Your tattoo is one-of-a-kind, but that means that if you want to remove your tattoo, you will need to have treatment customized to the color, design, and technique used to create your tattoo. The good news is that contemporary tattoo removal treatments make the process very simple with laser treatments. At Bala Aesthetics & Medispa in Bel Air, MD, we know that our high-powered Q-switched Nd: YAG laser is an ideal match for removing tattoos of all pigment intensities.
So, what can you expect from tattoo removal? The first thing patients want to know about is how effective these treatments are. Can laser treatments really remove tattoos, even with dark pigments? The answer is yes. Although it may take several treatments to destroy the tattoo pigment in your skin, a Q-switched laser is capable of completely removing an unwanted tattoo.
How Long Does Laser Tattoo Removal Take?
It’s hard to say how long it will take to remove your tattoo. In general, your laser treatments will last for about 30 to 60 minutes at a time depending on the size of your tattoo. Because your treatments will be spaced more than a month apart to give your skin adequate time to heal and because most people will need more than six to eight treatments, it may take over a year to fully remove your unwanted tattoo.
Of course, some other factors will influence how long it will take to remove or reduce the appearance of your tattoo. For example, your treatment goal is a huge factor. If you only want to fade the appearance of a tattoo so you can place a new tattoo in the same area, then you will likely have a faster overall treatment process. Other factors include:
The technique used to create your tattoo and the age of the tattoo will be a huge determining factor in how long it will take to completely remove your tattoo from your body. Older tattoo machines had a slightly more crude way of depositing pigment into the skin, which made pigments more vibrant but also makes pigments more difficult to remove. Especially bright or dark tattoo ink will also require additional time, and so will tattoos that are more than a decade old since the pigment will have fused with the sub-dermal layers of the skin.
As beautiful as full-back, rib, or thigh tattoos are, they also take significantly more time to remove based on sheer size. Larger tattoos will require more time to remove since your treatment sessions can only cover so much skin surface at one time. The larger your tattoo, or if you are removing multiple tattoos, the longer your overall treatment will take. Even though Q-switched lasers cover more surface area per treatment than other lasers, you will still be looking at a year or more before you can see the results of full removal for larger tattoos.
How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?
In the past, there weren’t many options to remove tattoos, with the exception of painful excision surgery or harsh CO2 lasers that had a higher rate of skin scarring. Today, however, laser treatments to remove tattoos are much more refined and have fewer risks to the skin. In fact, laser treatments are the safest and most convenient option to remove unwanted tattoos.
Laser treatments work by penetrating the surface layers of skin to break tattoo ink into smaller particles of pigment. Your immune system then reacts to these particles by releasing white blood cells, which attach and remove the pigment from the skin. Your skin will then heal as the pigment is phased out of the skin cells, and the process will repeat itself until you have fully removed your tattoo.
What Is Tattoo Ink Made With?
Some people assume that tattoo ink is similar to the ink you might find in a ballpoint pen, but the ink used for tattoos is actually very sophisticated – it has to be since the ink is intended to last for decades in the skin without significant fading. Tattoo ink is generally made with water, witch hazel, glycerine, or alcohol, which acts as a carrier liquid for the rich pigments used to colorize the ink.
The colorant for the ink is typically a dye or a pigment made from metals, which is what enables the pigment to remain in the skin without fading. Some tattoo ink even has a chemical reaction within the body that allows the pigment to be more permanent.
Tattoos and Your Immune System
Your immune system is activated when the body senses foreign intruders, so how is it that a tattoo can remain on your skin for years without the immune system naturally removing the pigment? It all has to do with biology. Specifically, the size of the particles that make the pigment of your tattoo ink is too large for your immune system to remove by itself. In fact, your immune system does try to remove tattoo ink as soon as you get your tattoo, but because the particles are too large, your immune response is ineffectual.
That said, your immune system does continue to try to remove the ink on an ongoing basis, which is what keeps your tattoo in place throughout the years until a laser treatment breaks the pigment into a small enough size for the immune system to naturally eliminate the ink.
Why Is a Q-Switched Laser So Effective?
