From Prep to Aftercare, Here's What to Expect
No one gets a tattoo thinking they’ll want it removed, but circumstances change and tastes evolve. That’s where science and technology step in—in the late ’60s, doctors began experimenting with lasers and discovered that focused light beams can break up tattoo ink, allowing the body to absorb the pigment and remove it via natural processes.
Yes, It Will Hurt
As they say: no pain, no gain. Getting a tattoo isn't painless and unfortunately, removing one isn't pain-free, either. Just like getting a tattoo, removal treatments performed over areas of thinner skin or bone tend to be more painful. That said, numbing cream can be applied 40 minutes prior to your session and a cooling device is also used during your treatment.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
As a rule of thumb, the location of the tattoo on your body will determine the number of treatments required. Generally, the closer to your heart the tattoo is, the quicker the clearance of the pigment from your body. A recommended series will be determined at your consultation based on the tattoo location, size, colours, and your goals (i.e. some want complete removal, while others only seek partial and plan to cover it up afterwards).
How Does it Work?
Incredibly, your immune system does most of the ink removal! In a Laser Tattoo Removal session, pulsed beams of light energy penetrate the skin and are absorbed by the darker, more pigmented tattoo ink. The ink is heated up and then broken into tiny particles which are more easily eliminated by the body's "lymphocytes": specialized white blood cells that are a part of the immune system and which recognize the small fragments of ink particles as "enemies".
The healthier you are, the better functioning your immune system tends to be, and the more quickly your tattoo will be removed. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy, balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding smoking can all contribute to a healthy immune system.
The age of your tattoo also affects removal. Older tattoos can be removed with fewer treatments than newer tattoos because newer inks have been formulated to last. An armature (black or blue) ink tattoo that is 10 years old may take 1 to 2 treatments fewer than a 1-year-old black tattoo. A 20-year-old tattoo may take 2 to 3 treatments fewer than a 1-year old tattoo.
What Should I Expect Following My Treatment?
Immediately after treatment, you’ll see whitened areas on the tattoo. This is called frosting and will disappear in about 20 minutes. There will be mild redness and swelling over the tattoo which should resolve over several hours. Some people get small blisters or pinpoint bleeding. The treated area will feel like a sunburn. Scarring is uncommon with Q-Switched Lasers and Picosecond lasers.
A typical tattoo takes about 10 treatments to remove completely. If you are looking to fade a tattoo for a cover-up piece, a partial tattoo removal option will remove as much ink as possible from your skin in just one to four sessions. This can vary depending on the artist and the new artwork that you want.
You should wait 8 weeks between treatments. Generally, the longer you wait between treatments, the better the clearance of ink. The added time allows your immune system to move the ink away from the tattoo.
The Laser Tattoo Removal Timeline
Other Related Factors to Consider
A number of things can impact your tattoo removal process. Here are a few to consider:
Whether the Tattoo is "Amateur" or "Professional": In other words, whether it is more basic, usually just black or blue, or more complex, often multi-coloured.
The Colour(s) of the Tattoo: Darker, black pigments are the easiest to remove, while lighter, yellow-based are the most difficult, as there is not an ideal wavelength that the colour absorbs. Further detail for your specific tattoo can be discussed at your consultation.
The Type of Ink Used: The type (i.e. plant, mixture, or chemical) and composition (i.e. whether it contains iron or lead) can impact how easy it is to dispel from the body.
The Depth of Ink: Generally speaking, the deeper the pigment, the more difficult and longer it takes to remove.
Varying Healing Ability: Your physique, age, skin, and immunity can all impact your progress
Pain Tolerance: Discuss your pain level expectations during your consultation. A topical numbing agent can be provided if needed.
Possible Side Effects: These can include superficial burning/wounding, blistering (usually for up to 8-72 hours after treatment), and scabbing. It is strongly advised to follow proper aftercare to avoid any potential for scarring.
Healing Time: For most, complete healing takes between 1 to 2 weeks, but can last up to 3 months in extreme cases. Book your sessions based on your plans and upcoming activities.