By: Dr. Rhonda Klein, MD, MPH, FAAD
Whether it’s an unfortunate 90’s tramp stamp, a romantic gesture gone wrong, or just plain old poor decision making, the good news is there is hope with the latest and greatest tattoo removal therapies! In support of our “Ugly Tattoo Contest” (live April 1- April 30, go to our Instagram grid for more details! We asked Dr. Klein to tell us more about the latest advances in laser tattoo removal.
What is Laser Tattoo Removal?
Laser Tattoo Removal is the process of using laser therapies to break up pigment in a tattoo, resulting in reduction in color, or ideally, elimination entirely.
What’s the Latest Technology to Market?
Laser tattoo technology has improved greatly in the past few years. One of the best advancements in the category is the Pico second lasers. It delivers energy in a trillionth of a second. This super-fast delivery of energy selectively targets the pigmented ink with specific wavelengths (avoiding the unmarked areas of the skin), shattering the pigment. In the past, lasers have relied on intense heat energy to remove pigment, which can be painful and lead to skin redness, dyspigmentation and downtime. The Pico laser and our Q-switch laser are more targeted and customizable, minimizing unnecessary trauma to the skin.
How Does it Work?
The wavelength of the laser is attracted to pigment in the tattoo ink – the same way blacktop attracts the heat of the sun. The ink absorbs this energy, which breaks it down into microscopic particles, enabling our body's immune system to naturally eliminate the particles.
Will it Hurt?
Everyone’s pain threshold is different, but the Pico in particular is known for being quite tolerable. We can numb you beforehand and have ProNox (laughing gas) available to help take the edge off if you’re feeling anxious about it!
How Many Treatments Are Needed?
It depends on the nature of the tattoo (placement, ink quality, ink depth), but in general it will require 6-8 treatments, spaced about 6-8 weeks apart.
Who is a Candidate?
The treatment can be effective for nearly all tattoos, however the ones that respond best are dark ink on light skin.
Think Before You Ink?
Even with the introduction of Pico laser to the market, multiple treatments are needed, which are a time commitment and expensive. For some patients, pain is an issue, and while we do what we can to make our patients comfortable, everyone has a different threshold. Furthermore, there are risks of dyspigmentation with treatment – to minimize this risk it’s important to avoid sun exposure and wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 – the skin is more vulnerable for up to 3 months following treatment as we have just (temporarily) destroyed the pigmented skin cells that provide protection from the sun.
At Modern Dermatology we are proud to offer the latest and greatest tattoo removal therapies, but it’s important to understand that while you may want to remove your tattoo completely, it is possible that the best we can do is lighten it substantially so that it’s easier to coverup with makeup. When you have a consult with Dr. Robinson or I, we are always careful to manage our patients’ expectations when outlining a treatment plan.