Tattoos and tattoo removal have existed for ages. Since the time that tattoos were first used as a form of punishment or branding, people have sought ways to remove them. Fortunately these days, the decision to remove a tattoo is usually personal and related to one’s changing tastes and outlook on life.
Before lasers, tattoos were able to be removed in a number of ways, including salt-abrasion (salabrasion), dermabrasion, acid removal, or frank surgical excision. These methods were quite effective, but were painful and left scars. Laser tattoo removal originally started as a way to burn off a tattoo. Lasers such as the CO2 and argon lasers were used but were not much better than destructive surgical methods, leaving behind open wounds that had to heal over time.
The advent of Q-switched lasers was a watershed moment in laser tattoo removal. These lasers work by a completely different mechanism than ablative lasers (the kind that destroy the skin). A q-switch is a super-fast shutter that allows the emission of a very short burst of laser light, in the nanosecond range. The light is also sent out at a very high energy, all packed into that short burst. The effect on the tattoo ink is similar to throwing an ice cube in a glass of warm water – it cracks. The heat of the laser is absorbed preferentially by the tattoo pigment, but it occurs faster than the ink particle can thermally expand, causing it to fracture into tiny pieces. These smaller pieces become small enough to be digestible by the immune white cells of the body and are taken away to distant areas. As this process is repeated, the tattoo becomes lighter and lighter, until it is virtually invisible.
How Laser Tattoo Removal Works – The Step by Step Process
Step 1: Schedule a Consultation
During consultation we will determine the best treatment procedure for your given tattoo as well as the number of treatments that will be required to remove it. Once the size and number of treatments have been assessed we will determine a per visit price and can begin treatment the same day. Treatments will be spaced apart 6-8 weeks to allow for ample time for the treated area to heal.
Step 2: Preparing the Area to Will be Treated through Laser Tattoo Removal
The area treated will be sterilized prior to treatment. The amount of energy (flounce/joules/jcm2) will be determined prior to each treatment as well as the spot size and treatment speed (Hz/hertz)
Step 3: Perform the Laser-Tattoo-Removal
To mitigate pain the preferred method is simply to cool the area during treatment with a medical grade chiller/cooler. When the light of the laser is absorbed by the ink the produced heat crystallizes the ink changing the physical state from a liquid to a solid. The body’s reaction to this change is to treat the newly crystallized ink as if it were a splinter. The body forces the crystallized ink towards the surface of the skin causing some of the tattooed skin to sluff off. While the blood stream and the lymphatic system metabolizes the ink form. There are no adverse effects on the liver or circulatory system from this process.
Step 4: Post Treatment
With treatments from the 532nm laser blistering will occur following every visit again this is normal and expected. Unlike most other cases the blisters caused by the laser-tattoo-removal process should be drained with a sterile lancet and Aquaphore should applied immediately following drainage. The Aguaphore should be applied regularly following the treatments for two days or until the blistering stops.
While it is possible to see immediate results the majority of the time the fading occurs gradually over the 6-8 week healing period between treatments. It is important to keep the treated area out of direct sunlight and away from significant heat sources (Hot tub, sauna, steam room..etc.) for the first 48 hours following the laser treatment as any additional heat will slow the healing process and can cause blistering to worsen. Taking showers is not an issue.Follow the above steps on how Laser Tattoo Removal Works and you will be glad to have considered them greatly.
Advancements in laser technology have made it possible to safely and effectively eliminate tattoos. Although there are creams and other types of products that promise to remove the ink, there is the risk of complications that can occur due to differences in individual skin factors. And the results may be less than ideal. So it is important to understand how different treatment modalities work and to seek help from a board certified dermatologist.