Having tattoo remorse? You’re not alone. Not everyone gets a tattoo they love forever. In fact many end up wishing they’d never set foot in a tattoo parlour. If that’s the case for you, getting rid of the spur-of-the-moment butterfly on your back or ode to your ex-boyfriend across your midriff is not only possible, but easier than you think thanks to lasers.
The procedure is safe & effective, offering a chance to start over, especially if your tattoo is a daily reminder of a bad decision, or a part of your life you’d rather leave in the past.
Laser Tattoo Removal: An Introduction
If you’re ready to erase some regrettable ink, the number of laser treatments you’ll need to remove a tattoo depends on several factors. The age, type, size, and depth of your tattoo, as well as the color of your skin all play a role in how many sessions you’ll need before you can wave goodbye to your body art. Most tattoos require 6 to 12 treatment sessions, although small, single-color (black) tattoos can sometimes be removed in fewer sessions. The key is to be patient. “Don’t expect immediate results. It may take several weeks for your tattoo to show signs of fading,” explains Dr. Melanie Grossman, Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. But the good news is it will fade, and eventually disappear.
Laser Tattoo Removal: What to Expect
Using a pen-like hand-piece held over your skin, your doctor will deliver pulses of laser light into the tattoo. If you’re wondering how exactly a laser is going to make that life-sized lizard on your chest disappear, the pulses of highly focused light are absorbed into the tattoo ink, causing the ink to fracture into small particles. These small particles are then absorbed into the body through the lymphatic system and carried away. If that sounds daunting, it’s not. “A typical treatment session requires about 10 to 30 pulses of laser light,” says Dr. Grossman. “The treatment itself, therefore, takes only minutes.” But despite the speed of each session, having a tattoo removed is a process that involves more than one appointment. Treatments need to spread out—usually six to eight weeks apart—to allow the tattoo ink to be absorbed by the body and the skin to completely heal.
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Laser Tattoo Removal: Potential Pain Factor
Getting a tattoo hurts so it makes sense that removing one won’t be a walk in the park either. Most people report some discomfort, and often compare it to the quick snap of a rubber band. Luckily, the laser sessions don’t take long and there are a few options to minimize pain, including topical anesthesia or having your skin numbed with a cold compress. Your doctor might also suggest taking a non-aspirin over-the-counter pain reliever, like acetaminophen (Tylenol), before your treatment. But avoid aspirin or ibuprofen (it can increase the risk of bruising and swelling at the treatment site) and talk with your doctor before taking any pain-relievers.
Laser Tattoo Removal: Post-Treatment
Following your short session, there might be some swelling, but it won’t last long (a day or two at most). Before you leave, your doctor will tell you how to take care of your freshly laser treated body art. Be sure to avoid exposing the treated area to sunlight, which can interfere with the healing process and be diligent about following your doctor’s post-treatment instructions so the area heals. Several treatments later and you’ll be tattoo-free.
Waking up to a tattoo you hate day in and day out is a frustrating experience, but laser removal makes any regret disappear, along with your tattoo.