There are three options for those wishing to remove tattoos: surgical excision, dermabrasion, and laser removal. At ARC we use state-of-the-art laser technology known as Q-switched Nd:YAG dual light system with the latest (2012) Harmony XL® machine.
Two wavelengths are used to treat a broad range of tattoo colours, including:
- Dark colours like black, blue and green with 1064-nm wavelength
- Brighter colours like red, orange and yellow with 532-nm wavelength
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The laser produces short pulses of intense light that pass harmlessly through the top layers of the skin to be selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment. This laser energy causes the tattoo pigment to fragment into smaller particles that are then removed by the body’s natural filtering system. The laser selectively targets the pigment of the tattoo without damaging the surrounding skin. Treatments take minutes, depending, of course, on the size of the tattoo.
THE TREATMENT : WILL IT WORK FOR YOU?
The number of treatments necessary and success rate for complete tattoo removal depends on many factors. These include the colours of the tattoo, the skin-type of the individual, the quality and amount of ink used (there are over 100 inks in use), layering and location of the tattoo. Some tattoos require more treatments. (Some use complex denser inks with deeper skin penetration; Sydney tattoos, for example, require more treatments than Bali tattoos, or jail tattoos).
Using 532-nm wavelength, red and orange are the most effective colours to remove. This can also remove yellow-pigmented tattoos but is especially effective for removing the brighter reds and orange. Because this doubled-frequency wavelength (532nm) is highly absorbed by melanin, this makes it very effective also for the removal of sun spots and age spots.
Whereas 1064-nm wavelength works best for the removal of dark colours such as black, light blue, dark blue and dark green tattoos. This laser creates a near-infrared light (invisible to humans) which is poorly absorbed by melanin and hemoglobin, making this wavelength the best choice for tattoo removal in darker skin types.
Between 4 and 8 treatments or more are usually needed to completely remove a tattoo. The period between treatments is approximately 6 to 8 weeks. The tattoo will start to fade one week after each treatment and continue to fade for several months.
DOES IT HURT?
Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Some describe removal as being as painful as having the tattoo. Others say it’s like ‘the snap of a thin rubber band’ on your skin, multiple times of course.
A local anesthetic will be applied to the area a half hour before treatment. Do not take aspirin or blood thinners prior to your treatment as you may bleed from the pin pricks and you may bruise.
The cost is dependent on the tattoo size, the colours and quality of the inks. This can be estimated during your free consultation with your doctor.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT AFTER MY TREATMENT?
Immediately following treatment, the doctor or nurse will apply an anti-bacterial ointment and dressing to the treated area. Redness will occur and a hot burning sensation is felt, similar to a severe sunburn. This burning sensation will intensify as the effects of the anesthesia wears off and this is when discomfort is most felt. The area will feel very hot and may sting significantly. This sensation will last up to 1 to 2 hours then subside to the feeling of a mild to moderate sunburn which, depending on the individual, can continue for up to 2 days. Redness may remain for the following 3 days (again, depending on the individual).
The site will become considerably itchy in the 3 days following treatment and eventually will develop a scab within 7 – 10 days. This scabbing process is the body’s natural healing process which must be handled gently, allowing the crust to shed naturally. Do not scratch or pick at it!
In general the treated areas heal in 10 – 21 days, depending on the skin type of the individual. The redness in the laser-treated sites generally fades in two to three months but may take as long as six months to completely disappear. The redness generally persists longer in people with fair skin. After healing, the site will gradually and continuously fade.
Showers or baths are not permitted to the treated site for at least 3 days post treatment and the area is to be covered at all times with a sterile dressing to avoid infection. Regular application of anti-bacterial ointment is necessary (at least 3 times a day). The treated area should be kept clean with frequent continued application of this ointment as directed by the doctor or nurse. Make-up, moisturizers or topical creams are not allowed on or near the treated area for 7 – 10 days post-treatment.
A shower or bath 3 days after treatment is fine using mild soap and warm water, but the treated area should not be scrubbed and should be gently patted dry when toweling until fully healed.
It is essential to protect the skin from sun damage following laser tattoo removal. The sun can cause blistering and prevent the tattoo site from healing completely. Cover the area with at least 25 SPF sunscreen or stronger during any sun exposure for about 3 months after the treatment.