The removal of tattoos by laser treatment has been carried out for approximately 20 years and has become more common since the mid-1990s. Due to the variety of different types of tattoos (e.g. amateur, professional, semi-permanent micropigmentation), it is important to find a practitioner experienced in treating a wide range. Always check the type of laser that a clinic is using for tattoo removal, as these should always be short wave. Be very wary of any clinic offering tattoo removal using Intense Pulsed Light (IPL).
Alternative ways of removing tattoos have relied on more extreme measures such as surgical excision and skin grafting, dermabrasion or chemical removal through salts and acid tattooing which carry significant risks of damage to the surrounding tissue, resulting in scarring. These may not remove all the tattoo pigmentation, thus providing disappointing results.
There has recently been a resurgence of acid tattooing using lactic acid tattooed into the unwanted tattoos. Marketing statements claiming treatment to be "organic" or "natural" confuse the reality which is that aggressive chemicals are injected into the skin with the aim of creating a chemical burn.
What are lasers and how can they remove tattoos?
A laser produces a powerful beam of light that can precisely transfer energy into the targets within the skin. The beam of light is produced in one wavelength which will be preferentially absorbed by certain tattoo pigments. The key requirement for a laser to remove tattoos is for to be short wave. This means that the energy is delivered in a very short pulse-duration which "cracks" the tattoo pigment particles and is effectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment. The Wells Medical Centre uses a Q switched Nd:YAG laser which can produce several wavelengths to target a range of tattoo pigments. IPLs and non short wave lasers will not be effective on tattoos, delivering energy that is not effectively absorbed by tattoo pigment and which may damage surrounding skin. Some tattoo pigments respond well to lasers; colours like green do not always response well. These may require a treatment with a Q switched Alexandrite laser.
Can a tattoo be removed in one treatment session?
Multiple treatments may be necessary. Professional tattoos typically require between 6 and 12 treatment, whereas amateur or traumatic blue-black tattoos may only need 1 to 3 sessions. Coloured tattoos can take many more sessions.
How often are treatments carried out and does it hurt?
Treatments are usually scheduled at 6 week intervals. The treatment has been described as having a similar feeling to that of an elastic band hitting the skin. Most people do not require any anaesthesia while some may desire the use of a numbing cream before the procedure.
What happens after each treatment session?
Immediately after treatment, there may be swelling, bruising or crusting and scabbing which can last up to 2 weeks. Some of the tattoo pigment is lost during this scabbing process. It is always advisable to follow the aftercare sheet handed to you.
Does the laser make the tattoo fade straight away?
The immediate effect is a whitish response to the tattoo site. Once the skin has healed over, some fading will be evident, the amount depending on the type of tattoo and its colour. Some colours clear less than others (especially green). However, there is no guarantee that the tattoo can be completely removed. Significant fading of the tattoo can, however, continue for up to 3 months after laser treatment in some cases.
What are the side effects of laser treatment?
Although the side-effects of this procedure are minimal, there is a small risk that the following could occur: skin texture change or scarring, skin lightening or darkening especially in darker skins, infection, incomplete removal of the tattoo, allergic reaction to shattered ink particles, darkening of flesh tone, white, rust or brown tattoo pigments (seen primarily in cosmetic tattoos such as eyeliner or lip liner).
What are the chances of getting rid of my tattoo?
Studies have shown that 85% of amateur tattoos can be completely removed after between 3 and 4 sessions. Professional tattoos take longer with 70% removed by 6 to 12 treatments. More treatment sessions in both tattoo types will result in further clearances.
How much does it cost?
This varies between individuals for a number of reasons. The number, size and colour of the tattoos is clearly important as is the type of dye used. The initial consultation is FREE and a patch test is ₤25. This can be done as the same time as the consultation.
Treatment price guide
Area Price per session
2 cm x 2 cm - ₤75
4 cm x 5 cm - ₤125
8 cm x 7 cm - ₤155
12 cm x 9 cm - ₤195
Treatment packages and costs can be discussed depending on individual requirements at the time of the initial consultation. Discounts on the above prices are available for packages of 4 to 6 treatments.
For more information or an initial FREE assessment to discuss your needs, call our friendly and professional medical team on 01233 661662 or please visit our contact page to get in touch with us.