Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?

Most people flock towards laser tattoo removal in hopes of the complete removal of an unwanted tattoo. In laser tattoo removal, the doctor removes the tattoo with a high-intensity laser beam, which selectively targets the tattoo’s pigmented ink.

The science behind tattoo removal is constantly changing and updating as new technology becomes available.

Many doctors claim that laser removal is preferable to all other types of tattoo removal because lasers offer maximum removal with minimal scarring and other side effects. Lasers have become the standard treatment because they offer a “bloodless,” low risk, highly effective approach with minimal side effects.

Doctors will vary the type of laser used depending upon the pigment colours in the tattoo. In many cases, multiple treatments may be required in order to remove a single tattoo and different lasers may need to be used to target different colours in the tattoo.

With the Neatcell Laser Pen, you can also remove tattoos at home using lasers. The Neatcell Picosecond Pen uses laser technology to break down the ink particles in your tattoo into smaller particles, similar to traditional laser tattoo removal. The body will remove these particles from the skin immediately after they break down.

How Do Lasers Work?

Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers work by producing an intense, unidirectional beam of light that can cut, seal or destroy the skin’s tissue. 

The intensity and pulse duration of the laser’s wavelength of light can be controlled by the technician performing the procedure, and therefore, the laser’s power can be strengthened or weakened depending on the needs of the patient and can be varied according to the composition of the tattoo. 

Lasers are able to produce one color of light, or wavelength, that can be controlled to produce a certain intensity and pulse duration. Lasers are different than ordinary light, which is composed of a variety of colors and appears white.

Doctors are able to vary the wavelength and power output of the laser in order to apply it to a variety of medical uses, including tattoo removal. The light energy of the laser is absorbed by the pigments in the skin’s tissue, including the tattoo pigments. By using special wavelengths of light, a doctor is able to direct the laser to affect only the tattooed pigments in a person’s skin. 

The tattoo absorbs the light, which then breaks up the tattoo ink particles. The body reabsorbs the tattoo ink particles, and then expels them through the blood stream. The effectiveness of the laser will depend, in part, on the colors of the tattoo—with black being the easiest color, in general, to remove. Other ink colors, such as green, are far more difficult for the laser to target.

One of the most wonderful (and frustrating) aspects of laser tattoo removal is that the technology is constantly changing, updating, and improving. The lasers that are used today may very well become obsolete when new, better technology comes on the market. 

Because new improvements and techniques are constantly emerging, it is vital that you make sure that the care you receive is up-to-date and that your doctor is trained in the latest form of tattoo removal.

Selecting a doctor who studies new advances in tattoo removal will ensure that you receive the best treatment possible, thereby making the results the best that they can be, too. The information in this article is not a substitute for information you receive from your doctor, nor is it an in-depth scientific analysis of laser technology. 

Use this as a jumping off point in your own research on lasers, and as a way to better understand the terminology that doctors and laser technicians throw around when they’re speaking to you!

Q-switched lasers use an intense beam of light to progressively lighten the tattoo, ultimately fading it to the point of removal. Theses lasers work by selecting the ink of the tattoo without harming the body’s surrounding cells, thereby leaving healthy non-tattooed areas untouched. Their light energy may be delivered in intense pulses of light, or as continuous waves. 

The Q-switched laser works by allowing light to be absorbed by the tattoo, which then breaks up the ink particles into small fragments.

The body’s natural cleansing mechanism then absorbs the ink particles into the blood stream. The process of absorbing the ink particles will take between several weeks to several months. 

For this reason, doctors will often request that patients space their laser tattoo removal treatments at least a month apart— sometimes longer. Most people I have talked to have said that the longer you wait in between sessions, the better the result will be. 

Most of the people I surveyed agreed that waiting at least two or three months between laser treatments will result in optimal fading of the tattoo and will cause the least amount of trauma to the skin. This means that you can receive better results with fewer treatments and end up with less scarring by taking a more conservative and slower approach.

There are currently three types of Q-switched lasers used for tattoo removal. The Q-switched Ruby laser emits a red light, the Q-switched Alexandrite laser emits a purplish red light, and the Q-switched Yag laser emits an infrared and green light. 

Doctors use these three different types of lasers on tattoos of different colors, because the color of the ink in the tattoo determines which type of tattoo will be best suited to treat it.

There are also types of lasers that combine more than one wavelength into one machine, such as the VersaPulse laser. There are constantly new products and improved lasers emerging on the market, and that is why it is so important to talk to your doctor about the best course of treatment for your particular tattoo and to get a second (or third!) opinion if you feel at all uncomfortable with your doctor’s choice of treatment. 

Not all doctors are created equal and that is why it is so important to make sure that your doctor has access to the best and latest laser equipment available in tattoo removal.

