Patients come to us for tattoo removal for a variety of reasons. Some may have opted for a tattoo during a moment of impulsivity. Others are unhappy with the quality of the tattoo or find that a tattoo no longer fits the image that they would like to project. If you are considering laser tattoo removal, there are several factors that you should be aware of that can affect the results that you can expect to achieve.
Since tattoos are meant to be permanent, the ink penetrates through to the second layer of skin known as the dermis. To remove the tattoo, the laser must be able to reach the dermis to break up the ink without damaging the epidermis, which is the top layer of skin. As a general rule, individuals with a dark skin tone require more treatment sessions to achieve a tattoo-free look. Tattoo removal on dark skin requires a higher wavelength laser than light skin; however, higher wavelength lasers take longer to break down the ink.
Ink Quality/Skill of the Tattoo Artist:
Tattoo inks are made from a variety of compounds. Amateur concoctions tend to be of inferior quality and break down easily. Professional inks, which are meant to remain vivid for years, may contain substances like beryllium that are harder to remove. A professional tattoo artist is also more likely to apply the ink more densely and penetrate it deeper into the skin than an amateur, which can make the tattoo more difficult to remove.
Size and Location:
Of course, a full sleeve tattoo will take longer to remove than a tiny flower on the inside of your wrist. Tattoos that are located higher on the body are also easier to remove. This is because these areas have better circulation and more lymph nodes, which are necessary for the body to break down and reabsorb the ink.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, dark ink colors respond to laser treatments better than bright colors. This is because blue, green, and black inks absorb the light better than orange, red, or yellow ink. At Wright Surgical Arts, we use the RevLite SI laser that allows us to adjust the wavelength of light to effectively remove tattoos of all colors.
Age of the Tattoo:
Over time, the ink from a tattoo gradually sinks deeper into the skin where it is broken down by the lymphatic system. This is why old tattoos appear faded and less vivid. What you see are the ink particles that are too large for the body to absorb. This means that an old tattoo can be removed faster than a new tattoo.
Tattoos, especially when done by an amateur, can cause visible scarring of the epidermis as well as create collagen deposits under the surface of the skin. This can affect the ability of the light from the laser to penetrate to the ink. If you have scarring or are prone to scarring, you may require more treatments in order to get as close to tattoo-free as possible.
Your overall health can have a significant impact on the success of your tattoo removal. Typically, young adults with healthy immune and circulatory systems require the fewest treatment sessions. You should also avoid smoking since this constricts blood vessels and compromises your circulatory system. A study in JAMA Dermatology found that smoking reduced the chances of successfully removing a tattoo in 10 sessions by nearly 70 percent.
We recommend that patients undergoing tattoo removal treatments avoid sun exposure before, during, and after their treatments. Laser treatments cannot be performed on skin that is damaged by a sunburn. The darker skin tone of tanned skin also lessens the effectiveness of the treatment. Excessive exposure can also cause further damage to skin that is already sensitive from the treatment.
If you are considering laser tattoo removal, contact us today to schedule a consultation.