented pigment (using scavenger cells), treatments are normally scheduled at least three weeks apart.
Tattoo removal is carried out using one of three Q-switched lasers. Q-switching refers to the process of producing short laser pulses very quickly (some as fast as a nano- second). This type of laser has developed over the past few decades to produce a high-quality removal that leaves behind little scarring. The Q-switched ruby laser is the most effective when removing black and dark blue inks, while the Nd:YAG laser produces both green and red light, making it effective in treating dark tattoo pigment as well as colours such as red, yellow and orange found in newer tattoos. Alexandrite lasers are successful in treating dark pigments, brightly-colour pigments as well as green, which can be a problematic colour and is often the only hue left behind after a treatment. Depending on your tattoo, your technician will assess which is the most fitting to use for the best results.
Does laser tattoo removal hurt?
Depending on the size of the job, laser tattoo removal can be a painful process.
Tattoos by definition are designed to be permanent, so removing them isn’t always straightforward. Some patients have described the pain as a burning or tingling sensation akin to being splashed with grease that spits out of a frying pan. This is caused by the heat generated by the laser. There are certain factors that can increase or decrease the pain associated with laser removal, such as the colour of the ink or age of the tattoo.
Taking over the counter products such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can help alleviate laser tattoo removal pain, although the product should not contain aspirin as it can cause severe bruising afterwards. Your laser removal technician may administer a local anaesthetic before beginning the procedure to help with the pain. Depending on the size and scope of the tattoo, multiple treatments can potentially result in blistering. You should keep your tattoo treated with antibacterial ointment and covered with a bandage after a treatment to reduce this risk.