L.A.S.E.R. = Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.
There are a variety of ways to remove a tattoo from your body. Laser tattoo removal is one of the most popular and the most effective. Due to the tattoo fashion that has hit the UK and world over the past few years, a lot of people are getting tattoos and are also regretting getting those tattoos. Therefore a large demand has appeared and thus a lot of places offering laser tattoo removal have appeared.
Be careful when looking for a laser tattoo removal specialist as a lot of tattoo shops are now also offering this service but with the wrong kind of laser. Only specialist clinics are usually the best places to go for treatment to remove your tattoo with a laser.
How does it work?
As stated above a laser is simply a device that can shorten the wavelength of light. Think of it as a physics experiment in surface area. “A medium sized/weight woman exerts more pressure using her stiletto that a fully grown elephant” so the smaller something is, the easier it can penetrate a surface.
So with this in mind all a laser does is penetrate the top layer of your skin (epidermis) and into the middle layer (dermis) where the tattoo pigments reside.
What happens next is that the pigments absorb the light and get broken down into smaller particles from which your natural immune system will then be responsible for getting rid of them. They will not all be removed at once which is why a number of treatments will be required depending on the size of the tattoo and the colours in it.
Do colours play a part?
The simple answer is: YES. Because we are dealing with light absorption, colours will play a fundamental part. It is like when you are on holiday in the sun, you will most likely wear light colours (white) rather than dark colours (black).
This is because light colours reflect the sunlight and keep us cooler than darker colours which absorb the sunlight. Thus with a tattoo, black colours are easier to remove because they absorb the light from the laser more than lighter/fluorescent colours like greens and blues.
Another element that comes into play is the size of the ink pigments depends on the colour too. Lighter colours like greens and blues have larger particles than dark colours like black so it takes longer and more treatments to break down the particles of light colours with the laser.
Q-Switched Ruby Laser
This type of laser was the first to be developed for removing tattoos from the skin. Thus, it removes the dark colours (black and dark blue) very well depending on the type of ink that has been used and whether the tattoo has been done by an amateur or a professional.
Q-Switched Nd:YAg Laser
This type of laser is able to emit 2 types of wavelengths due to the potassium titanyl phosphate crystal that it also contains. This means that it can also treat dark colours (blacks and dark blues) very well, but in addition treats red, orange and some yellow also.
Q-Switched Alexandrite Laser
This type of laser uses the middle-ground wavelength of light in comparison to the Ruby Laser (694nm) and the Nd:YAg Laser (1064nm). It emits a wavelength of 755nm. It is the best type of laser to treat green coloured tattoos, as these are notoriously known for being the most stubborn to remove. It is also, like the other two types of laser, used for removing black and dark blue inks.
For more information on the laser types for tattoo removal click here.
How does the Procedure work?
Typically, a consultation is needed in order to establish the size, colour of the tattoo(s) to be removed and also to see the skin colour of the person as this plays a role in the removal of tattoos using the laser method.
This consultation is to answer questions, address fears (like how much will it hurt) and such. It is usually customary to perform a quick “zap” on a small part of the tattoo to see how well it reacts to the laser treatment. This way the physician can give you a better idea of how long a session will take and also how many sessions are to be needed in order to remove the tattoo.
The tattoo removal laser machine looks like:
As you can see, the laser penetrates the skin for a nano second in order to reach the ink particles that are underneath and break them up into smaller ones in order for your body’s natural defence system to remove these smaller ink particles easier.
Health and Safety?
In general what happens after your initial consultation will be the following:
- You will be asked to wear protective eye equipment.
- Skin reaction test to see which laser type is suited to your skin.(this usually happens during the consultation but can happen if you have chosen not to perform it during the consultation).
- The tattoo removal treatment laser is then placed next to your skin (see photo) and is activated (the physician may sometimes use a air cooler against your skin. This is a device that blows our cool air to help with the discomfort). Small and fast pulses are emitted in a pulse fashion and you will see your tattoo reacting to this.
- Sometimes an ice pack is placed on the treated area after treatment in order to numb the area and provide some relief. You will then be asked to apply a topical ointment or antibiotic cream to the area and a bandage may be used to cover it in order to protect the area from exposure to the sun.
As with anything pain is subjective. The amount of pain we feel differs from person to person. The usual form of description when it comes to laser tattoo removal pain is that it feels like a rubber band being flicked at the area being treated, or that it feels like a bit of cooking oil has flew out of the pan and onto your skin.
Fear is the biggest aspect of the treatment. The fear of the unknown. If you are somebody with a low pain threshold, you should ask the physician performing the procedure to apply a numbing agent/cream to the area to be treated well in advance of the laser treatment. This should numb the area so as to feel less pain.