The number of people with tattoos has dramatically increased over the past 10 years. Due to changes in personal circumstances many people are seeking to remove their tattoos. Years ago the only option was to have the tattoo surgically removed. Advances in laser technology means that tattoos can be reliably removed without scarring the skin.
What is tattoo removal?
Tattoo ink particles are too large for the body's immune system to remove naturally. By passing a very short pulse of high power laser light through the skin, the tattoo ink is broken into smaller particles, which the body is able to remove.
How does the laser work?
A laser removes tattoo ink with the energy of light. Just as natural sunlight is made up of light wavelengths of many colours, a laser is a device which is designed to produce one or more specific wavelengths of light. These wavelengths are either absorbed, reflected or simply passed through objects. Tattoo ink is removed by using a specific wavelength which passes through the skin but is absorbed by the ink. The rapid absorption of light energy causes the tattoo ink to break down, where it is then removed by the body's natural filtering systems.
How many treatments are required to remove a tattoo?
The duration of individual treatment sessions will vary according to the size, depth and colour of the tattoo, and the aesthetician will advise you about the likely number of treatment sessions required at your initial consultation. Typical treatment sessions last between 5 and 40 minutes depending on the size of the tattoo as each treatment causes the tattoo to fade.
Are there any side effects following treatment?
Redness and swelling may occur, similar to sunburn. This settles within a few days. Some patients may blister, which is quite normal and does not indicate potential scarring. Blistering does not require treatment and will usually clear within days. The treated area should not be exposed to strong sunlight between sessions without the use of sun block (SPF 30).
What results can I expect?
Some laser light is absorbed by skin pigment as well as tattoo ink. Darker skinned patients may notice some lightening of the skin (depigmentation). This usually returns to normal in 6 to 12 months. There is normally no lasting damage to the skin. Very occasionally, mild changes in skin texture may occur.