Laser tattoo removal: FAQs

Over 30% of Americans have one or more tattoos and according to a recent study about 25% of them want to have their tattoo removed. If you are interested in tattoo removal, then laser therapy is the best option available today. With many recent advances in laser tattoo removal over the past decade, today’s lasers can help fade tattoos more safely and effectively in fewer treatments. Additionally, with multiple lasers available, ink colors that were once difficult to remove are now treatable. While the technology has improved, your safety and results still depend almost entirely on the person performing the tattoo removal. This is why the FDA recommends that you consult a dermatologist for laser tattoo treatments.

To help prepare for what to expect from laser tattoo removal, you’ll find answers that patients often ask our dermatologists before laser tattoo treatments. 

Why is it important to see a dermatologist for laser tattoo removal?
For laser tattoo removal to be safe and effective, the person removing the tattoo must consider many things, including your health. Dermatologists have the medical training needed to consider your health and the health of your skin. They know who can safely have laser tattoo removal. Side effects are more common when someone lacks medical training. The providers at PLDI have been researching and using lasers to treat tattoos since the technology was first developed over 20 years ago.

Which colors can be treated with laser tattoo removal?
All colors can be treated with a laser, but some colors respond more readily than others. Additionally, every color in a tattoo needs a specific wavelength of laser light to treat it effectively. Many places that offer laser tattoo removal will only have 1 or 2 lasers—this limits the amount of colors that can be treated and can result in sub-optimal results and an increased risk of side effects. At PLDI, we have 5 different laser systems that can treat tattoos, allowing our physicians to optimize your treatment for the safest and most effective results.

How many laser treatment sessions will it take to remove my tattoo? 
It is difficult to predict how many sessions it will take to significantly fade the tattoo, without first seeing and evaluating the tattoo. Things to consider include the colors, depth, and age of the tattoo.
When you get a tattoo, the tattoo artist layers the ink. A laser cannot safely break down all the layers in 1 treatment session. Time between treatments is necessary for your skin to heal. After laser tattoo removal, you may see some redness, swelling, and a little blistering. Your body needs time to flush out the ink. When the laser’s light hits the ink, the light shatters the ink into tiny particles. Your body must flush out these tiny particles.  After each treatment, your tattoo should lighten. On average, patients typically need 4-8 sessions.

Is laser tattoo removal safe for everyone?
Most people can safely have laser tattoo removal. There are a few exceptions. You need a healthy immune system for laser tattoo removal to work. And, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not be treated.

Does laser tattoo removal hurt?
Laser tattoo removal can feel uncomfortable or painful. To prevent discomfort and pain, a dermatologist can give you a numbing cream or shot.

What are the possible side effects of laser tattoo removal?
The risk of side effects from laser tattoo removal are lower when performed by a provider with expert experience in using laser technology. However, risks are still possible and include discoloration, changes to the skin texture, burn and even scarring.

Can I use a tattoo-removal cream or ointment instead of laser tattoo removal?
Due to some serious side effects, the FDA warns consumers about tattoo removal creams, ointments, and do-it-yourself tattoo removal kits. The products often contain strong acids that can damage your skin, causing a rash, burn, or permanent scar. And, you’ll still have that unwanted tattoo. 

Click here to read more about laser treatments for tattoo removal.
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