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
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.
What is tattoo removal?
Tattoo removal is removal of unwanted tattoos. It can be done by a number of
ways, including laser treatments, chemical peels, dermabrasion and surgical
excision. However, lasers are the most common modality used today for tattoo removal.
How does laser tattoo removal work?
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
immune system. 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.
Who is a good candidate 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.
How is the procedure done?
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.
Is the procedure painful?
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.
What should I expect during my recovery period?
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.
How many sessions are required for complete removal of tattoo?
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.
How frequently the sessions are done?
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.
What are the risks of tattoo removal?
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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