A Q-switched laser is the most trusted, efficient, and effective laser system used to remove unwanted tattoos. In fact, because Q-switched lasers can remove dark ink and older ink without causing any side effects to the skin, they are considered the gold standard for tattoo removal treatments.
A Q-switched laser can remove tattoos in every pigment due to the different wavelength settings that are used during your removal treatment; the 1064nm wavelength for darker ink and the 532nm wavelength for more vibrant ink. Additionally, Q-switched lasers can cover more surface area at one time, compared to picosecond lasers or other treatments that have a more narrow scope.
How Many Treatments Will You Need?
The full process of removing a tattoo will be done in several phases. Although it may all look the same to you, on a microscopic level the energy from your laser treatment will first remove the top layers of colors from your skin, and then move on to deeper pigment particles as each layer is eliminated by your immune system.
This is why your treatment will require several sessions for you to achieve optimal results. In general, most people will need between six to eight treatment sessions to fade or remove an unwanted tattoo. Of course, several factors may determine how many sessions are necessary for your treatment, such as:
The color of your tattoo is a big factor in how many treatments will be necessary to remove your tattoo. Laser treatments are calibrated to address the specific pigment of your tattoo, which means that different wavelengths are necessary to remove different pigments.
Generally speaking, black or grey-scale tattoos are easier to remove than vibrant tattoos because black pigment absorbs all laser wavelengths, so your treatments are more efficient. Tattoos with multiple pigments, on the other hand, will require different wavelengths to remove ink, so bright or multi-colored tattoos may require more removal treatments.
Skin Color and Type
Your skin color and skin type are also factors to consider. For one thing, people with sensitive skin may not be able to handful long laser sessions or may require weaker lasers during treatments to avoid irritating the skin. But between these two factors, your skin color is probably a bigger determining factor. The fact of the matter is that when there is greater contrast between your skin and the tattoo pigment, laser technology can more easily activate. Lighter-skinned people may be able to more easily and more quickly remove tattoos than dark-skinned people.
Age and Skin Health
Your age and your overall skin health will also determine how many treatments you will need. Many younger people will be able to remove unwanted tattoos more quickly than older people simply because their immune response is more robust and younger skin can more easily recover from laser treatments. Mature skin, on the other hand, may require more weeks between treatments before the skin is healed enough to handle another session.
How Frequent Will Your Treatments Be?
For most people, the ballpark estimate of how much time is necessary between laser treatments is about six to eight weeks. Usually, this timeframe gives your skin enough time to heal between sessions. However, certain skin types and skin health can mean your treatments are more than eight weeks apart. Ultimately, we will help you determine the best treatment frequency to remove your tattoo without any risks to your overall skin health and appearance.
What Can Impact Your Results?
There are a few factors that might impact the quality of your results or how long it will take to see your desired results. For example, a healthy lifestyle may promote your skin health and your immune response, which can increase your healing response and allow you to have your sessions closer together. You should eat a balanced diet, drink enough water, and minimize any stress that may negatively impact your skin health.
It’s also important that your lifestyle choices promote better skin aging, which means avoiding habits like tanning beds or smoking, as these activities can prematurely age your skin or cause excessive dryness that will make it necessary to have more time between your treatments.
Are You A Good Candidate?
If you want to remove a tattoo for any reason, then you are very likely a good candidate for our laser tattoo removal treatments. A consultation will determine if this treatment is an ideal match for your goals, such as the amount of removal you want to accomplish, the size and color of your tattoo, and other factors. Those who are good candidates for this laser treatment include those who want to remove tattoos for any reason, including:
- Job prospects
- Outgrow tattoo
- Tattoo no longer has meaning
- Skin injury
- Incorrect or flawed tattoos
- Old or blurry tattoos
Remove Your Tattoo With Q-Switched Laser
There are countless reasons why you may want to remove your tattoo – and every reason is just as valid as the last. From a simple preference to have tattoo-free skin again to more complicated motivations related to your emotional attachment to the tattoo, people seek tattoo removal for every reason under the sun. Please contact Bala Aesthetics & Medispa in Bel Air, MD to schedule your consultation today.