Tattoos no longer have to be permanent. Our experienced plastic surgeons use intense, Q-switched lasers to remove or significantly lighten a tattoo by training pulsing light on the tattoo’s ink particles which breaks them down into tiny pieces that are absorbed harmlessly into the body, without any damage to surrounding tissue. Ideal candidates for laser tattoo removal are typically fair-skinned, and have tattoos that are on areas, such as the arms, legs, buttocks or chest, that have a greater concentration of body fat. Prior to laser, techniques for removing tattoos included dermabrasion, cryosurgery and surgical excision.
Who Is The Ideal Candidate For Laser Tattoo Removal?
Really anyone who has a tattoo is a good candidate for laser tattoo removal at Plastic Surgery Group of Rochester. As mentioned above, you do need to wait for at least two months after the tattoo is initially created so that the skin can fully heal.
The real question of candidacy is to understand that these procedures involve a certain amount of pain. This can obviously be dictated by the location of your tattoo. We apply topical numbing cream prior to your laser session, but you’ll still feel some pain. Afterwards, you’ll need to apply ice to mitigate this.
You also need to think in multiple sessions. Different ink colors respond better to the laser energy than others. Complete removal can take from 3-12 sessions, so you wouldn’t want to partially remove a tattoo and then not finish the series.
Good candidates for these treatments cannot have open sores or skin infections.
The Laser Tattoo Removal Procedure
A few hours before the laser tattoo removal procedure begins, it is recommended that acetaminophen be taken to help minimize discomfort. Just before the procedure begins, the patient is given a shield to protect his or her eyes from the laser. A topical anesthetic is applied to the skin; in some instances, a cooling system is used before, during and after the procedure to help with discomfort. The tattoo removal specialist then tests the skin’s response to the laser to determine the most effective approach, and intense nanosecond pulses are sent from the Q-switched laser to the skin.
Each laser tattoo removal session lasts only a few minutes and, at the end of each session, the tattoo is iced for about 30 minutes. A topical antibiotic and a bandage are then applied. Patients are advised to keep the skin around the tattooed area dry, and to treat it as if it were sunburned.
Results And Risks Of Laser Tattoo Removal
Depending on the complexity of the tattoo, removal results vary. Simple tattoos may be eliminated within four treatment sessions, while more complicated tattoos might require ten or more. Although they rarely occur, there are certain side effects associated with laser tattoo removal. They include hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, infection and permanent scarring.
Laser Tattoo Removal FAQs
How Long Does A Tattoo Removal Take?
The actual laser treatment at our offices on Linden Oaks in Rochester takes only a few minutes. Prior to beginning with the laser energy, we first apply topical numbing cream to the tattoo. This takes about 35-40 minutes to fully numb your skin.
The question of how long the entire process takes isn’t a simple answer. Newer tattoos take a little more time, as the ink is new and has not broken down at all. Plus, the size, color, and type of ink used all play a role in how easy it is to remove the tattoo. Different colors require different wavelengths. Black and red are the easiest colors to remove; turquoise is the most difficult single color to target. All tattoos have layers of ink that are stacked on top of each other within the skin. Shaded areas clear more quickly because those areas have a lower ink density. Older tattoos can be removed with fewer treatments than newer tattoos.
Once we see your tattoo, we can give you a better idea, but expect from 3-12 treatments to fully remove it. These treatments need to be spaced about seven weeks apart.
How Soon After Getting A Tattoo Can I Get It Renmoved?
Instant tattoo remorse is actually quite common. Whether it was one too many drinks or prodding from friends, people often wake up the next day and don’t like what they see. We get calls asking if we can remove a tattoo that was just placed.
We can, but we cannot do so immediately. That’s because your skin across the tattoo area needs to completely heal before you can even begin to contemplate removing the new ink. If you don’t wait for the skin to fully heal you have these risks:
- Excessive skin blistering — In the first weeks after getting a tattoo, there will still be some ink particles in the top layer of the skin. Targeting this ink can lead to burns and blistering. As the tattoo ages and your skin heals, the body will break down and remove this surface ink.
- Skin discoloration — Attempting laser tattoo removal on fresh ink can increase the risk of developing permanent discoloration in the treated area. The laser energy shatters the ink into tiny particles. In a new tattoo these particles can become embedded in the new collagen strands that the body is creating during the skin healing process.
- Scarring — Treating an unhealed tattoo can be compared with picking a scab on a healing wound. This can create permanent scarring.
Bottom line? You need to wait a minimum of 8 weeks, and preferably 16 weeks, before starting the removal process.
What Is Recovery Like After Each Tattoo Removal Session?
After your session your treated area may seem as if it has a superficial burn. At first the tattoo will turn a frosty white color. This is caused by the release of carbon dioxide as the laser penetrates the skin. You’ll want to ice the tattoo and take some Tylenol to soothe any discomfort. Don’t take aspirin, as it can cause bleeding.
Within eight hours and continuing for the next three days the treated tattooed skin will begin to peel or blister. This usually isn’t dramatic, but it is important to not pick any scabs that form. This can cause scarring. You’ll need to keep the area covered with antibiotic cream and a bandage for the first 3 days. After that, you’ll keep the area clean and dry. In 1-2 weeks, all crusting and scabbing should fully resolve.
After your session your treated area may seem as if it has a superficial burn. At first the tattoo will turn a frosty white color. This is caused by the release of carbon dioxide as the laser penetrates the skin. You’ll want to ice the tattoo and take some Tylenol to soothe any discomfort. Don’t take aspirin, as it can cause bleeding. Within eight hours and continuing for the next three days the treated tattooed skin will begin to peel or blister. This usually isn’t dramatic, but it is important to not pick any scabs that form. This can cause scarring. You’ll need to keep the area covered with antibiotic cream and a bandage for the first 3 days. After that, you’ll keep the area clean and dry. In 1-2 weeks, all crusting and scabbing should fully resolve.
Are There Any Tattoos That Cannot Be Removed With Lasers?
Laser energy effectively breaks down virtually all inks. But some ink colors and types require additional treatments. The easiest ink to remove is black, as it is easy to match the laser wavelength to black. Other colors such as red, blues, and greens can become more difficult to remove. It also matters who placed the tattoo, to some degree. The hardest single color to remove is green. There are no guarantees, but even the most stubborn tattoo can be dramatically lightened with laser treatment.
But don’t despair. If you want to get rid of that tattoo, we can do it at Plastic Surgery Group of Rochester.
Contact PSGR Cosmetic Center
If you are in the area and are considering removing your tattoo, contact The Plastic Surgery Group of Rochester today and learn more about out laser tattoo removal service. Call (585) 922-5840 to reach our Rochester office on Linden Oaks and schedule a consultation. Our practice serves Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, and surrounding areas in New York.