Although tattoos are meant to last, many people end up regretting their decision to get one. The decisions we make during our youth often don’t hold up over time, and we change our minds about life and love as we get older: and that’s ok! At The Dermatology, Laser & Vein Center in Cincinnati, OH, we are experts at tattoo removal.
How Long Does Laser Tattoo Removal Take?
Every case is as unique as every tattoo, so the time frame is not perfectly predictable. Removing a tattoo depends on a number of factors, including the size, age, and condition of your skin, as well as the colors of the ink used. In general, you can expect to see visible fading in just a few weeks, with full removal a few months up to a year later. It all depends on a number of key factors.
A laser specialist does the majority of the work. However, your body is also an essential part of the process. Your immune system not only absorbs and eventually eliminates the unwanted ink, but the skin also regenerates and restores itself with fresh tissue. This all takes time.
How It Works
Length of Sessions
Depending on the size of the tattoo and its complexity, laser removal sessions can be as quick as a few minutes or as lengthy as an hour or more. Multicolor tattoos require different wavelengths from the laser treatment to treat each color, adding time to the process. It usually takes more than one laser session to remove a tattoo.
Number of Sessions
For successful laser hair removal, a number of factors must be considered. Laser treatment effects are different depending on skin tone and color, as well as the size and color of the tattoo. The longer the removal process takes, the more sessions are required to heal the skin after a removal session, as well.
Although some tattoos fade after only a few months, large or elaborate designs can take a year to fade. Your immune system has a major role to play as the body absorbs laser-treated ink and then regenerates healthy tissue over the treated area. By eating properly, staying hydrated, and taking vitamins, you can help your immune system work more efficiently.
Kind of Tattoos
Another important factor in the timeline of your tattoo removal is the type of tattoo you have. Here are some considerations:
While letting someone tattoo a permanent design on your body is generally not the best idea, it’s widely practiced. In an ironic twist, these tattoos can actually be removed more easily. The inks used by amateurs are less stable than those used by professionals, and they rarely penetrate the skin as deeply as those used by professionals. When it comes to getting rid of those amateur tattoos, you’re already at an advantage.
Professional tattoo artists generally use inks with superior durability and work deeper into the skin than amateurs. Today there are thousands of different inks available, but none of them are FDA-approved. A laser removal specialist will have to take into account not only the tattoo’s size and color, but also how much ink your body can safely absorb after each laser treatment.
For some medical treatments, such as radiation therapy, small tattoos are required in the area to be treated. These tattoos are required for two reasons. For starters, the technicians have to be able to aim the beams exactly right each time. Secondly, if radiation becomes necessary again in the future, technicians will know where to work. Cancer treatment or other therapies can leave tattoos as traumatic reminders, but because these tattoos are generally small, they can often be easily removed.
The most common reason for unwanted skin coloration is external trauma, such as a burn or exposure to caustic chemicals. The cause of other undesirable skin stains, such as port-wine stains, is internal. Although these marks aren’t tattoos, they can still be unwanted. The marks can usually be completely removed by a laser tattoo removal specialist.
Tattoos are created by embedding tiny ink particles into the skin. Unlike most foreign particles, which are normally absorbed by the body and flushed out naturally, ink particles are too large to be absorbed and remain intact in the pattern drawn by the artist. Through laser tattoo removal, these particles are broken up into smaller particles that are then absorbed by the body and disappear from sight.
Laser pulses are targeted using a wand that aims the laser. There are two functions performed by the laser pulses. First, ink pigments are broken up by stimulating a thermal reaction with specific tattoo colors using a variety of laser wavelengths. Essentially, the pigments melt and become amorphous. In addition, the laser pulse creates a second effect as the pulses themselves break up ink particles of all colors by their impact.
How Your Unique Variables Impact Treatment
The technologies used for laser removal in the past were less effective on certain colors in the early days. Fixing black and dark blue ink was the easiest, while fixing colors such as green and purple was the most difficult. Unlike older systems that caused scarring, modern equipment can process all colors without the problems associated with them. While we use the latest laser technologies, the treatment strategy unique to you will be determined by the following factors:
There is a simple rule here – the more ink there is, the longer it takes for the laser to break it up. Because skin needs time to heal after each laser treatment, the amount of laser treatment that can safely be applied in one session varies. In addition, tattoos that are large and oversized require more sessions to erase. Those that are smaller, however, may only require a few minutes of treatment and can heal within a few months.
Getting the desired effects of your removal depends on the color and tone of your skin. The removal must look natural and not cause a skin pigmentation change that may be almost as visible as the original tattoo. Currently, dermatological work is guided by the Fitzpatrick Scale. Each shade of human skin color is assigned a number, and this will be taken into account in your treatment strategy.
A tattoo’s exact location on the body determines the treatment. You have a different density of skin on your fingers, for example, as opposed to the skin on your back. The laser can be used on all skin types, but tattoos that are on sensitive areas of the body should be treated gently and more gradually than those in other areas.
How Long Does My Body Need To Get Rid of the Ink?
There isn’t a single answer to this question. Skin, body metabolism, and tattoos are all different. Eventually, the body’s self-repair systems will grow over the deleted tattoo, but the extent to which it can do so depends on your health, your lifestyle, and to a certain extent, your age. The full fading effect can take up to a year to complete, but improvement can be seen in a matter of months.
How Do You Start?
The first step is to decide you are ready to get rid of your tattoo. Some tattoos are regretted the moment they’re applied, but others are cherished for years before becoming unwanted. In either case, nobody wants to live with a permanent marking that has lost its meaning.
Additionally, people’s perceptions of you – and your tattoos – can adversely impact the way an unwanted tattoo makes you feel. There are a number of employers who frown on tattoos, and a number of potential friends who may avoid them based on their own personal feelings. Unwanted tattoos are regrets, but they don’t have to be permanent.
Am I Alone?
You’re not alone if you’re considering having a tattoo removed. “Tattoo regret” is a very common feeling, with some surveys reporting that as many as 78% of tattoo recipients feel regret about their decision. It is common for people to not like how it looks once they get older. Many other people feel that, in subtler or more overt ways, their tattoos are being judged by others.
In the United States, about 1 in 9 people with one or more tattoos remove at least one of them. With nearly 1 in 3 Americans tattooed – more than 100 million people – it’s not hard to see how not alone you are. There is no stigma associated with removing an unwanted mark on your body. It’s entirely your decision.
Get Expert Results
If you’re anxious to be rid of a tattoo, or even if you’re not sure and just want to learn more, contact us today at The Dermatology, Laser & Vein Center in Cincinnati, OH.