How does the laser work?
Tattoo ink particles are too large for the body’s immune system to remove naturally. Following injection of a tattoo pigment into the lower layer of the skin (dermis), the ink is locked away by a wall of collagen and scar tissue
Q-switched lasers produce very short pulses of ultra high energy laser light. The light is absorbed by the large ink particles, generating heat that shatters the tattoo pigment into tiny particles which the body is able to successfully remove. Because the laser energy is selectively absorbed by the tattoo ink, collateral damage to the surrounding skin is minimal.
What happens during consultation?
Initially a full medical history is taken to exclude any contraindications to laser tattoo removal.
Then, 6 main considerations are explored in detail by the laser operator.
1) The patients skin type is assessed according to the Fitzpatrick Classification. This is important because as the skin type darkens, longer laser wavelengths are required to ensure minimal energy absorption by melanin. For Fitzpatrick Skin Types IV – VI we recommend the use of a Q switched
Nd Yag 1064nm laser with gentle settings and additional skin cooling to reducing the risk of pigmentation disturbance.
2) The size of the tattoo is assessed in detail enabling accurate pricing. In general the larger the tattoo the greater the work required and hence the higher the price per session.
3) The colours of ink used within the tattoo will often determine the complexity of removal, as multi-coloured tattoos usually require the use of multiple laser wavelengths for optimal results.
4) The age of the tattoo may be a significant factor in determining the ease of the removal process.
Untreated tattoos tend to naturally fade and slowly blur over time as tattoo ink tends to sink deeper into the dermis and the body’s immune system attempts to remove the untreated tattoo. In general, an older tattoo will take fewer sessions to remove than a new tattoo.
Immediately following tattooing, injected ink has not yet completely migrated into the lower layer of the skin (dermis) As a result, a large amount of ink resides within the top layer of the skin (epidermis) and hence laser treatment can result in overheating and unwanted blistering. It is generally recommended to leave at least 6 weeks duration between tattooing and laser treatment of that tattoo.
5) The location of the tattoo is a significant factor and often tattoos in areas of the body that have excellent blood supply and lymphatic drainage respond more rapidly to laser treatment. In general, the closer the tattoo is to the heart the easier the tattoo removal process. Tattoos located on the upper arm, chest or neck usually respond more quickly to laser treatment than those on the ankles and feet.
6) The removal of a professional tattoo (performed using a tattoo gun usually in a tattoo studio) is generally more complex and time consuming than an amateur tattoo (performed using Indian ink and a needle often at home) Professional tattoos consist of various coloured pigments that are of high ink density injected at a uniform depth of approximately 1mm in the dermis of the skin. Amateur tattoos are performed using a needle dipped into ink and inserted into the skin. The depth and density of the ink is usually less.
How many treatments are required to remove a tattoo?
Amateur tattoos generally require 3 to 5 treatment sessions spaced at monthly intervals.
Professional tattoos generally require 8 to 12 treatment sessions spaced at monthly intervals.
What are the costs likely to be?
The cost of each laser session depends on 2 main factors including:
- the size of the tattoo
- the number of laser wavelength changes required for optimal removal of multi-coloured tattoos
The total cost of the tattoo removal depends on the number of treatment sessions required and this varies considerably
Do all tattoos respond to treatment?
In the majority of cases we are able to remove most tattoos. No one laser can remove all types of tattoo ink; this is why we use 3 different primary wavelength lasers on site to ensure optimal results.
How long does it take and does it hurt?
Typical treatment sessions last between 5 and 40 minutes depending on the size of the tattoo.
The lasers do cause discomfort during treatment, similar to being “snapped” with a rubber band. Most patients equate the pain of tattoo removal with the pain of getting the tattoo. Some areas are more sensitive than others, such as ankles and the shoulder blade. The pain tends to decrease as treatment progresses and the tattoo ink fades.
Skin cooling using forced cold air reduces discomfort significantly
Most patients tolerate the pain during treatment very well, but a local anaesthetic is available if required.
Are there any after-effects following treatment?
Redness and swelling may occur, similar to sunburn. This settles within days. Some patients may develop blistering, which is quite normal and does not indicate potential scarring. Blistering does not require treatment and will usually settle within days.
The treated area should not be exposed to strong sunlight between sessions without the use of sunblock (SPF 30).
Does the treatment scar?
Our lasers are actively Q-switched, this means the lasers deliver high power in a very short pulse (billionths of a second!) ensuring there is normally no lasting damage to the skin. Very occasionally, mild changes in skin texture may occur.
Will the skin be normal when the treatment is finished?
For all skin types both tattoo ink and the skin pigment melanin absorb laser light. This can result in the skin appearing paler (de-pigmented) or rarely darker (hyper-pigmented) during the treatment process. These changes are not usually permanent and the skin colour usually returns to normal within months.
Darker skinned patients often notice some lightening of the skin (de-pigmentation) This usually returns to normal in 6 to 18 months.
We tend to recommend Nd Yag 1064nm Q switched lasers for the treatment of darker skinned patients as the risk of pigment change is less.
Who performs the treatment?
Our expert medical team has in excess of 25 years laser experience and have completed more than 120,000 successful treatments. Rest assured you are in safe hands. All procedures at our Cambridge Laser Clinic are performed by fully qualified doctors, nurses and practitioners.
To ensure the highest ethical standards are maintained at all times, our staff are never offered bonus incentives to sell treatments.
Is laser treatment safe?
There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the treatment can lead to skin disorders or an increased risk of cancer. Although medical laser clinics are no longer regulated by the CQC (Care Quality Commission), we continue to adhere to the strict standards that were in the past mandatory under government legislation. This is the best indicator currently available that our Cambridge Laser Clinic is trustworthy.
Our lasers are cleared by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have full CE clearance for Europe.