Laser Tattoo Removal - Process, Cost And Side Effects
Many tattoo removal centers and clinics use the laser tattoo removal method because of efficiency and effectiveness.
Usually a combination of laser beams is used to remove a complex tattoo. For example, green light laser is used to remove the red ink from the skin.
The intensity of the laser beam and the width of the beam impact the efficiency of the laser procedure.
People with dark colored skin are often treated with near-infra red laser beam which is almost invisible.
Normally, it would require multiple visits and laser sessions to get a tattoo removed completely. Although this is one of the most effective removal methods, but there are no guarantees.
This is why it is important that you read up about the laser removal method before you go to a clinic. If you talk to a laser technician then most of your questions will get answered.
Although laser is effective and efficient technology, it can cost you a fortune to get a big, multi colored tattoo removed.
Depending on your skin type, your overall health, age of the tattoo and some other factors, there can also be side effects of this treatment.
Since there are many complexities involved, let’s discuss the details of the process, cost and side effects in this article.
Laser Tattoo Removal Process
The first step in the process is usually covering of the patients eyes with a protective shield. This is followed by testing of the reaction to the laser beam so that correct laser energy levels can be used.
Then a hand piece is placed on the skin surface and the laser is activated. The person undergoing the treatment may get a feeling of rubber band being snapped against the skin.
Tattoos of bigger size require a lot more pulses, multiple visits and multiple laser sessions. As the treatment progresses the person may see a slow fading of the tattoo.
Many a times an icepack is placed on the skin after the treatment so that it gives a soothing effect.
This is followed by application of a topical ointment or cream to heal the skin. To protect the treatment area, a bandage is often used.
The next session of laser can only be done after a several weeks when the skin heals completely.
In the laser tattoo removal process, the ink pigments are broken down into smaller particles. The tiny ink particles get cleared by the lymphatic system of the body.
Patients who can tolerate a bit of pain are not administered anesthesia. However those with sensitive skin are given anesthesia so that the skin gets numb.
Most tattoo colors can cleared or lightened with laser, however skin color tattoo ink can become dark when exposed to laser.
Other tattoo inks like pink, light brown, white and flesh toned may also undergo irreversible ink darkening.
Sometimes red colored tattoos can turn black. This is why it is important to ask for a test before proceeding with laser.
Q-switched Nd:YAG is one of the best laser technologies that is known to remove amateur and professional tattoos of all colors.
Unlike some of the other technologies, the Q-switched Nd:YAG is highly effective for red and yellow colors in frequency doubled setting.
Benefits Of Laser Tattoo Removal
This procedure is done by a trained and certified doctor or dermatologist and therefore you will get the best possible care for your skin and tattoo.
Since the laser beam is only applied to the selected area, therefore chances of skin damage to other areas are minimized.
For removing multi colored tattoos, the technician can choose a combination of laser beams to get the best effectiveness.
Some change to the skin color will happen after the treatment, but the skin will appear more natural with consistent color after the treatment.
Progressive removal sessions can happen based on the pain tolerance and healing capacity of the patient.
Cost Of Laser Tattoo Removal Method
The cost depends on several factors like the size, color and part of the body where the tattoo is located.
The cost of laser removal even differs from one geographical location to another. For example, cost in California is much higher compared to New York.
Amongst all the removal methods, laser is the most expensive one because high technology equipment and trained manpower is required for this method.
So the rates may even differ from one clinic to another based on the equipment used and charges for the doctor or dermatologist.
Typical cost of a laser session ranges anywhere between $200 to $500. And a tattoo would require 5 to 20 sessions depending on the size and complexity of the tattoo.
And if other things like anesthesia and other post laser treatments are considered, then you may add another $50 to $100 per session.
Therefore, the average cost of laser tattoo removal would be around $10,000. The difference is huge when compared with other methods like creams and lotions for removing tattoos.
This is quite a big amount and not everyone can think about spending this much for removing tattoos.
What Are Some Of The Side Effects Of Laser Tattoo Removal?
Since the treatment uses heat in the form of light energy to break up the ink particles, there are possible side effects with this method.Allergic Reaction
Certain inks can trigger an allergic reaction when heat is used to break it up. This type of reaction is rare, but can happen when yellow cadmium sulfide is used to make the yellow or red ink bright.
When Q-switched laser is applied to the ink it can trigger photo allergic reaction.
Such allergic reaction is treated with steroids and in some cases surgery may be performed.Blisters
Sometimes a blister gets formed after a tattoo is treated with laser heat. It is advised not to try to get rid of the blister early. Trying this may result in scarring of the skin.
If the doctor or dermatologist uses a cooling device during the procedure then chances of blister formation can be minimized.
Applying icepack intermittently post treatment may also help in preventing the formation of a blister.Skin Texture Changes
One side effect that is common with laser tattoo removal is the transient changes in skin texture. Although these changes are rare but even if it happens, normal skin texture is restored in a few months.
Change of skin texture is experienced more when Q-switched Alexandrite Laser is used for treatment. According to some experts almost 50% of patients may experience skin texture change with Q-switched Alexandrite Laser.
If you have sensitive skin that shows skin texture changes, then increasing the treatment intervals should help in minimizing the chances.Itching
After the laser procedure is completed some people may experience itching. However one should not scratch the area to overcome the itching. Scratching can result in a wound or some type of infection.
One should not apply a cream or lotion to overcome itching. The itching will reduce on its own.Hyperpigmentation
Certain skin types may experience formation of dark skin after treatment with Q-switched laser. This happens irrespective of the wavelength of light used.
It is possible to overcome hyperpigmentation problem by using a high SPF and hydroquinone lotion or cream regularly for few months.Hypopigmentation
Some people may experience the appearance of white colored skin patches on the tattooed area after the treatment. This is known as hypopigmentation. It may take several months or years for this skin condition to correct.Toxins
Some types of inks can convert into chemicals and toxins when they are exposed to the laser heat.
Although this is not very common, but certain tattoo inks have shown this type of conversion.
When such a conversion happens, the chemicals and toxins remain trapped inside the body.
Therefore it is best to get the tattoo color examined properly before Q-switched laser is applied to it.
Post Laser Treatment Care
It is important that you take proper care of your skin after the treatment in order to help the healing process and prevent infections. Also make use of the recommended antibiotics ointments without fail. Regular change of bandage / dressing is also important.
In case you experience some pain after the treatment then you should consult the physician without fail.
Exposure to sun can cause tanning and damage to the treated area therefore you should avoid exposure to the sun.
Laser tattoo removal is an effective option if you have deep pockets to spend large sums of money. However it is not a risk free option and does not guarantee complete removal in all cases.
If you are on a budget then there are some natural methods that are equally effective, if not better than laser.