How do lasers work to remove tattoos?
Tattoos use pigments injected into the skin to create colorful images. In order to remove them, lasers use different wavelengths to break up those pigments so they can be removed by the body’s natural waste disposal processes. Not all pigments respond to every type of laser energy. In laser tattoo removal, the lasers used can emit different wavelengths depending on the pigments used and other factors, which is why laser tattoo removal can be so effective in eliminating or significantly fading most tattoos.
What happens during laser tattoo removal?
Prior to treatment, the tattoo will be carefully evaluated to determine the best approach for removal. During the evaluation, the doctor will look at the pigments used and the size and depth of the tattoo and ask about the age of the tattoo.
Next, the skin will be cleansed and the doctor will apply a topical numbing agent to the tattoo area so you are comfortable during treatment.
Once the skin is numbed, the doctor will pass the handheld laser device over the skin that emits steady pulses of light energy. These pulses penetrate the skin to reach the tissues where the pigments are found. You may feel some warmth or tingling from the laser as the energy waves penetrate the skin. During treatment, the laser settings may need to be adjusted to ensure the best results for different pigments.
When treatment is complete, the doctor will apply a special ointment to prevent infection and speed healing in the area. In most cases, the patient will reapply the ointment during healing to reduce the risk of infection.
Afterward, you can shower or bathe the day following your treatment, taking care not to scrub or exfoliate the area. Your skin in the treatment area will be red and tender for several days after treatment — similar to a mild to moderate sunburn — and a scab may form. This scab is an important part of the healing process and it should not be removed. Once the area heals, the tattoo will continue to fade as the body works to remove the tiny pigment particles.
How many treatment sessions will I need for optimal results?
That depends on the type and color of the pigments, the amount of ink used in the original tattoo, the depth of the pigments and other factors. Most tattoos require a series of 6-8 treatments to achieve optimal results.