Tattoo Removal: Frequently Asked Questions
Not as in love with your tattoo as you once were? Laser tattoo removal may be the answer. Here we've compiled a list of the top 10 most frequently asked questions (and answers) regarding tattoo removal:
- What is laser tattoo removal?
- Am I a candidate for laser tattoo removal?
- How is laser tattoo removal performed?
- What should I expect after laser tattoo removal?
- Does laser tattoo removal hurt?
- How long does it take to remove a tattoo with laser?
- Is there a lot of swelling involved with laser tattoo removal?
- When can I return to work?
- What are the risks of laser tattoo removal?
- What are the alternatives to laser tattoo removal?
Laser tattoo removal uses a laser to penetrate the skin and break up the ink particles that were implanted there when you got the tattoo. Different lasers are needed based on the tattoo color.
If you are in good general health, do not have problems with hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation or keloid scarring, and are realistic about what laser tattoo removal can accomplish, you may be a good candidate for this procedure. Some contraindications for laser tattoo removal include undiagnosed lesions, warts, active acne or rosacea in the treatment area.
After the area to be treated is disinfected with an antibacterial solution, the surgeon will pass a hand-held wand that delivers the laser light over the tattoo. The laser evaporates the top level of skin and breaks up the pigment colors used in the tattoo to reveal new, pink skin. The surgeon completes the treatment by covering the skin with antibiotic cream.
The treatment area may feel tight and tender. The skin will crust up and eventually fall off. Allow it to heal naturally. You may be instructed to cleanse the area after a few days with a gentle cleanser and to use a special moisturizing cream or lotion.
You may feel some discomfort, although some doctors offer anesthetic, or even a sedative if you are having a very large tattoo removed.
The process depends on the laser type, number of sessions needed, the depth and type of tattoo, and the body's ability to rid itself of the ink. If you want to remove a tattoo more quickly, dermabrasion is an option, although it usually leaves a scar in the shape of the tattoo you once had.
There is moderate swelling that may last for several days, and it may remain tender to the touch as well. Swelling can be alleviated with cold compresses on the treatment area.
You may return to work immediately.
Burns are very rare but possible, as is infection of the scabbed areas. You may develop hypopigmentation (light areas) or hyperpigmentation (dark areas).
Other forms of tattoo removal you may want to consider are dermabrasion, salabrasion (a form of dermabrasion using salt crystals), intense pulsed light (IPL) and surgical excision.