How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?

by Samantha Johnson
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Laser tattoo removal is a common cosmetic treatment that is safe, reliable, and only takes only minutes to perform.  In this section of our website you can discover how laser tattoo removal works.  Have you ever seen an old tattoo that is slightly faded?  Tattoos naturally disappear with time when the body’s immune system knows that tattoo ink is a foreign material and attempts to eliminate ink particles.

Laser tattoo removal speeds up the normal process by breaking tattoo ink into tiny bits that flush away more quickly. During therapy, a laser has to heat the surface of a pigment molecule to thousands of degrees before fragmentation can occur.  Luckily, the laser beam travels harmlessly through the clothing, hitting only the ink resting in a liquid state within. The energy pulse focuses only on the ink for a very brief time (measured in milliseconds), and doesn’t burn or effect the tissue in the surrounding region.

There are about a thousand of different mixtures of tattoo inks on the market, each consisting of a different variety of ingredients.  The good news is, those ink particles, like the ones found in black, will react very quickly to laser treatment. Not all pigments or inks are as easy to clean though.  Other colours, such as green, yellow and orange, have bigger ink particles, and absorb the light energy from a laser differently.  This means certain shades usually require a larger amount of treatments to break up the tattoo pigments in the flesh.  On a side note, a professional nurse or laser specialist should be monitoring the success of your removal, and depending on how the tattoo is reacting to treatment, should be changing the energy levels and wavelengths of the laser to optimise the efficacy of your tattoo removal.

After your appointment, always ask your technician about caring for your tattoo removal treatment area.  They’ll send you aftercare advice to insure that your skin heals as comfortably as swiftly as possible.

 

It is likely that you may feel some blistering after the laser therapy. Do not be alarmed by this. This body response is a natural part of the healing process which sometimes happens on very large tattoos or on places of poor circulation, such as fingertips and ankles. Blisters are easily treatable and with the correct aftercare, can cure perfectly and keep the skin intact.

Do not puncture them but proceed to add ice to them for up to 48 hours after surgery. This will minimise and help to avoid any associated pain, and in some situations, will allow them to subside (re-absorb) entirely.
If the blisters burst, add an antibacterial ointment or liquid several times a day and cover them with a dressing or bandage. Continue this treatment for at least 48 hours after the blisters have exploded.

 

 

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Caring for your skin during your Laser Tattoo Removal journey

Adherence to these aftercare guidelines is a vital aspect of achieving the perfect laser tattoo removal results that you need.  Laser tattoo removal involves a collaborative operation, including Vanishing Ink as the recovery experts, and you as the planning and aftercare specialist.  Laser treatment is just the beginning of the tattoo removal process.  The better you care about your tattoo pre and after laser therapy, the better your performance will be.

The normal healing and ink removal mechanisms in your body can also function more effectively if you protect your general wellbeing before, during and after laser therapy.  The happier you are, the more the mechanism will work.  If far as you can, aim to eliminate or restrict any toxins such as nicotine or alcohol in the process, as these chemicals can put extra stresses on the body’s immune system.  Try to remain healthy and drink lots of water, in order to activate the lymphatic and vascular processes and to aid in the elimination of the ink from the bloodstream.

During laser treatment of your tattoo, you will find a whitening (frosting) of the skin around the tattoo.  This means that it has been shattered by the laser which is caused by the release of heat energy from the ink particles breaking down.  This frosting is temporary, generally only lasts a few minutes, and would most likely have vanished before you leave the clinic.

Once the frosting has melted, the skin may develop some redness and will start to radiate heat.  This experience is also compared to the feeling of sunburn which can last from few hours to a few days.

Swelling is also a normal phenomenon during laser therapies, when the body responds to the procedure and tries to immobilise the region.  Larger tattoos will usually undergo more swelling than small tattoos.  Lower limbs and extremities do not usually experience healthy circulation and are more likely to swell than other body parts.  It is normal for swelling to follow the direction of gravity and may migrate down a limb in the days following treatment.  This is absolutely natural and will fix itself over time.

Bruising is also a common occurrence on some tattoos after laser, especially on areas such as the ribs and inner bicep.  This is totally natural, can last up to a week or 2, and is nothing to be worried about.

