Q-switched lasers are the only really effective lasers for tattoo removal. These lasers penetrate deeply into the skin with minimal risk of scarring and pigmentation changes.
The Q-switched laser produces an intense focused beam of light into the pigment used in the tattoo. The pigment then absorbs the light energy which then causes the tattoo pigment to shatter into tiny particles. These tiny particles are then removed by the body.
Non-Q-switched lasers (such as IPLs) do not deliver intense focused light energy at the wavelength that is absorbed by the tattoo pigment. Hence, they are ineffective for removing tattoos and may damage the surrounding skin.
Is a Q-switched laser treatment suitable for all tattoos?
There are many different types of tattoos – professional, amateur and cosmetic – which may respond more or less effectively. Some pigments may not respond, some may turn black / brown and do not respond to further treatment.
You will need an assessment and a patch test to find out if you will respond.
How do I prepare for tattoo removal?
Avoid sun exposure for a few days before the treatment starts.
Is the treatment painful?
Laser tattoo removal can be painful.
Before treatment starts, we can numb the area with a local anaesthetic cream to make the treatment more comfortable.
What happens during the procedure?
Before any treatment a patch test is done 24 hours before a treatment.
A photograph is taken before treatment to monitor progress.
During the treatment, you will feel a stinging sensation, described as a stinging sensation like the flicking of an elastic band against the skin.
Treatments can take 5 minutes to 1 hour depending upon the size of the tattoo.
Antibacterial ointment is applied to the treated area after the procedure.
What are the side-effects?
- Irritated skin – this may last for up to 1 week depending upon the amount and depth of the pigment removed.
- Hyper-pigmentation – the skin may appear darker (especially if you are a darker skin type) in the treated area. These darker patches may eventually disappear.
- Hypo-pigmentation – the skin may appear paler (especially if you are a darker skin type) in the treated area. This is because the natural skin pigment (melanin) is also targeted by the laser. These lighter patches may or may not eventually disappear.
- Scarring – this is less likely to happen since the laser does not affect the surrounding skin tissue. Silicon scar reduction gel may be helpful.
What is the aftercare?
For 1-2 weeks after treatment:
- Wash and dry the treated area gently.
- Avoid UV exposure.
- Protect the skin with SPF50.
- Avoid strenuous exercise.
- Do not drink alcohol.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments you will need depend upon the type of tattoo (professional, amateur or cosmetic), size of the tattoo and the depth and type of pigment used.
You may need from 6-20 sessions at intervals of 8-10 weeks. The process could take over a year and even then, some traces of tattoo may still remain.