Tattoo ink particles are too large for the body’s immune system to remove naturally because when tattoo pigment is injected into the lower layers of the skin (dermis) it becomes locked away by a wall of collagen fibres. Q-switched lasers produce very short bursts of high energy laser light. The light is absorbed by the large ink particles, generating heat that shatters the tattoo pigment into minute particles which the body is able to remove. Because the laser energy is selectively absorbed by the tattoo ink, the surrounding skin doesn’t overheat and there is no lasting damage.
What happens during consultation?
Initially a full medical history is taken to exclude any contraindications to laser tattoo removal.
Thereafter, six main considerations are explored in detail by the laser practitioner.
The patients skin type is assessed according to the FitzpatrickSkin Type Classification. This is important because as the skin type darkens, longer laser wavelengths are required to ensure minimal energy absorption by melanin. For darker skin types we recommend the use of a Q switched Nd :Yag 1064nm laser with gentle settings and extra skin cooling to reducing the risk of pigmentation disturbance.
The size of the tattoo is assessed in detail enabling accurate pricing. In general the larger the tattoo the greater the work required and hence the higher the price per session. Our pricing schedule relates to solid blocks of tattoo pigment and not tattoo size.
The modern ink colours used nowadays for tattoo’s will often determine the complexity of removal, as multi-coloured tattoos usually require the use of multiple laser wavelengths for effective results.
The age of the tattoo may be a significant factor in determining the ease of the removal process. Untreated tattoos tend to naturally fade and slowly blur over time as tattoo ink tends to sink deeper into the dermis and the body’s immune system attempts to remove the untreated tattoo.
In general, an older tattoo will take fewer sessions to remove than a new tattoo. The location of the tattoo is a significant factor and often tattoos in areas of the body that have excellent blood supply and lymphatic drainage respond more rapidly to laser treatment.In general, the closer the tattoo is to the heart the easier the tattoo removal process. Tattoos located on the upper arm, chest or neck usually respond more quickly to laser treatment than those on the ankles and feet.
The removal of a professional tattoo (performed using a tattoo gun usually in a tattoo studio) is generally more complex and time consuming than an amateur tattoo (performed using Indian ink and a needle often at home) Professional tattoos consist of various coloured pigments that are of high ink density injected at a uniform depth of approximately 1mm in the dermis of the skin.
Amateur tattoos are performed using a needle dipped into ink and inserted into the skin. The depth and density of the ink is usually less.
How many treatments are required to remove a tattoo?
Most amateur tattoos require 3 to 5 treatment sessions at monthly intervals. Most professional tattoos require 8 to 12 treatment sessions at monthly intervals.
What are the costs likely to be?
The cost of each session depends on the size and colour of the tattoo. The total cost of the tattoo removal depends on the number of treatments needed and this varies considerably from patient to patient. Prices start from £60 per session.
Do all tattoos respond to treatment?
In the majority of cases we are able to remove most tattoos, more modern colours such as white or yellow may be impossible.
How long does it take and does it hurt?
The lasers do cause discomfort during treatment, similar to being “snapped” with a rubber band. Most patients equate the pain of tattoo removal with the pain of getting the tattoo. Some areas are more sensitive than others, such as ankles and the shoulder blade. The pain tends to decrease as treatment progresses and the tattoo ink fades. And most treatments are very quick, usually between 5 and 40 minutes depending on the size of the tattoo area.
Anaesthetic cream can be applied prior to treatment if required, but most patients do not require this.
The may be for a short time some redness and swelling similar to sunburn, this has usually disappeared after a couple of day. There is a small risk of blistering, this is normal and does not mean there will be permanent scarring and will clear in a few days. Very rarely there may be a slight change to the original skin texture.
Will the skin be normal when the treatment is finished?
The skin may appear to be either lighter or darker depending on the original natural skin colour for some months post completed treatment, however, this usually changes back to the patients original colour gradually.