Tattoos have been performed for over 4000 years. It is estimated that over
24% of adults in the UK have tattoos. This number is constantly growing due to the increasing popularity of decorative tattooing among the younger generation. However, many come to
later regret their decision, and seek to remove them.
Why is a tattoo so difficult to remove?
A tattoo results when the skin is punctured and pigment is inserted into the lower layer of skin. The body's own defence mechanism reacts to this 'injury' but is unable to cast out the particles of pigment as they are too large.
Before the development of laser therapy, the only alternatives available to patients seeking to have their tattoos removed were surgical excision, skin grafts and the use of salt, acid and other chemical abrasives. Injections, creams, acid and other non-laser methods are, in our experience not just ineffective but potentially hazardous. If these low-cost alternatives worked, we would use them. Acids can remove pigment, either by pigment bleaching or the eviction of tattoo pigment during acid-burn healing but unfortunately, acid removal attempts almost always result in scarring with often the remnants of the tattoo still visible. We can help by removing the remaining pigment but the acid scars will be permanent.
What type of lasers are used and how does it work?
We use both a Q-switched Ruby laser and a Q-switched Nd:YAG
for tattoo removal. These are both active lasers which means that they have very high peak powers delivering their energy in a much more effective pulse than many of the cheaper lasers that can be found today. Having both lasers available means that we can choose the best wavelengths for your skin type and effectively treat nearly all tattoo colours. The lasers work
by firing a beam of light through the skin in extremely short pulses. The light is absorbed by the tattoo ink creating a reaction which breaks down the ink into very tiny particles. This allows the body's defence mechanisms to take over and gradually remove the pigment.
Because each pulse is so short (typically 25 billionths of a second!) And is targeted directly onto the pigment, there is normally no lasting damage to the skin or surrounding tissue. The whole procedure is repeated several times, usually at about six
to eight weekly intervals, so allowing time for the body to remove as much pigment as possible.
What are the costs likely to be?
The actual cost of each treatment will depend on several factors such as the size of the tattoo and the number of pulses
and whether more than one laser will be required to treat it. Most tattoos are irregular in shape and the pigmented area cannot readily be converted and rounded up to square inches or centimetres. Without first examining the tattoo it is impossible to give an accurate guide to cost. We do however offer a free, no obligation assessment so an accurate price can be given.
How many treatments are required to remove the average tattoo?
Due to the very many variations in size, colour and type, there is no such thing as an average tattoo. The number of treatments required will also depend on the body's own defence mechanism and how effective it is. As a guide, most Indian ink amateur tattoos should respond with between one and ten treatments. Coloured Professional tattoos can take rather longer - usually between eight and fifteen treatments.
Do all tattoos respond to
Unfortunately not; most pigments, especially blacks and blues, do respond very well to the Ruby laser with reds, pinks, oranges and yellows responding to the Nd:YAG. Green pigment usually responds to the Ruby laser but some greens can be resistant to treatment with any laser. Acrylic inks do not usually respond very well at all and semi-permanent make-up will often turn a blue/black shade first.
How long does the
treatment take and does it hurt?
A typical treatment session can last anything between five minutes to an hour depending on the size and number of tattoos the patient wishes to have removed. The treatment stings and may cause some minor discomfort which will start to subside when the session is over. This is tolerated very well by most patients but a local anaesthetic cream is
an option which can be discussed if required.
Doesn't the laser treatment scar?
The Q-switched ruby laser, which neither burns nor cuts the skin's surface, has been used extensively in medical practice for a number of years.
Some people are very sensitive to the inks used in their tattoo which can lead to a severe inflammatory response during treatment - this may on rare occasions result in a scar. Since the first centre opened in 1991 Laserase has treated very many thousands of tattoos, with the vast majority of people being delighted with the results. Although scarring is a possibility, we have found the chances of this occurring to be very low.
Will the skin be normal when the treatment is finished?
During treatment with the Q-switched
lasers, it is quite normal for the tattooed area to become paler and any freckles may disappear. This is because the laser is also effective at removing natural skin pigment. Once all the treatments have been completed, the pigment should slowly return, usually within six to twelve months. However sometimes there may be some permanent loss of natural pigment and the area may remain pale. If this does occur, continued protection from strong sunlight is recommended. A tattooed area which is particularly hairy should be shaved prior to treatment. The hair should grow back normally but in some cases may be slower than expected.
Is 'Laserase' treatment safe?
Yes. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the treatment can lead to skin disorders or an increased risk of cancer.
Lasers have been used to treat many thousands of tattoos over the past 25 years.
Furthermore, every precaution has been taken to ensure the safety of the patient.
The lasers are also subject to certified periodical checks by a laser protection advisor. The 'Laserase' treatment is carried out only by qualified and fully trained clinicians and patients are required to wear approved protective goggles at all times.