The only way to remove the pigment, without damaging the surrounding tissues, is with a Q-switched laser. This technology has more than 20 years of proof behind this technique and has far less risk of skin damage than other techniques.
The light from the laser is absorbed by the particles of tattoo pigment but not very well by the surrounding skin. The tattoo pigment heats up and break down into smaller particles. These minute particles are scavenged away by the body’s immune system and cause a gradual disappearance hence the reason multiple sessions are required. Because the energy is selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment, surrounding tissues incur no lasting damage.
Do all colours respond to treatment?
Most pigments, especially blacks and blues, do respond very well to the treatment but some greens can be known to not respond as well. In some cases it can depend on the age of the tattoo and skin type. In most cases we can assess this in consultation. If there is any doubt, a test patch will determine this.
How many treatments will I need and how often?
Every tattoo is different and every individual responds differently to lasers. As a guide, amateur tattoos can take anywhere from 1-10 treatments and professional tattoos from 5-20, although they may take more than this. Without seeing the tattoo it is impossible to be more accurate and even then, we will only be able to give an estimated guidline.
How much will it cost?
Cost is based on the area covered by the tattoo and the amount of treatments required. As the ink fades, it will in most cases reduce in size, the treatment price will be reduced accordingly because of this. In consultation we can assess this in detail and give you more of an idea if you wish to go ahead.
Will it hurt?
Most people experience a small discomfort (similar to a flick of an elastic band against the skin). Although local anesthetic creams can be used before treatments we prefer not to use them as it tends to over hydrate the skin, making it difficult for the laser to reach the pigment. The water in the epidermis also scatters the light and reduces the effectiveness of the laser. Other pain relief, such as paracetamol, can be taken if needed.
Do the lasers cause scarring?
Although there is a risk of scarring with any laser, in most cases there is no significant risk for tattoo removal. Tattoo removal has become associated with scarring because the first lasers used for tattoo removal were very aggressive and carried a very high risk of scarring. New machines we use have come a long way since this. To reduce the risk, we carry out an extensive consultation.
Are there any other side-effects?
After each treatment it is quite normal for the area to blister which usually resolves in a few days. Treatment cannot be repeated until your skin has returned to normal (usually 4 to 8 weeks).
The most common side effect is skin de-pigmentation (loss of natural skin colour). Because the lasers target pigments, the energy is also absorbed by the melanin in the skin. While normal skin pigment will usually recover, it can take months, or even years to do so. As a general guideline, the darker the skin or the more treatments required, the more risk there is of long term de-pigmentation.
To help pigment return to its normal state and help avoid hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation we stock a range of after care products and pigment creams. Combining these together with looking after the area reduces the risk.
How should I prepare?
Because of the risk of damage to skin pigment, we will not treat and will postpone treatment on tanned skin until any sun-tan has faded (including fake tan and sun-beds). A minimum of four weeks is required from last exposure to the sun or a sunbed to allow the pigment producing cells activity to reduce. Experience has shown that pigment cells treated by laser when active, i.e. when recently exposed to sunlight, can be damaged permanently, resulting in permanent white patches.
How do I take care of my skin after the treatment?
Redness, or erythema, in the area is completely normal and subsides within a short time. We will dress and cover the area post treatment. It is also very important to keep your skin away from the sun by using a physical sun block of at least SPF30 to protect it from damage while it is sensitive. Please speak to us regarding aftercare kits.
Why we only recommend laser treatments?
There are other methods know for tattoo removal such as dermabrasion, surgery and acid creams. Although some cases of surgery on smaller areas have been show to remove pigment, surgically removing and skin grafting large or visible areas can have more of a negative effect that the tattoo itself.
Chemically destroying the tissue containing the pigment with acids and alkali solutions is another method used but the surrounding skin will inevitably incur damage in the process causing extreme scarring. We only use Q Switch lasers at Skinlab Clinic for tattoo removal as we feel this is the most effective and safest process. Come in for a consultation to see if it’s right for you.