Laser Tattoo Removal FAQs ~Columbus, Ohio

1. If I have my tattoo cut out with surgery, what kind of a scar will I have?

Surgical removal of a tattoo has the advantage of immediate removal, but the disadvantage is that there will be a scar where the tattoo is. How bad the scar will be depends a lot on where the tattoo is and how big it is. Unfortunately, tattoos frequently exist where we tend to scar the worst, such as the upper arm, back and shoulder areas. Most tattoos are removed by taking out an ellipse of skin where the length of the incision is about four times the width. Therefore, a tattoo that is two inches in greatest diameter will leave a scar at least eight inches long if it is surgically removed. There is no way to tell exactly how good or bad that the scar will be.

2. Will I have a scar if my tattoo is removed with a laser?

The potential advantage of having a tattoo removed with a laser is that there is the possibility that it can be removed with no scar or any evidence that the tattoo was ever present. This depends a lot on where the tattoo is, what kind of ink was used, the color of the ink, what type your skin is and how fast it is removed with the laser.

3. What laser is used for Tattoo Removal?

There are hundreds of lasers available to treat various medical conditions; only a few of them are effectively used for Tattoo Removal. The best available is the Nd: YAG laser which has the advantage of having two different wavelengths of light (532 and 1064 nanometers) to treat many different ink colors. Beware of anyone claiming that they can get rid of your tattoo with their laser that is not designed for Tattoo Removal. I have seen many bad scars from the wrong laser being used.

4. Is laser Tattoo Removal painful?

The laser spot that hits your skin is anywhere from two to six millimeters in size and feels like a rubber band snapping on your skin. Since you are hit several hundred or several thousand times with the laser with each treatment, it can be anywhere from just uncomfortable to very painful. This also has a lot to do with where the tattoo is. Those on the feet and ankles tend to be the most tender. To make the treatment more comfortable or almost painless, we have our patients put on a topical local anesthetic for about three hours before coming in for their treatment. You are given a prescription for the topical local anesthetic at the time of your consultation. There is generally no pain after the treatment.

5. How long does each treatment take?

The length of each treatment depends of how big the tattoo is, how many colors it has and how intricate it is. Small tattoos that just have one or two colors and have a simple design generally only take a minute or so per treatment. This is because the laser fires ten times per second. Large tattoos with many colors and with a complex design may take up to an hour for treatment.

6. How much time is there between laser tattoo treatments?

Most tattoos can be treated with the laser every three to four weeks. This depends on how quickly it takes to heal from the last treatment. It usually takes about 7-10 days for the area to heal after a laser treatment and it is best to wait at least another one to two weeks before the next treatment.

7. What kind of care is required after laser treatments?

Immediately after the laser treatment, a topical antibiotic (Neosporin®, Polysporin® or Triple Antibiotic®) is applied along with a light dressing. This can be removed the following day at which time it is OK to wash over the area with soap and water. It can then be left open to the air or ointment and a light dressing can be applied again. Dressings are recommended if there is any bleeding from the area after the treatment.

8. What does the area look like after a laser treatment?

Initially after the laser treatment, the area is somewhat raw, almost like a bad scrape and there may be some pinpoint bleeding. Small scabs generally form in a day or two and should come off within about a week.

9. How does laser Tattoo Removal work?

The laser creates and intense light of a single wavelength which is absorbed by the pigment in the tattoo. The instant that the laser light is absorbed, the light energy is converted to heat energy and a portion of the tattoo is destroyed. As the area heals, the damaged pigment is removed by your immune system. Since the laser emits a pattern of light which is very specific, it is absorbed better by certain pigment colors. This is why some colors disappear faster than others.

10. What colors are the easiest to treat with the laser?

Although there are many types of tattoo ink, certain colors usually disappear faster than others. I general, black and red inks tend to respond best to laser treatments.

11. What colors are the hardest to treat with the laser?

Green is almost always the hardest color to treat with the laser. In my experience, bright blue (e.g. sky blue) can also be very slow to respond.

12. Is the entire tattoo lasered with each laser treatment?

Except for very large tattoos, in general the entire tattoo is treated with each treatment.

13. What areas of the body respond best to laser Tattoo Removal?

In general, the upper arms, thighs and truck respond best to laser Tattoo Removal treatments. The hardest areas tend to be the hands, feet, wrists and ankles. The middle of the lower back can also be a tough area to treat.

14. Can you remove cosmetic tattoos on the face with a laser?

Cosmetic tattoos around the eyes and mouth can be very difficult to treat and my not respond to laser Tattoo Removal. Often, rather than fading or disappearing with laser treatments, they change color and become even less attractive.

15. Why does the tattoo fade with laser treatments rather than just disappear?

Only a thin layer of tattoo ink can be removed with each laser treatment because the upper level of ink absorbs all of the laser light energy. Gradually, with each successive treatment, deeper and deeper ink is eliminated which is why the tattoo gradually fades.

16. Can I get a guarantee that all of my tattoo will go away?

Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that all of your tattoo will disappear with laser treatments. Some inks can be very resistant to laser Tattoo Removal.

17. Are professional of amateur tattoos easier to get rid of with a laser?

It is traditionally taught that professional tattoos are easier to remove with a laser because the ink is placed in a more uniform layer. In my experience, however, amateur tattoos and much less ink and also have colors that are easier to remove with a laser than professional tattoos.

18. How many laser treatments will I need to remove my tattoo?

This is probably the hardest question to answer. I have had many amateur tattoos and some professional tattoos with black, red or dark blue in favorable areas of the body (see question #13) disappear in only three treatments. On the other hand, some with bright colors in difficult areas may take more than fifteen or twenty treatments. Some people will have a number of treatments until the tattoo has faded to the point that it is not very noticeable and not continue until it is completely gone.

19. Once I get started with laser Tattoo Removal, do I have to keep coming back on a regular basis or can I take some time off?

Taking extra time off between laser treatments does not diminish the effectiveness of laser Tattoo Removal.

20. Does skin color affect on the success or risk of laser Tattoo Removal?

Because laser light is absorbed by pigment, skin color does affect both the success and risk of laser Tattoo Removal. The laser can also destroy natural skin pigment causing the skin to become a lighter color which can be permanent. On the other hand, laser treatments can stimulate the skin in the area treated to form more pigment and, therefore, become darker. For this reason, patients with darker skin generally need to be treated with lower laser energies in an effort to reduce pigment changes. For this reason, it tends to take more treatments to remove the tattoo. This is also why we recommend that you not tan the area to be treated with the laser. Darker skin also had a higher risk of scarring with laser treatments; which is another reason why lower laser energies are used.

21. I have a lot of hair where my tattoo is, will the laser remove it?

If the hair is dark, the pigment in the hair can absorb the laser light energy and potentially destroy the hair follicle causing the hair to be permanently removed. The Nd:YAG laser is not particularly effective for hair removal, so, although some hair could be lost, it is not generally a big problem. White, blonde and grey hairs are not usually affected by laser Tattoo Removal.

22. I just got a tattoo and I really don’t like it. How soon can I have it removed?

Tattoos generally fade over time because you body naturally tried to get rid of some of the ink. A fresh tattoo is loaded with ink so it will not fade much with laser treatments and there seems to be a higher risk of scarring. Therefore, I recommend that you wait for several months before starting to have it removed with a laser.

23. How much does laser Tattoo Removal cost?

The cost of laser Tattoo Removal depends on how big the tattoo is and how intricate it is. The cost can be as little as $50 per treatment for very small tattoos and over $1000 per treatment for very large tattoos. The cost for a consultation is $40.

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