Laser Tattoo Removal
Lasers have been used for tattoo removal for more than 20 years and we have used a Q-switched ruby laser since 1996. The ruby laser is the acknowledged laser of choice for tattoo removal. The following information is designed to cover the most commonly asked questions.
Why is a tattoo so difficult to remove?
The tattoo pigment injected into the lower layers of the skin (the dermis) becomes sealed away by a tough collagen ring. It is very difficult to remove the tattoo pigment without affecting the surrounding tissue. The alternatives to laser treatment are, either to physically remove the pigment with the surrounding skin by surgical excursion and skin grafting, or chemically destroy the pigment using concentrated salts or acid. In either case the surrounding skin is damaged and significant scarring would be an expected outcome to these, non-laser removal methods.
How are Q switched Lasers difficult to other lasers used for tattoo removal?
Q-switched lasers produces extremely short pulses of high-energy, light. This light is absorbed strongly by the tiny particles of tattoo pigment, but not very well by the surrounding skin. The tattoo pigment particles heat up and breaks down into smaller particles; these minute particles are targeted by the bodies own immune system and removed. Because the tattoo pigment selectively absorbs the energy, surrounding tissues are not heated up to such a high temperature and there is no lasting damage to the skin.
I have seen other light treatments offered for tattoo removal, what are these?
In some cases Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) systems are advertised for tattoo removal. These systems were designed to target melanin in hair follicles for hair removal and differ from tattoo removal lasers in producing non Q-switched energy. This energy is not delivered in such a way as to crack up the tattoo particles and much more heat is absorbed and accumulates in the skin tissue than is the case with our laser. More energy in the skin equates to skin damage and an increased risk of scarring. Unlike the Ruby, where over 20 years of scientific study backs the process, there is little, or no evidence for the efficacy of IPL systems of the removal of tattoos and such treatments should be avoided.
There are also â€˜softâ€™ or â€˜gentleâ€™ Q-switched lasers YAG lasers. These are re-badged, low powered hair-removal lasers and are marketed on the basis that they are pain free, this because they use very low powers. All the clinical evidence indicates that high powers are required to clear tattoo pigment- if this is not true, we would turn our own systems down and achieve the same results at lower powers.
Can a tattoo be removed in just one treatment?
Only very rarely; some amateur tattoos may disappear after only a small number of treatments; professional tattoos usually take a higher number.
How many treatments will be required to treat the average tattoo?
There is no such thing as an average tattoo; every tattoo is different and every individual responds differently.
What are the costs likely to be?
The cost of a single treatment will depend solely on the size of the tattoo. The bigger the area, the more time it will take to treat and the higher the charge.
Do all tattoos respond to treatment?
Unfortunately not; most pigments especially blacks and blues, do respond very well to the Ruby laser with reds being more difficult. Green pigment can be quite resistant to treatment.
How long does the treatment take?
This depends on the size of the tattoo; a small tattoo might take 5 minutes, where a large, or multiple tattoos could take an hour or more of treatment.
All tattoos will require multiple treatments, as explained the nature of the procedure means that as unique individuals it is Impossible to predict the number of treatments needed and you should be vary wary of anyone who makes that prediction
The amount of pain felt will depend on the type of tattoo, the amount of treatment required and your own pain threshold. Some clients would describe it as an elastic band flicked against the skin. The truth is that you will only know how painful you find it until you try it! We can offer advice on pain relief.
Does the laser cause scarring?
Although there is a risk of scarring with any laser, in most cases, scarring is not a significant risk for tattoo removal with the ruby laser. Tattoo removal has become associated with scarring because of the first lasers used for tattoo removal were very aggressive and carried a very high risk of scarring. The Ruby laser does not heat the surrounding skin significantly and the risk of scarring is much reduced. The risk of scarring is mainly associated with a genetic disposition to forming scar tissue.
Are there any other side effects?
After each treatment, the area may blister; this is quite normal and usually resolves in a few days. Once any blisters or crusts have subsided, the skin around the tattoo will look shiny for a number of weeks. Treatment cannot be repeated until your skin has returned to normal; this will usually take 4-5 weeks.
The highest risk side effect is skin de-pigmentation (loss of natural skin colour), because the Ruby laser targets dark pigments, the energy is also absorbed by the melanin in the skin. The most frequent side effect is for the natural colour in the skin to 'bleach' after a number of treatments.
While normal skin pigment will usually recover, it can take months, or even years to do so. As a general guideline, the darker the skin or the more treatments required, the more risk there is of long term de-pigmentation.
Because of the risk of damage to skin pigment, we will not treat tanned skin and will postpone treatment until any sun tan has faded.
Ruby lasers have been used around the world for more than 20 years and have treated millions of tattoos safely. The ruby laser is really just a strong red light and there is no linkage with any skin disorder or any increased risk of skin cancer.
Prices depend on the size of the tattoo; you may need longer sessions. Prices are from Â£40 per single treatment.