Tattoo Removal Overview
Patients can request tattoo removal for a variety of reasons, including social, cultural or physical. Some patients may even develop an allergic reaction to a tattoo several years after its initial application. Because each tattoo is unique in its detail and colours of ink, the tattoo removal techniques must be tailored to suit each individual case.
Professionally applied tattoos tend to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin at uniform or even levels. This evenness allows the doctor to use techniques that remove broader areas of inked skin at the same depth. Professional tattoos are also made with some of the newer inks and pastel colours may also be difficult to remove entirely. Homemade tattoos are often applied with an uneven hand and are usually more difficult to remove. Deeper blue and black ink colours are particularly difficult to remove.
Up until recently, there have been several methods of tattoo removal including excision, dermabrasion, IPL and the ruby or red light laser. Unfortunately in some cases, these methods have only traded the tattoo for a significant scar. There is now a new way to remove tattoos without the high risks of the past. The Q-switched Multi-wavelength YAG Laser has made significant changes to the reliability of tattoo removal treatments. The YAG Laser in many cases can safely remove tattoos of all colours. By using the same method, this laser is capable of safely removing Lentigines (age spots), freckles and other flat, pigmented spots and birthmarks.
The Procedure for Tattoo Removal
The treatment is relatively quick, with minimal discomfort. The feeling of the laser beam passing over the skin has been likened to a rubber band flicking on the skin. The laser works by removing the tattoo ink with the energy of light. A specific colour of light passes through the skin and is absorbed by the ink of the tattoo without damaging the surrounding tissue. The pigment breaks up into smaller granules and is removed by the body’s natural filtering system.
The older the tattoo, the more treatments may be necessary. Different colours and more intricate designs may also need more treatments. Pigmented lesions can often require several treatments for complete removal, depending on their size, colour and location.
The Recovery Process for Tattoo Removal
An antibiotic cream is applied to the area and there may be some redness and scabbing following the procedure. Provided care is taken not to scrub or abrade the skin, this will settle in a couple of days. For several weeks following the procedure, the ink molecules, broken down by the laser, will be dispersed and disposed of by the body so a gradual improvement is noticed over the ensuing months. In the case of pigmented lesions there is also a gradual fading of colour as the broken down pigment is dispersed.
It is possible to remove cosmetic tattoos with the YAG Laser, this includes lip, eye and eyebrow liner so patients must be aware if treatment is performed near these tattoos. It is usually not necessary to take time off to recover from this procedure. Lasering can be uncomfortable for some patients. In these cases local anaesthetic cream can be applied prior to treatment if desired.
Risks and Complications of Tattoo Removal
The Q-switched Multi-wavelength YAG Laser greatly reduces the potential for scarring or textural changes in the skin (there is less than 5% chance of scarring). There will be some temporary redness or discolouration in the skin and it is possible to experience a lightening or darkening of the skin for a few months following the tattoo removal, this usually returns to its normal colour over time.
Tattoo Removal FAQs
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments depends on your skin’s response to the laser, the type of ink used and the depth of the ink in the skin. Most professional tattoos usually need six to ten treatments whilst homemade ones need only four to six treatments.
Will the tattoo completely disappear?
In many cases, there will be a 100% clearance of the tattoo. On average, 95% fading is considered a good result. The result depends upon the colour and type of ink used as well as the depth of penetration of the ink in the skin.
Will all colours disappear?
Dark blue, black, green and red inks fade most easily. Aqua, orange and purple respond well but yellow and white inks are the most difficult and may require extra treatment to give significant fading.
If you would like to find out more about tattoo removal contact us for a cosmetic surgery consultation with one of our specialist cosmetic nurses on 03 9500 9500