Old or unwanted tattoos don’t have to be permanent anymore. Advanced laser technology, such as the Spectrum Laser system used at Pearl Plastic Surgery in Olympia, extracts tattoo ink from the from the face and body, gradually fading the tattoo over a series of treatments. Depending on the size and colors used in the tattoo, the procedure process may vary, but it is generally a quick, safe procedure that does not produce scarring. If you have been considering tattoo removal, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced estheticians to discuss your treatment plan.
WHAT IS TATTOO REMOVAL?
Tattoo removal can be achieved in a number of ways, ranging from laser treatments, chemical peels, dermabrasion and surgical excision.
LASER TATTOO REMOVAL
Lasers are the most common method of tattoo removal performed today. Tattoos consist of thousands of particles of tattoo ink suspended in the skin. The normal human immune system typically removes small foreign particles from the skin. Tattoo ink particles are too big to be removed by this system and are thus considered permanent. The use of lasers helps to break up these particles into smaller pieces that can be removed by the immune system.
Laser treatments work by targeting the ink particles in the skin with highly concentrated light waves that heat up the ink particles and cause them to fragment into smaller particles that are able to be cleared away by the body’s immune system.
Complete removal of a tattoo is usually not accomplished in one laser treatment session. Laser tattoo removal typically requires more than one treatment to reduce the size of the ink particles and make it easier for them to be dispersed by the immune system.
Depending on the tattoo design, size and color, it may take 1-10 laser sessions to remove the ink. Some colors of ink are harder to remove than others and may not be able to be completely removed. There should be a six-week time period between each laser session to allow the wounds to heal and the body to absorb as much of the ink as is possible.
Laser tattoo removal is somewhat painful. Many patient describe it as like having a heavy rubber band snapped against the skin repeatedly. Topical skin numbing medications can be used. Most of the time laser tattoo removal is tolerated very well.
After the procedure the patient will have an open wound that will need to be taken care of. Typical post procedure care of the wound includes cleaning it with soap and water daily, applying antibiotic ointment to the wound and then keeping it covered with some type of dressing until it is healed. Typically, healing is complete around five days after the procedure is done.
Other methods of tattoo removal are more invasive than laser removal and are therefore less commonly performed today. These methods include dermabrasion, chemical peels and surgical excision of the tattoo.
DERMABRASION TATTOO REMOVAL
Dermabrasion is a surgical method of tattoo removal that involves the use of a medical grinding tool that is used to remove the outer layers of the skin in a controlled manner. The intent is to remove the layers of the skin that contain the ink particles, thereby removing the tattoo.
This procedure is painful and because of this, is typically performed with either a local, regional or even a general anesthetic.
Like laser tattoo removal, a session of dermabrasion will result in an open wound that needs care after the procedure is done. Daily cleaning of the wound with soap and water, application of an antibiotic ointment and covering of the wound with a dressing are what is usually recommended.
The wounds created as a result of dermabrasion typically take longer to heal than those created by laser tattoo removal. These are likely to take somewhere around 10-14 days to heal.
Also, like laser tattoo removal, more than one session of dermabrasion may be necessary to remove a particular tattoo.
Dermabrasion can result in significant scaring and should only be performed by physicians well trained in the proper technique.
CHEMICAL PEEL TATTOO REMOVAL
Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels can also be used to remove tattoos. TCA is a mild acid that is applied to the skin to remove the outer layers of the skin, and with them, the tattoo ink.
This type of procedure may be mildly painful, but typically does not require the use of an anesthetic.
Like the other types of tattoo removal, TCA peels will result in an open wound that will need to be cared for after the procedure is completed. Daily cleaning with soap and water, application of an antibiotic ointment and a dressing are all that is necessary. These wounds will typically heal in approximately 5-7 days.
Surgical excision tattoo removal
Tattoos may also be removed by direct surgical excision. This involves simply cutting out the skin that contains the tattoo. This technique is best used for small tattoos and may not be practical for very large tattoos. The skin surrounding the tattoo is then brought together and closed.
This type of tattoo removal will likely require the use of a local, regional or even a general anesthesia depending on the size of the tattoo. A surgical scar will be created by this type of tattoo removal.
Post-procedure bandages should be left in place for 48 hours. Once the bandages are removed and the surgical site should be cleaned daily with soap and water. A dressing may be applied to cover the wound for the first week after surgery.
DOES TATTOO REMOVAL HURT?
There is some degree of discomfort when getting a tattoo removed, although the pain is relatively manageable. Sometimes, skin numbing can be used to help make the pain more tolerable.
TATTOO REMOVAL HEALING
It will take some time for the skin to heal after tattoo removal. Most side effects are temporary, with the most common reactions being redness, swelling, bruising, scabbing and tenderness. Most of the time these reactions resolve within a week.
WHAT RESULTS SHOULD I EXPECT AFTER TATTOO REMOVAL?
The results of tattoo removal are variable depending on the treatment option used for your case. Some treatment options require several sessions, so results will not be immediate. Each session will show some progress toward the final result, though the number of treatments needed to achieve your final result may vary.
Results for tattoo removal are variable and dependent on factors such as:
- The type of procedure used
- The area of the body the tattoo is located in
- The size of the tattoo
- The complexity of the design of the tattoo
- The color of ink used in the tattoo
For optimal results, it is important that you take proper care of the wounds following your tattoo removal procedure. Be sure to follow your surgeon’s post-operative instructions and clean the wound with soap and water daily.
Complete removal of the tattoo is the ultimate goal for any tattoo removal procedures. However, patients should have realistic expectations based on the factors referenced above. Regardless of which treatment is used, it may not be possible to completely remove the entire tattoo. For patients who have their tattoo removed using surgical excision, it’s important to understand that there will be a surgical scar left behind.
Cancellation Policy for all Appointments: Pearl Plastic Surgery and Medical Spa requires at least 24 hours advanced notice of appointment changes or cancellations. Our providers time is valuable, however, we do understand that life happens. If you are unable to make your appointment due to an emergency, please let our office staff know as soon as possible. If your appointment is not canceled within this notification period, your appointment is considered confirmed. Any cancellations and/or no shows are subject to the full charge of the service or loss of deposits and fees. Any no shows of comped/free services will not be rescheduled. This includes all specials and pre-purchased packages.