Do you have old tattoos from your younger days that embarrass you? Having an unwanted tattoo can make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin when you should be feeling confident. If you have old tattoos you want to get rid of, laser tattoo removal might be the answer to your problems. MacMed Spa in Milford, MA, is the perfect place to clear your skin and get rid of the old memories attached to your unwanted ink.
Can Laser Tattoo Removal Work for Me?
Laser removal is an effective and easy method to get rid of unwanted ink, and it’s perfect for almost everyone! It’s never too soon or too late to get rid of a tattoo you no longer want. The best candidates for tattoo removal are generally physically healthy and don’t smoke cigarettes. If you have a tattoo you want gone, and you’re relatively healthy, then you’re the perfect candidate for this treatment!
One of the best things about laser removal is that it’s so effective across the board. You may have heard the myth that laser tattoo removal doesn’t work well on brightly colored tattoos or on people with darker skin. Neither of these are true! Because of the professional lasers available today, laser removal is a great choice for all skin types and for all tattoos. No matter what type or color of tattoo you have, from a professional piece to a stick-and-poke, laser removal will get the job done.
No matter who you are, laser tattoo removal can work for you.
How Does Tattoo Removal Work?
Is Laser Treatment the Only Way to Remove Unwanted Ink?
There are a handful of ways to remove unwanted tattoos, but laser removal is by far the most effective. Let’s take a closer look at the other options to understand why so many individuals choose laser treatment to get rid of their unwanted ink.
This method of tattoo removal involves the use of a medical-grade grinding tool that rubs against the skin and removes the outer layers in a controlled manner. The dermabrasion machine removes the skin cells that contain ink particles and allows the ink to leach out of the skin. This treatment is done using a local or regional anesthetic.
It’s a pretty painful treatment because it essentially rubs your skin off and results in an open wound that requires care after the treatment. Like laser treatments, patients who opt to use dermabrasion often require more than one session. In addition to being quite painful, dermabrasion results in significant scarring and is less effective than laser removal.
Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) chemical peels are another way to remove unwanted ink. TCA is a rather mild acid that is applied to the unwanted tattoo. The chemical peel works to remove the outer layers of the skin. By doing this, the tattoo ink that resides in the outer layers of the skin is also removed.
Like dermabrasion, TCA peels also result in an open wound that need to be cared for after treatment. Also like dermabrasion, chemical peels tend to be a less effective method of tattoo removal than laser treatments.
One of the more direct ways to remove an unwanted tattoo is to simply cut out the piece of skin on which the tattoo resides. This is known as surgical excision. During the procedure, the doctor anesthetizes you with a local, regional, or even general anesthetic. The doctor then uses a scalpel to make a cut around the tattoo. After the skin with the tattoo is removed, the doctor sews the surrounding skin flaps back together.
While this is an effective method of tattoo removal, because it excises the skin with the ink on it, there are a few downsides that make this method less favorable. For one, this treatment can only be done on very small tattoos. Your doctor cannot remove too large a piece of skin without requiring a skin graft to close the wound. Secondly, this treatment results in a surgical scar; most people don’t want to have a surgical scar as a reminder of their old tattoo.
How Does the Laser Removal Process Work?
During a laser removal session, your technician will put a topical anesthetic cream on the area of skin being treated to ensure that you don’t experience any discomfort. The practitioner will guide a laser over the area of skin that has the unwanted tattoo. The lasers used in the tattoo removal process produce pulses of light energy.
The pulses of light energy penetrate the skin and are absorbed by the ink particles, causing them to heat up and shatter into tiny particles. Once fragmented, the body’s immune system flushes the ink particles away, which lightens the tattoo. As you go through more treatments, the tattoo will continue to lighten until it is no longer visible.
The Q-Switched Laser
Tattoo removal works because of a special kind of laser called a Q-switched laser. These lasers produce extremely powerful, but brief, pulses of energy. These pulses are so brief that they typically only last for a few nanoseconds. This is vital to the tattoo removal process because it works to shatter the ink particles without affecting the skin cells.
