Decorative tattoos have a history dating back from ancient times. Currently, almost twenty percent of people in the United States have tattoos and the number is still growing.
For the younger generation, tattoos are considered a symbol of freedom, but with advancing age, more and more wish to remove them because of the negative connotation associated with tattoos. Tattoos are also removed simply because of an individual’s desire to replace the existing tattoo with a newer design.
Tattoos are a popular method of body art, there is an estimated 20-30 million tattooed individuals in the world. And approximately 50% of those who do get tattoos will regret all their tattoos or part of their tattoos. Some people will want to have them removed completely, or some may want them faded enough to allow for re-tattooing over there existing Tattoo.
Here at Zinc Clinic we use the SPECTRA XT EXPERT DUAL MODE Q-SWITCHED NdYag LASER with four distinct Q-switched mode wavelengths – 1064 nm, 532 nm, 585 nm, 650 nm. The robust Spectra XT is the state of the art tattoo removal laser.
Q switched lasers are currently the safest and most effective method for removing or fading tattoos with least chance of scarring compared to other forms of tattoo removal.
The concentrated laser energy smashes the ink in the tattoo into tiny fragments which are then absorbed by body cells called macrophages. Because the energy is delivered very rapidly there is minimal heating resulting in less chance of skin damage.
Virtually all tattoos can be treated. Both amateur and professional tattoos are treatable, however, professional tattoos require more treatments to achieve similar results. All colours can be treated, however, some may be difficult and require more treatments and have a lower chance of complete removal. White, yellow, and skin coloured tattoos tend to be difficult to remove.
Cosmetic tattoos can also be treated but there is a risk of colour change especially in the lip area with the treated area becoming darker.
Several treatments are generally required for tattoo removal. Multi-coloured and professional tattoos are harder to remove than single coloured or amateur tattoos and require more treatments. Anywhere from 5-15 or more treatments can be required depending on various factors such as skin type, location of tattoo, colour, amount of ink, scarring and layering of tattoo.
The Q-Switched Laser has become the gold standard treatment for across all colors of tattoo removal. By creating a very short high energy pulse, the tattoo ink is thermo-acoustically broken up into minute particles that the body can readily absorb. As the laser attacks the tattoo, a light grey “frosting” appears on the tattoo, a signal that the appropriate energy was applied and the removal process will begin.
As the industry grows, so do the number of devices on the market. Not all devices are created equal and successful outcome depends on a variety of factors. The Spectra with its high power output and variety of dye hand pieces from Lutronic has become a gold standard for removing tattoos.
Removal of tattoos depends on the principle of selective photothermolysis; when the proper wavelength is applied the ink absorbs the energy preferentially, causing it to break down. The body’s natural healing processes remove broken down pigment over time. Surrounding tissue is largely unaffected, but not entirely spared, so tattoo removal is typically uncomfortable for patients. Numerous sessions are required to maximize results.
The Q-switched laser is the most commonly used device for tattoo removal. Modulation of treatment parameters allows users to customize treatment based on the condition and skin type of the individual patient, to maximize results as well as manage patient comfort and the potential for side effects. The 1064nm wavelength NdYag is recognized as the safest choice for the treatment of darker skin types, however, special care must be taken due to the increased potential for burning or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
Medical lasers use a beam of light to significantly lighten or completely remove your tattoo. When the ink particles absorb the light from the laser, they are broken up into fragments and then absorbed through your body’s immune system. This process generally takes a few weeks. The larger the tattoo, the more sessions it will take to break down the ink particles.
Right after your treatment, your skin will have a white discoloration, and the area around the tattoo may become reddish and appear swollen. This is normal and will disappear slowly over time. Results take about 8 weeks after each treatment. Immediately after treatment, antibacterial ointment and gauze will be applied to the treated area to minimize infection.
Occasionally, a whitening of the skin may occur. However, normal skin tone should return within 6 -12 months following your last treatment session. Since the ink used in tattooing can vary from tattoo to tattoo, some patients have only partial clearing even after several sessions.
Some patients say they feel a slight sting, like the snap of a rubber band on the skin. Many treatments do not require anaesthetics. However, some patients feel more comfortable with a local numbing agent, such as a topical or injected anaesthetic.
The number of treatments required for optimal results depends on the size, location, depth and colour of the tattoo. Treatment should be performed 8 weeks apart in order to allow the body to remove the maximum amount of tattoo pigment after each treatment.
Each session usually takes 10 – 30 minutes. You will continue to see lightening of your tattoo after each treatment as your body disposes of more pigment. Most patients will see improvement in their tattoos and results can be quite dramatic.