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 the ink particles and cause them to fragment into smaller particles that can 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 patients 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.