Tattoo particles are extremely small, usually only a couple of nanometers in diameter. Because of their small size, they only need to be heated for a very brief moment to warm up and shatter. In contrast, skin cells are much larger and would require much longer exposure to the laser to be damaged. Furthermore, the brief pulses of energy are essential to breaking up the tattoo particles. The pulses are so short that they do not fully heat up the ink particles, rather, the pulses partially heat up the particles, leaving the particles both hot and cool. These opposing forces are what work to fracture and shatter the ink particles.
Targeting the Tattoo Ink
We already mentioned the myth that certain colors of tattoos cannot be removed, or that only black tattoos can be removed. This isn’t true! While colorful tattoos were difficult to remove in past decades, technological advances have made this a nonissue.
The goal of the laser removal process is for the ink particles to absorb the laser energy so that the particles shatter. Different colors of tattoos absorb and reflect different wavelengths of light.
Working the Wavelength
The visible white light that comes from the sun or a lamp includes the full spectrum of colors; we can see this when wavelengths are split through a prism to reveal a rainbow. When an object appears red, for example, it’s because that object absorbs all wavelengths of the visible light spectrum except for red. Instead of absorbing the red wavelength, it’s reflecting it, so to the naked eye, that object appears red.
Because tattoo removal requires that the tattoo ink particles absorb the laser light, the wavelength has to be adjusted for the best treatment. Just like red objects don’t absorb, but rather reflect, the red wavelength, red tattoo ink won’t absorb a visibly red laser wavelength. Red ink needs to be treated with visibly green laser light because it’s on the opposite end of the spectrum. The green wavelength will penetrate the skin and be absorbed by the red ink, causing the particles to shatter.
Because laser tattoo removal requires the removal of all colors of tattoos, it’s essential that technicians have access to a variety of wavelengths for treatment versatility.
The Body’s Work
After you have a laser tattoo removal session, the work isn’t done! Your body actually does most of the work in getting rid of that unwanted ink. Your lymphatic and immune systems work to clear foreign invaders from your body. The ink particles, before being treated, are far too large for your immune system’s phagocytic cells to latch onto and move. Once the ink particles have been shattered, however, your immune system is able to gradually move the ink particles away from the tattoo area and into the lymph nodes, where they can then be flushed out of the body.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Sessions Will I Need?
Tattoo removal doesn’t happen all at once. Patients generally need between two and 10 laser treatments in order for their unwanted ink to be completely removed.
How Often Can I Go In for Treatment?
You should wait between four and six weeks between each session. This is because your immune system takes time to remove the shattered ink particles. You’ll notice in the weeks after each session that your tattoo gradually grows lighter as it slowly clears particles from the tattoo site and disposes of them via the lymph nodes.
It’s important to wait in order to get the best results. When you get a tattoo, ink is deposited in different depths and layers of the skin. When the laser permeates the skin, it only can reach the ink particles that are deposited in the most shallow levels of the skin. The shallow ink particles block the laser light from reaching particles beneath, much like how a shadow works. If you get another laser treatment before all the shattered particles have been cleared from the tattoo site, those shattered particles will block the laser light from reaching new ink particles.
What Impacts How Long Laser Removal Takes?
Generally, the closer a tattoo is to a lymph node, the faster it will disappear. This makes sense because the phagocytic cells of the immune system have to pull the shattered ink particles from the site of the tattoo to the lymph nodes. The less distance they have to travel, the faster they can work. Areas of the body that have a large count of blood and lymph nodes, like the face and neck, clear tattoos the fastest. The upper and lower back also have a high count. Basically, the lower down on the body the tattoo is, the fewer lymph nodes there are, and the slower the process.
Because your immune system is vital to the process of laser removal, the health of your immune system impacts how quickly the tattoo clears. If you have an autoimmune disorder or other immune issues, it will take your body a bit longer to get rid of the tattoo.
Tattoos tend to slowly degrade and sink into the skin as they age, making them appear faded. Older tattoos tend to take less time to remove than newer tattoos because they’ve already begun the process of breaking down.
Get Rid of Your Ink
Don’t keep hiding your old tattoos: just have them removed! Laser tattoo removal is the only way to get the clear, tattoo-free skin you deserve. To schedule an appointment for tattoo removal, give us a call at MacMed Spa in Milford, MA.