It is likely that you may see some blistering after the laser therapy.  Do not be alarmed by this.  This body response is a natural part of the healing process which sometimes happens on very large tattoos or on places of poor circulation, such as fingertips and ankles.  Blisters are easily treatable and with the correct aftercare, can cure perfectly and keep the skin intact.

Do not puncture them but proceed to add ice to them for up to 48 hours after the laser.  This will minimise and help to avoid any associated pain, and in some situations, will allow them to subside entirely.  If the blisters burst, add an antibacterial ointment or liquid several times a day and cover them with a dressing or bandage.  Continue this treatment for at least 48 hours after the blisters have exploded.

 

 

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The healthier your immune system, the better your skin heals.  A healthy immune system helps the body patch the wound and ward off infection.

There are a few main things you can do to see faster results for healing:

Drink plenty of water.  Keeping the body hydrated is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system.  It helps filter out toxins and regenerate blood cells, which are crucial to avoiding infections.

Decrease alcohol intake.  Too much alcohol consumption may induce dehydration, which slows down the healing process. Where necessary, stop drinking altogether.

Don’t smoke. When you smoke, the immune system needs to work harder to kill the toxins.  Your body won’t be able to work as well at curing your skin.  Non-smokers have better outcomes and typically require less therapies.

Exercise.  Exercising increases blood supply.  Increased blood pressure actually tends to break down the ink particles in your skin.  You should take a few days off exercise right after surgery.  But after the skin scabs over, vigourous exercise will aid the tattoo removal process along.

Stay out of the sun!  During every laser therapy, there is an elevated amount of light energy penetrating the skin.  For patients who are already vulnerable to pigmentation changes, laser treatments of some type can pose an increased risk of pigmentations.  As this is a natural response to light exposure, we cannot promise there will be no colour changes in your skin during laser tattoo removal.  However, your laser tattoo removal technician should be committed to delivering a comfortable and simple tattoo removal experience, and provide every patient with information on lowering their risk of pigmentation changes.

The best way to lower the chances of hypo- and hyper-pigmentation is to keep your skin out of the direct sunlight!  We advise all laser tattoo removal patients to reduce sun exposure during the whole laser process.  This includes during the transition time between appointments.  Patients are advised to use a high-quality sunscreen and/or clothes to conceal their tattoo every time they intend to be outside.  If pigmentation changes occur at any point during the laser tattoo removal process, we can make adjustments to your treatment schedule or laser settings to insure your skin has time to recover and return to normal!

There are two common forms of pigmentation variations in the skin: hypo-pigmentation & hyper-pigmentation.  Although they sound very similar, these two pigment shifts are the opposite of one another!

Hypo-pigmentation is a lack or absence of pigmentation, giving the skin a white or lightened colour.  Hyper-pigmentation is an excess of colour in the skin, creating the presence of black spots or patches.

Both forms of pigmentation variations are very normal, and may occur spontaneously or in response to injury to the skin. Many people find small amounts of hypo-pigmentation after increased sun exposure particularly after sunburns. Pigmentation may also occur after mild skin damage (cuts, scrapes, or scratching at scabs) (cuts, scrapes, or picking at scabs).  Hyper-pigmentation is more common during infection, and may induce a spike in pigment-carrying cells to the infected area.

Although these variations in skin pigment can sound scary, they are typically nothing to think about.  In a stable human, the body will begin to replace older cells with new ones over time.  This would eventually decrease the visibility of bright or dark spots.  If you find potential hypo-pigmentation or hyper-pigmentation on your eyes, don’t panic! In most cases, pigmentation variations are barely visible and can revert to normal on their own if well cared for.  To keep the skin safe from the sun, either by fabric or high quality sunscreen, and to prevent additional damage to the area by scratching or picking.

Depending on your complexion and the state of your skin, most patients require between 5 and 8 laser treatments to achieve results.  Those therapies are typically spread out about 6 weeks apart.  Some people see outcomes sooner. Some would require additional therapies.  Consult with your technician before starting your Laser Tattoo Removal journey, so you know what to expect.

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