10 Things You Should Know About Getting Your Tattoo or Pigment Removed
If you're reading this, you're probably in the tattoo regret phase, and we feel your pain! Before you make moves to get that unloved tattoo removed, we created this list so you are better informed! Here are the 10 most helpful, must-know tips to read before you go under the laser which also apply to pigmentation.
1. Keep your expectations realistic.
Before going in, know this: No tattoo removal is guaranteed. Keep your expectations realistic by speaking with a laser treatment expert. Some tattoos fade only partially after several treatments and may leave a ghost image of your tattoo, others don’t respond well at all, so the big question is: Would you rather do a cover up or be left with a ghost image or partial tattoo? Be aware that a cover up generally has to lose the original tattoo in it so may be much larger or be limited by what it can be covered with. Sometimes a good option is to get the original one faded so that you have more options!
2. One treatment isn't going to do it.
You probably already realize this by now, but multiple treatments will be required and unfortunately, the number of sessions isn't something that can be predetermined during your initial consultation. Be cautious of your technician giving you an unrealistic 2 or 3 sessions answer, as on average, the number of treatments actually needed is often much higher and varies considerably depending upon pigment depth and density. In addition, the intervals between treatments are also a key factor. We know you want to remove that unwanted ink as quickly as possible, but treating again too soon can increase the risk of side effects like skin irritation and skin trauma. The average time between sessions is 4 to 6 weeks, but of course, everybody is different. In some cases, 8 weeks is the recommended minimum time to go between treatments or longer for patients experiencing textual changes and other side effects.
3. Location of your Tattoo or Pigment
In most cases the location of the tattoo is very relevant. Fading is generally slower for tattoos located further down the arms or legs as they are further from the heart and therefore get less blood flow. The closer the tattoo is to the heart the better circulation, therefore better results are seen as it’s actually your body that does the removal, the laser just breaks down the pigment so that your body can remove it.
4. Professional vs Amateur Tattoos.
As with removal in general it depends on many factors. Professional applied tattoos penetrate deeper into the skin at uniform levels which can make it easier to treat, but not always, as the ink is usually denser and deeper. Amateur tattoos are often applied with an uneven hand which can make the removal challenging but overall they are easier to remove.
5. Educate yourself on the different types of lasers.
No single laser can remove all tattoo colours, different laser wavelengths treat different colours and sometimes you may need multiple lasers to remove the pigment. Additionally, not all lasers are the same. There is a big difference between some of the lasers that can be bought from China at discount prices and true medical grade equipment as used by ourselves in the calibration, power levels and speed at which the pulse of light can be delivered to the pigment area. Misuse of such equipment can damage the skin tissue.
6. Different ink compositions.
Tattoo ink is not all the same. Although rare, some ink can contain plastics, ceramics and/or metals or other materials which will make it difficult if not impossible to remove. Others can be extraordinarily lightfast, which means it is resistant to laser energy. Some incorporate proprietary ingredients in order to make them resilient and long lasting. Frequently triple black or liner ink is used which is more stubborn due to the density of the pigment. Yellow and white ink doesn’t absorb the light from the laser which means that they won’t respond. Some of the ink used in cosmetic tattoos, including colours containing white ink, may darken (oxidise) immediately after treatment because of the presence of titanium dioxide. This can usually be corrected with further treatments.
7. What to expect after a treatment.
There are a handful of symptoms you might see post-treatment. Among them are, raising of the tattoo, blisters, swelling, pinpoint bleeding, redness, and/or temporary darkening. Not to worry, though. These are common and usually subside within one to two weeks. If they don't, talk to your doctor.
8. Be aware of the potential side effects.
The most common side effect is -hyper (darkening) or hypo-pigmentation (lightening) of the skin. This usually corrects itself anywhere from 6 to 12 months later. Although rare, scarring (including keloid scarring) are also a potential risk, as well as infection and textural changes of the skin.
9. There's a higher risk of hypo-pigmentation with tattoo removal on darker skin tones.
People with darker skin can have a tattoo removed with a laser, however there is a higher risk of hypo-pigmentation because the laser may remove pigment from your skin along with pigment from your tattoo. Your technician should proceed with caution and always do a test spot to minimize any risk.
10. Ask Questions.
Laser tattoo removal is generally safe when performed by a qualified technician or doctor. Each person's health, skin, and tattoos are different, so it's important to ask lots of questions! During your consultation, don't be afraid to ask about all the potential side effects and risks based on your own situation. Ensure that the person treating you is fully qualified and has sufficient experience of treating similar pigment to yours. All of this will help you set realistic expectations of your treatment and give the best results!
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