Ask The Plastic Surgeon: Can A Laser Really Remove A Tattoo?

QUESTION: Can a Laser really remove a tattoo?

ANSWER: Yes, a laser can truly remove a tattoo.  However, the technology to do so and the science behind how it works is very sophisticated. Tattoos remain in the skin because they are made up of relatively large molecules of pigment located in the deeper portions of the dermis.  Each color pigment is associated with a light wavelength and that wavelength is dependent on the color of the ink.  Tattoo removal lasers can dial into the light wavelength associated with the ink color and then the laser fractionates or smashes those molecules into smaller particles that the body can now recognize.  The body can then remove the pigment molecules thereby removing the tattoo.  So, the laser doesn’t actually erase the tattoo but rather fractionates it so that your body can remove it. Fortunately, this process does not typically cause damage or scarring to the surrounding skin.

However, the amount of ink removed per treatment varies due to a number of issues;  everybody’s immune response is different and therefore the number of treatments vary among individuals with similar tattoos.  In addition, the type of ink used, the length of time present, the location on the body and the specific colors help to determine the estimated number of treatments required for complete removal.

Sometimes complete removal cannot be achieved even with multiple sessions.  Frequently, people chose to simply lighten an old tattoo with intentions of a making a “cover up” tattoo easier.  In any case, the quality of laser is important as well as the operators knowledge of skin anatomy, and laser technology.  This is a serious medical procedure and is subject to serious complications.  We highly recommend only allowing a plastic surgeon or other verified medical professional to perform this procedure. Family practice, internal medicine doctors, spa’s, ancillary staff, etc. who offer this treatment typically have very limited training in this area of medicine. Their “weekend certification” to offer these treatments does not equate to an effective and safe result, BUYER BEWARE!!

Are the treatments painful?

The treatments are mildly uncomfortable but only last several minutes depending on the size of the tattoo.  Topical numbing medication is applied to the area and the treatment is performed in the office with the patient awake.  The number of treatments vary but are typically spaced in 4 week intervals.  

For more information and a detailed estimate and consultation, Please call 352-556-5248 to schedule an appointment.