What you need to know about laser tattoo removal
There was a time when getting a bad tattoo meant you had two options.
You could cover it up with another tattoo. Or you would just have to put up with it for the rest of your life.
Luckily, that isn't the case anymore. And it's all thanks to laser tattoo removal.
If you're considering having a tattoo removed yourself, but aren't sure what to expect, we've put together a useful guide which includes everything you need to know about the process.
Continue reading to find out more about laser tattoo removal.
What Is Laser Tattoo Removal?
Laser tattoo removal is the process through which permanent tattoos can be removed from the skin.
It's a relatively safe and straight-forward procedure with a high rate of success.
The groundwork for modern-day laser tattoo removal was laid in the 1960s. However, it wasn't until the 1990s that it became commercially available to the public.
And thanks to the accessibility of this innovative process in today's world, people can now have their unwanted tattoos removed. But how does it work?
How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?
There are two main forces at work when it comes to the laser tattoo removal process. The first is - you guessed it - a laser.
The second is your own body. And more specifically, your white blood cells, whose job it is to engulf and remove foreign, potentially harmful, substances from inside of you.
From the day you get a tattoo, your white blood cells go to work at trying to remove the ink from your skin. As far as they're concerned, it shouldn't be there.
However, there's a problem. The ink particles are too big for the white blood cells to do much to. Unassisted, the most they can do is cause your tattoo to fade slightly over time.
However, with the help of a specialised ultra-short pulse laser, they can do much more. The laser breaks the ink particles into smaller pieces - small enough for the white blood cells to remove them from your body.
How Effective Is Laser Tattoo Removal?
In it's current form, anybody who undergoes this process should be able to completely, or if not, at least almost completely, remove their tattoo as desired.
There are of course factors which will affect this, and we will come on to what those are in a moment.
However, if you're expecting to have one session under the laser and come out with fresh skin, you may disappointed.
On average, it takes 6 to 12 sessions to completely remove a tattoo using laser.
And, as the process requires some time to let the white blood cells to do their thing, you will need to wait anywhere from 6 weeks up to 3 months between sessions.
What Can Affect The Process?
As I mentioned earlier, there a number of factors that can affect the effectiveness of laser tattoo removal.
Below, we will look at the three main factors that you should consider.
Colour Of The Tattoo
The colour of the ink used in your tattoo can affect how well the treatment works.
It may surprise you, but darker inks are actually easier to remove than lighter colours, as they absorb more of the laser's light.
Brighter colours are more reflective, meaning it's harder for the laser to break the particles down.
Placement Of The Tattoo
The tattoo's location on your body will also be a factor when it comes to how effective laser tattoo removal will be.
Tattoos on parts of your body that receive more blood flow, such as your torso, will be easier to remove than ones on places that are further away from your heart.
So as a general rule, tattoos on your hands and feet will be more difficult to remove than a tattoo on your chest.
Age Of The Tattoo
As I mentioned earlier, your white blood cells will make your tattoos fade over time.
So older, already slightly faded tattoos are easier to remove; as you'd probably imagine.
Does Laser Tattoo Removal Hurt?
In short; yes. Laser tattoo removal does hurt. After all, it's a red-hot laser being shot into your skin.
But it's hard to pinpoint exactly how much it hurts. Why? Because pain is such a subjective experience.
In the same way that two people will get a tattoo in the same place, and one will say it hurt a lot, and the other will say it was mildly inconvenient - laser removal is the same.
The pain that the person experiences depends entirely on their pain threshold.
You will feel what people describe as a pain similar to 'being flicked with an elastic band' during the treatment, and a burn-like sensation after.
It shouldn't be agony but, equally, you will experience some discomfort.
Is Laser Removal Safe?
Generally, modern laser tattoo removal is entirely safe. However, there are some side-effects that you may experience after the procedure.
The first is temporary swelling and soreness. You may also have some blistering or bruising, but this will heal and shouldn't be around for too long.
In some cases, people experience something called hyperpigmentation / hypopigmentation. This is where the skin around the lasered area produces too much or too little melanin, leaving it a different colour to the surrounding skin. Again this is temporary but is more common in people with darker skin tones.
Finally, there is a small risk of scarring. But as long as you take all precautions to ensure the area heals properly, there shouldn't be any chance of scars occurring.
Can You Tattoo Over Area That Has Had Laser Removal?
If you get a tattoo removed by laser but want to get another tattoo in the same place, you're in luck.
Once the skin has properly healed, there's absolutely no reason you can't get a tattoo in the same location.
Just make sure if you do, you put more thought into it this time. Otherwise, you be find yourself booking in for some more laser sessions in the future.