- Laser Tattoo Removal Center
- Adult Skin Problems Slideshow
- Quiz: Is Ringworm Contagious?
- Gallery of Skin Problems Pictures
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
It is estimated that close to 10% of the U.S. population has some sort of tattoo. Eventually, as many as 50% of them want to have laser tattoo removal.
There is good news for those who have an unwanted body design. Newer laser tattoo removal techniques can eliminate your tattoo with minimal side effects. Here's how it works: lasers remove tattoos by breaking up the pigment colors of the tattoo with a high-intensity light beam.
Black tattoo pigment absorbs all laser wavelengths, making it the easiest to treat. Other colors can only be treated by selected lasers based upon the pigment color.
Who Can Benefit From Laser Tattoo Removal?
Because each tattoo is unique, removal techniques must be tailored to suit each individual case. In the past, tattoos could be removed by a wide variety of methods but, in many cases, the scars were more unsightly than the tattoo itself.
Patients with previously treated tattoos may also be candidates for laser therapy. Tattoos that have not been effectively removed by other treatments or through home remedies may respond well to laser therapy providing the prior treatments did not result in excessive scarring.
How Do I Find a Reputable Doctor to Do Laser Tattoo Removal?
To have a tattoo removed, you want to make sure you find a reputable dermatologist or cosmetic surgery center to ensure proper treatment and care. If possible, you should obtain a recommendation from your family doctor for a dermatologist or skin surgery center that specializes in tattoo removal.
What Can I Expect During Laser Tattoo Removal?
Depending on the size and color of your tattoo, the number of treatments will vary. Your tattoo may be removed in two to four visits, though many more sessions may be necessary. You should schedule a consultation, during which time a trained professional will evaluate your personal situation and advise you on the process.
Treatment with the laser varies from patient to patient depending on the age, size and type of tattoo (amateur or professional). The color of the patient's skin, as well as the depth to which the tattoo pigment extends, will also affect the removal technique.
In general, this is what will happen during an office visit for tattoo removal using the newer lasers:
- Protective eye shields are placed on the patient.
- The skin's reaction to the laser is tested to determine the most effective energy for treatment.
- The treatment itself consists of placing a hand piece against the surface of the skin and activating the laser light. As many patients describe it, each pulse feels like a grease splatter or the snapping of a rubber band against the skin.
- Smaller tattoos require fewer pulses while larger ones require more. In either case, the tattoo requires several treatments and multiple visits. At each treatment, the tattoo should become progressively lighter.
- Immediately following treatment, an ice pack is applied to soothe the treated area. The patient will then be asked to apply a topical antibiotic cream or ointment. A bandage or patch will be used to protect the site and it should likewise be covered with a sun block when out in the sun.
Most patients do not require any anesthesia. However, depending on the location of the tattoo and the pain threshold for the patient, the physician may elect to use some form of anesthesia (topical anesthesia cream or painkiller injections at the site of the procedure).
What Are the Possible Side Effects of Laser Tattoo Removal?
There are minimal side effects to laser tattoo removal. However, you should consider these factors in your decision:
- The tattoo removal site is at risk for infection. You may also risk lack of complete pigment removal, and there is a slight chance that the treatment can leave you with a permanent scar.
- You may also risk hypopigmentation, where the treated skin is paler than surrounding skin, or hyperpigmentation, where the treated skin is darker than surrounding skin.
- Cosmetic tattoos like lip liner, eyeliner and eyebrows may darken following treatment with tattoo removal lasers. Further treatment of the darkened tattoos usually results in fading.
Is Laser Tattoo Removal Safe?
Thanks to newer technology, laser tattoo removal has become much more effective with very little risk of scarring. Laser treatment is often safer than many traditional methods such as excision, dermabrasion or salabrasion (using moist gauze pads saturated with a salt solution to abrade the tattooed area) because of its unique ability to selectively treat pigment involved in the tattoo.
In many cases, certain colors may be more effectively removed than others. It is known that blue/black tattoos respond particularly well to laser treatment -- the response of other colors is under investigation.
Remember, the information provided here is designed to provide general information only and is not a replacement for a doctor's advice. For details pertaining to your specific case, please arrange a consultation with a physician experienced in the use of tattoo lasers.
Does Insurance Cover Laser Tattoo Removal?
Since tattoo removal is a personal option in most cases and is considered a cosmetic procedure, most insurance carriers will not cover the process unless it is medically necessary. Physicians or surgery centers practicing tattoo removal may also require payment in full on the day of the procedure. If you are considering tattoo removal, be sure to discuss associated costs up front and obtain all charges in writing before you undergo any treatment.
WebMD Medical Reference
Quick GuideTattoo Pictures: The Scoop on Tattoo Safety, Removal, and More
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Skinsight.com: "Tattoo Removal, Laser."
Medscape: "Tattoo Lasers."
Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD on June 12, 2012
Top Tattoo Removal Related Articles
Botox TreatmentBotox, the brand name of a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, blocks signals from the nerves to the muscles. When Botox is injected into a muscle, it can no longer contract, causing the wrinkle to soften. Botox injections last from four to six months. Bruising is the most common side effect.
Breast AugmentationBreast augmentation refers to the surgical implantation of a silicone or saline implant to give the breast a fuller appearance. Potential complications of the procedure include
- asymmetry, and
- hardening of the breast.
Chemical PeelChemical peels are performed to reduce fine lines, treat wrinkles, improve the appearance of mild scarring, treat some types of acne, and reduce age spots. During the treatment, a chemical solution is applied to the skin. The skin blisters and eventually peels off.
DermabrasionDermabrasion involves freezing and then sanding the skin. Dermabrasion improves the appearance of scars and other skin conditions, such as wrinkles and skin lesions. Possible side effects include darkening of the skin, scarring, infection, and uneven changes in skin color.
Face LiftA face lift is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of excess facial skin to promote a more youthful appearance. Potential complications of the procedure include
- asymmetry, and
- loss of muscle function or sensation.
Laser ResurfacingLaser resurfacing involves directing concentrated pulsating beams of light at irregular skin. This procedure may be used to reduce wrinkles, blemished, or acne scars. There are two types of lasers commonly used in laser resurfacing: carbon dioxide and erbium. Treated areas heal in 10-21 days. Possible complications include milia, hyperpigmentation, and swelling.
Lip AugmentationLip augmentation can reduce fine lines and wrinkles around the lips as well as enlarge your lips. The best candidates for lip enhancement do not have current cold sores, diabetes, lupus, scarring of the lips, blood clotting problems, and are not smokers.
LiposuctionLiposuction is a surgical procedure that removes excess fat that is difficult to get rid of with diet and exercise. Liposuction does not prevent weight regain. Liposuction has a good safety record; risks of the procedure include infection and skin discoloration.
Neck Lift Cosmetic SurgeryLearn about neck lift surgery - what the surgery is, how it is performed and complications including swelling, bruising, tightness, tingling, numbness, infection, fever, and unusual discharge from the incision site.
ScarsScar formation is a natural part of the healing process after injury. The depth and size of the wound incision and the location of the injury impact the scar's characteristics, but your age, heredity and even sex or ethnicity will affect how your skin reacts.
Before You Tattoo Pictures SlideshowGet the scoop on tattoo safety, tattoo risks, tattoo care, and what to expect from tattoo removal.
Tattoo with Dermabrasion PictureLeft shoulder tattoo with inferior scar resulting from prior treatment with dermabrasion. See a picture of Tattoo with Dermabrasion and learn more about the health topic.