Laser Tattoo Removal
A little beam of light can make all the difference!
If you have a tattoo, you’re not alone. An estimated 20 million Americans do. If you want it removed, you’re also not alone. About half of those with tattoos report they would now like their tattoo to disappear.
Tattoos are created by embedding ink (colored pigments) in the cells in the dermis, the layer of skin below the top layer of skin. In the past, if you had a tattoo, you had it for life.
How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?
Past methods of removal left a scar or a visible white, un-pigmented area. Now, the laser produces short pulses of a wide range of light colors to treat the full spectrum of the tattoo ink. The entire treatment involves no incisions.
Will I Need More than One Treatment?
Removing a small tattoo of one color may take a few 30 minute laser treatments; multicolored tattoos may take more sessions depending on their size and type of ink.
What can I expect during my laser tattoo removal session?
When you come in for your treatment, we’ll first apply topical anesthetic. This needs 30-45 minutes to fully numb your skin. Next we match the laser wavelength to the pigment in the tattoo. For instance, one session Dr. Serebrakian may target all the red. Another it may black or blue. Once the light wavelength is set, we give you a pair of protective eyeglasses and get to work. The laser delivers extremely short pulses (measured in billionths of a second) of energy through the handpiece as it is held close to the skin. Dr. Serebrakian works his way across the outlines of the tattoo delivering repeated short pulses until the area is covered. The length of your appointment will depend on the size of the tattoo.
How do I prepare for laser tattoo removal?
You need to limit sun exposure for a month prior to your session. Remember, you want to make it easy for the laser to differentiate between your skin tone and the tattoo inks. Avoid shaving, waxing, or exfoliating for a week or so before your appointment, as well. Avoid taking aspirin, certain anti-inflammatories, or herbal medications that can cause increased bleeding.
Can I revise a tattoo with a laser?
Dr. Serebrakian can remove portions of a tattoo, things like a name or another icon. But he cannot make intricate changes. Plus, to remove the element, it may not be possible to completely avoid the surrounding portion of the tattoo design. This could leave that area slightly lighter in color than it was originally.
Do all colors respond the same to laser energy for tattoo removal?
No. The color and the density of that color impact how much energy is required to break up the pigment for the body’s lymphatic system to then remove. Different colors require different wavelengths of laser energy. 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. It’s these variables that make it difficult to estimate exactly how many laser tattoo removal sessions will be necessary to fully remove your unwanted tattoo.
Can all tattoos be fully removed with lasers?
Every tattoo has variables. Ink depths, density, color variety, and the like can all vary. The majority of tattoos respond very well to our laser removal treatments. All tattoos can be lightened, usually dramatically, but there can remain a slight ghost of the tattoo after the final treatment session. The patient’s immune system plays a role, responding to the inflammation of the laser energy and removing the broken down tattoo color particles. We can’t guarantee that all tattoos can be removed, but we’ll do everything we can to lighten them as much as possible.
What happens after my laser tattoo removal session?
Immediately after your session, your tattoo will turn a frosty white. This freaks out some people, but it is simply due to the release of carbon dioxide as the laser penetrates the skin. At the end of your session, we’ll apply an ice pack; you’ll want to continue that at home. It’s a good idea to take Tylenol to overcome any discomfort. Within eight hours and continuing for the next three days the treated tattooed skin will begin to peel or blister. The skin can crust and scab. It’s important to keep the area covered with antibiotic cream and a bandage. In 1-2 weeks all crusting and scabbing should fully resolve.
You need to wait from 6-8 weeks between sessions. That is necessary to let your body’s white blood cells get to work removing the fractured ink particles.
Is laser tattoo removal painful?
Most of our patients say that getting the tattoo was more painful than removing it. They equate the feeling to that of having a rubber band snapped on the skin with each pulse of the laser.
We apply an ice pack immediately after your treatment, followed by antibiotic cream and a bandage. You’ll probably want to continue icing for a bit when you get home.
Will laser tattoo removal leave a scar?
No. As mentioned above, you may have a slight ghost of the tattoo, but not a scar. Laser energy simply passes through the epidermis layer and is absorbed by the pigment in the tattoo inks. It doesn’t damage the outer skin.
Are there any side effects with laser tattoo removal?
Laser tattoo removal is far safer than the alternative, dermabrasion. The biggest risk is infection. If you are diligent with your antibiotic cream and keep the area covered, the risk of infection is very low. There is also a risk of hypopigmentation, where the skin with the removed tattoo is paler than the surrounding skin. This is also rare.
As long as you have your tattoo removed by experienced, highly trained professionals such as Dr. Serebrakian, you should be happy with your results. However, if you have this done at a nail salon or day spa, you can run into problems such as skin damage and high levels of pain.
Sessions are usually spaced four to eight weeks apart and are performed in the doctor’s office without the costs and risks of hospitalization or general anesthesia.
Schedule a Consultation
For more information on Laser Tattoo Removal, or to schedule a consultation, call our Pinole office at (510) 724-8282 or our Larkspur office at (415) 461-5755. Dr. Armen Serebrakian serves San Francisco, Larkspur, Pinole CA and surrounding areas.