Various methods have been used to remove tattoos. Tattoos are mostly
considered permanent, but now with the advancement in medical technology,
it is possible to remove them.
The gold standard method for tattoo removal is the non-invasive Q-switched laser treatment.
Before the introduction of laser tattoo removal, common modalities to remove unwanted tattoos included dermabrasion, chemical cauterisation using TCA, cryosurgery and excision which is sometimes still used along with skin grafts for larger tattoos.
Here we will be discussing about laser tattoo removal in detail.
Tattoo removal is removal of unwanted tattoos. It can be done by a number of
ways, including laser treatments, chemical peels, dermabrasion and surgical
However, lasers are the most common modality used today for tattoo removal.
Tattoos is composed of multiple particles of tattoo ink suspended in the skin.
The normal human immune system typically removes small foreign particles
from the skin. Tattoo ink particles are too big in size to be able to be removed
by this system and are thus considered permanent. The use of lasers helps to
break up these particles into smaller pieces that can be removed by the
Laser treatments work by targeting the tattoo ink particles with highly concentrated laser beams that heat up and break the ink particles into smaller pieces that are able to be cleared away by the body's immune system. Q-switched lasers are the best for tattoo removal.
All tattoos can be considered for removal. However, the dark ink tattoos like the black and the blue ink respond better to laser tattoo removal.
The tattooed area is first anaesthetised by applying a numbing cream for 30-40 minutes. The area is then cleaned with an anti-septic solution. Laser parameters are set on the machine. Laser beam is targeted on the tattoo and shots are given in a regular pattern to cover the entire tattoo. Immediately post treatment, there will be some swelling and pain, which is relieved by ice compression for few minutes.
Laser tattoo removal is somewhat painful. It feels like a rubber band snapping the skin repeatedly. However, to reduce the discomfort, a topical skin numbing medications is always applied 30 minutes prior to the procedure. Following this, the procedure is tolerated very well.
After the procedure, the treated area is red and slightly swollen for a couple of days. Cooling the area and applying a skin healing cream as advised by the doctor is recommended. You may develop some crusts over 2-3 days, which tend to shed off spontaneously in next one week. Make sure not to pick the crusts as this may cause scarring of the area.
Laser tattoo removal typically requires multiple sessions to fragment the ink
particles and make it easier for them to be removed by the immune system.
Depending on the tattoo design, size and colour, it may take 1-10 laser sessions to remove the ink. Some colours of ink are harder to remove than others and may not be able to be completely removed.
There should be a 4-6 weeks time period between each laser session to allow the wounds to heal and the body to absorb as much of the ink as is possible.
Laser is an effective and safe treatment modality to remove unwanted tattoos.
If good quality USA FDA approved laser machine, correct laser parameters and proper treatment protocols are used, the results of laser tattoo removal can be highly satisfying.
The potential risks of tattoo removal include
Poor wound healing
Skin discolouration that may be permanent
Suboptimal aesthetic result
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