With the proliferation of tattoos in recent years, doctors have seen an increase in the number of people requesting tattoo removal. The reasons for this vary: the tattoos may be poorly placed or executed, the site may have become infected, or the person may simply have outgrown whatever impulse led to the tattoo.
Because tattoos are placed fairly deeply under the skin, previous removal methods (including excision, dermabrasion, chemical removal, and the earliest lasers) caused unacceptable levels of scarring. Today, newer lasers are more gentle, more effective, and less likely to lead to scarring, making this the treatment of choice for removing tattoos.
If you're considering laser removal of a tattoo, the following information will provide you with a good introduction to the procedure. For more detailed information about how this procedure may help you, we recommend that you consult a facial surgeon with experience in tattoo removal.
*The average cost of laser tattoo removal would range between $300 to $600 per session, and 3-to-10 sessions might be required to remove a tattoo.
*Lasers have become one of the most common methods for tattoo removal because they offer a "bloodless," low risk, highly effective treatment with minimal side effects.
The success of the treatment depends on the color of the tattoo and the depth of the ink placement.
- What are some of the most common benefits of this surgery?
- How is laser removal performed?
- How long does the procedure take?
- Where will the procedure be performed?
- How much pain is there?
- What can I expect after the procedure?
- Ideal candidate:
- Other important information:
- Risks and Limitations
What are some of the most common benefits of laser tattoo removal?
The laser is used to selectively target and destroy the tattoo without damaging the surrounding tissue, which greatly decreases scarring. Lasers have differing wavelengths and pulse durations, and different laser beams are absorbed by specific colors, allowing physicians to choose the precise combination of lasers for the depth and color of a particular tattoo, as well as for multi-colored tattoos. After treatment, the skin is more uniform and natural in appearance, although some changes in skin texture and color are unavoidable.
How is laser removal performed?
The doctor, or an assistant, will cleanse the area on and around the tattoo to remove oils on the skin. During the procedure you'll feel intense emissions of light penetrate the tattooed area. You'll hear noise as the laser does its work, both from the machine itself and from the fans that operate continuously to reduce heat in the room and clean the air.
How long does the procedure take?
On average, each laser treatment takes from 10 to 20 minutes. Several treatments are needed to achieve the desired results -- the number will vary depending on the depth and color of the tattoo, but eight to 12 treatments for one tattoo are not uncommon. You must allow at least a month between treatments, so be prepared to commit a substantial amount of time to the process.
Where will the procedure be performed?
Laser treatment is usually performed in a doctor's office, and a hospital stay is not necessary.
How much pain is there?
You should expect some pain during the treatment. This is most often described as a burning or stinging sensation. A numbing cream applied to the skin or a local anesthetic injected under the skin can be used to minimize pain.
What can I expect after the procedure?
The area may be red, as if mildly sunburned, for several weeks. There may be some bruising, and with deeper tattoos bleeding is not uncommon. The area may be treated with an antibiotic ointment and a bandage applied.
Recovery times depend on the extent of the treatment and the individual's capacity to heal. Redness and sensitivity may continue for several weeks, and there may be discoloration and a change in skin texture in the area, which will gradually improve. You should avoid exposing the treated area to the sun, as this may slow healing. You may not notice significant results until several treatments have been completed.
Most people are satisfied with the pigment removal achieved through laser treatment. It is important to remember, however, that your skin will never look as it did before you had the tattoo, even though the tattooed pigment has been removed.
In general, the best candidates for laser removal of tattoos:
- Are physically healthy
- Are psychologically stable
- Do not smoke
- Want to change their appearance
- Are willing to commit a substantial amount of time to the process
- Do not have fluorescent colors in their tattoo
- Do not have unusual scar formations, such as keloids, or scars in the tattooed area
- Do not have connective tissue disorders, such as lupus
- Are not taking Accutane, nor have taken it for the previous 18 months
- Have not had other cosmetic surgery in the tattooed area
- Are well informed about the procedure
- Hold realistic expectations about the outcome
The above is only a partial list of the criteria that your doctor will consider in determining whether or not this procedure is appropriate for you.
Other important information:
Several additional factors can affect the long-term outcome of your treatment. Older tattoos are easier to remove than newer ones; tattoos applied by amateurs are easier to remove than those applied by professionals. Certain pigments are easier to remove, with fluorescent colors being the least responsive to treatment. The type of ink used may also affect the results, since some inks create a paradoxical reaction, causing the skin to become darker instead of lighter. Your physician can advise you on what to expect based on your particular tattoo.
Tattoo Removal Risks and Limitations:
With modern lasers, extensive scarring is quite rare, although some changes in skin texture and color are common. The area treated by the laser may become hardened or rough, and the skin may become lighter or darker than the surrounding skin.
Laser treatment can also cause the development of small superficial cysts in the skin. If necessary, these cysts can be easily removed through minor surgery. Lasers can also cause burns or other injuries. To reduce the risks involved in this procedure, carefully follow all of your doctor's instructions, both before and after the procedure.
The information on this web site is only intended as an introduction to this procedure and should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor as a guarantee of the result. The best method of determining your options is to consult qualified surgeons who are able to answer specific questions related to your situation.
*Disclaimer: Costs source: According to the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), nationally in 2010. Most surgeons offer convenient payments plans for this procedure. Cost does not include anesthesia, operating room facility, hospital stay, and other related expenses. Costs may also vary depending on location.