The History of Tattoo Removal
- Tattoos were considered permanent historically. Now there are various laser options available for full or partial tattoo removal. When tattoo removal first came to be, it was common to use:
- TCA (Trichloroacetic Acid removes the top layers of the skin, reaching the layer where the tattoo ink resides
- sal-abrasion (scrubbing the skin with salt)
In addition to that, some of the very early forms of tattoo removal included the injection or application of wine, lime, garlic or pigeon excrement. That should make you thankful for the lasers we have now!
- Many people opt to go for a cover-up rather than removal. That works in some cases. However, if you are unsure if it can be covered completely and in a way, you will love, then consider removal first. You can tattoo over the removal site if you wish.
- Tattoos are made up of thousands of little particles of pigment, suspended in the skin. Typically the body would try to flush out foreign objects – however, the tattoo pigment particles are too large to be removed by normal body process. This is where the laser comes in – it fragments the pigment, creating smaller particles that the body can flush.
What is Harder to Remove – Black or Color?
- Surprisingly, even though black is bold and dark, it is easier to remove. Different tattoo pigments require different laser colors. As an example; red light is much better absorbed by green tattoo pigments than other colors. This is the knowledge you are looking for in the doctor or technician who performs laser tattoo removal.
It’s Getting Hot In Here
The pulse duration of the laser energy needs to be very short – long enough to fragment the pigment but not long enough to touch and burn the surrounding skin.
Rinse and Repeat
Due to the nature of the laser, how the body flushes the pigment and how the skin responds to the treatment, it does take anywhere from 3-9 sessions on average for full removal. Typically there are about 7-9 weeks between sessions. It’s also important to note that expediting sessions has never been proven to yield better or quicker results. You will see your tattoo lighten over time, as the body disposes of the particles. Factors the doctor will consider when deciding how to plan the timing of your sessions: placement of the tattoo.
- skin color
- your immune system (which plays a large role, since your body has to work to fight inflammation and remove the pigment particles)
- age, color, and density of the ink
No Pain, No… (Tattoo) Loss
Patients do report the discomfort of varying degrees, depending on their pain tolerance. Most often people cite the pain as being like a snap from an elastic band. Anesthesia is often used to reduce patient discomfort.
Almost immediately after treatment, an elevated white discolored area will appear. There may be punctuated bleeding that is apparent. There will be minimal swelling and redness on the tattoo and surrounding skin – which usually resolves in approximately 24 hours. Next, the area will crust over. It will fall off about two weeks after treatment. It is normal to find some tattoo pigment in the white crust. Keeping the area clean with warm water and keeping it dressed per your doctor’s guidance is important. Please note that topical antibiotic ointment is not a good idea due to potential reactions and that there are maybe different types of scarring that may appear for a temporary time.
About The Author:
World-renowned physician Dr. Stephen Mulholland founded the SpaMedica cosmetic surgery clinic in Toronto with the intention of providing a world-class experience with service unparalleled in the beauty industry.