Most people are told that tattoos are permanent long before the needle touches their skin. While there is some truth to this, there has also been a significant improvement in tattoo removal technology. You no longer need multiple rounds of dermabrasion to remove a tattoo. Today, laser tattoo removal is the gold standard, and it produces excellent results. Whether you’ve already scheduled your procedure, or you simply want to learn more, here’s what you can expect.
How Do Lasers Remove Tattoos?
Dermabrasion was once the primary method for tattoo removal, and unlike lasers, the procedure was quite involved. Physicians would use a special medical grade grinding tool to remove layer upon layer of skin. The goal was to eventually reach the layer of skin that contained the tattoo ink and grind it away. It’s a painful process, and it creates an open wound and significant scarring. Laser tattoo removal is different in that it specifically targets the pigment in the ink and breaks it down into tiny flakes that your skin can absorb. It’s far less painful, and rather than a large open wound, you may experience a redness comparable to a sunburn.
What to Expect Before, During, and After Tattoo Removal
Any medical procedure can be nerve-wracking. Fortunately, knowing what to expect before, during, and after the tattoo removal procedure can alleviate much of the anxiety.
Before the Session
Prior to your tattoo removal session, you will meet with the dermatology team for a complete evaluation of your tattoos. There are several lasers that can be used depending on the type and color of your tattoo. Next, the area to be treated will be carefully cleansed, and you will be given a topical or local anesthetic to combat any painful sensations that may occur as the laser is applied to your skin. Before the laser is turned on, you and the technician will both need to wear protective eyewear to prevent injury. Only the skin that is being treated will be exposed; the rest should be completely covered in clothing.
During the Treatment
Once you are prepared for your procedure, the technician will turn the laser on and begin moving it over the tattooed area. The anesthetic mitigates much of the pain, but you may still feel some discomfort. Keep in mind that the staff will monitor your comfort level carefully and ensure that you are as comfortable as possible. On average, the treatment takes about 15 minutes, though larger tattoos may require more time.
After the Procedure
You may experience a range of side effects depending on the size and depth of the tattoo. Most clients experience redness and tenderness in the area, but some may also experience swelling or even mild blistering. Over-the-counter pain relievers and ice packs can provide ample relief. Over the next six to 12 weeks, you will notice changes in the tattooed area. It may get lighter, it may get darker, or it may even start to fade.
Please avoid exposing the treated area to the sun and cleanse it once per day with a very gently soap. If you are instructed to do so, apply post-laser gel or triple antibiotic ointment twice per day and loosely cover with a non-adhesive bandage for a week. If scabbing occurs, do not pick, shave, or scratch; if blistering occurs, allow it to dry and heal on its own. At the end of 12 weeks, you will be reevaluated for future sessions. Most tattoo removals require anywhere between two and 10 sessions.
Tattoo removal has come a long way since the early days of grinding away layer after layer of skin and leaving significant scars behind. While your skin may never look brand-new and pristine, laser removal is far more effective and thorough, and it produces a cleaner, more desirable result.