Cost of Laser Tattoo Removal

Laser tattoo removal can be very costly, but the good news is that the price is decreasing as the demand for tattoo removal increases and the technology becomes less expensive.

Each laser removal center will have its own way of pricing tattoo removal. Most places base their cost on the size of the tattoo, with larger tattoos costing more to remove than smaller ones. Some doctors will charge a flat fee for removal and include all of the treatments in one flat rate. 

It is much more common, however, for doctors to charge for each individual treatment. Prices can range from $100 to over $1000 per treatment, depending on the size of the tattoo, your geographic location, how many colors are in your tattoo, and many other factors.

There are pluses and minuses to both flat and per session pricing structures. If a doctor offers a flat fee for removing the tattoo, that may save you money if the tattoo requires more treatments than estimated to achieve full removal. 

For example, if the doctor usually charges $300/treatment and he insists that he will remove the entire tattoo for $1800, this would begin to pay off if the tattoo requires more than six treatments to achieve removal.

However, flat-fee pricing also has its downside. For example, if you decide to terminate treatment, you may be stuck paying for the entire bill despite the fact that you received less than the full number of treatments. You may decide that you want to switch doctors, and by paying the full fee up-front, you may not feel the same freedom to start treatment somewhere else. 

There are many reasons to change doctors, including moving to a new place that is far from the doctor’s office. If your doctor does offer you the choice to pay for your entire treatment at once, it is important to weigh the costs and benefits before making your final decision. 

Discuss with your doctor the possibility of moving to a new location, or deciding to terminate treatment, and see what his response is. Perhaps he will be willing to work with you and allow you to receive some or all of your money back if you are dissatisfied with his services, or if you move to a new location.

Flat-fee pricing also has the potential downfall that if the doctor moves, retires, or goes out of business before your treatments are finished, you may be out of luck.

While this may happen only in rare instances, it is important to consider what will happen if the doctor decides to move offices or retires. You may be more dissatisfied with a half-faded tattoo than you were with your original artwork.

While many doctors who perform tattoo removal are reputable, some are not reliable. This is another reason why it is vital to research the doctor performing your procedure. Tattoo removal often takes years to fully accomplish. Knowing your doctor is going to be with you for the long-term is important, especially if he asks you to pay for the full removal up-front

The majority of doctors performing laser tattoo removal favor a “per treatment” pricing structure. Basically, the patient pays a set fee for each treatment, with no cap on how many treatments may be required for a full removal. 

This type of pricing structure gives the patient the freedom to leave his doctor at any time and to look around for other doctors who may have more advanced technology, or may offer lower prices. The downside, of course, is that you may end up paying for many more treatments than you first expected. Many doctors will quote that it usually takes between two and five treatments for complete removal of an amateur tattoo and between six and ten treatments for a professional tattoo.

My experience has been that the number of treatments required completely depends on the person, the skin tone, the color of the ink, the depth of the tattoo, and many other factors. One person I know had almost complete removal after four treatments. On the other hand, there are countless people I know of who are on their twelfth, fifteenth or eighteenth treatment and still have not achieved complete removal.

Figuring out what works for you requires talking to different doctors and assessing your tattoo—its size, location, and the quality of the tattoo. Not all tattoos are as easy to remove as others, so think long and hard about whether yo really want to go through the process if it is going to take longer than expected.

Once you begin the tattoo removal process, you cannot go back and have your original tattoo back. Your tattoo may end up looking much worse before it looks better, so think about how much money you are willing to invest in your removal before you start getting treatments.

Final Words

There are many products on the market purporting to easily remove tattoos that are not sanctioned by most doctors, and are risky, at best, in removing tattoos.

You can order these products on the internet, and all I can say is that the saying “Let the Buyer Beware” has never been truer than for the tattoo removal products you buy online. Mail order creams and products you apply by yourself are dubious—often times the companies have no real success stories to back up their claims and are simply preying on the desperation of people who want their tattoos removed quickly and cheaply. Sometimes the products deliver no result at all, and all you are left with is a lighter wallet.

However, in some circumstances, these products can have lasting detrimental effects on your skin and your overall health. If you decide to look into and buy a tattoo removal product you see on the internet, be very careful. Check with a doctor and get his or her opinion on the product. Look at the records of the Better Business Bureau and find out if any complaints have been lodged against the particular company. 

I have heard stories of people being scammed even in the case of a so-called “money-back guarantee.” When the customer tried to get their money back for a product that did not work, the company had no return address. The company was impossible to get in touch with, and ultimately, the customer lost a lot of time, money, and went through unnecessary pain.

My thoughts are that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Don’t waste your money supporting scam artists. Instead, do your homework first and only commit to spending your money on time-tested, approved products and procedures from reputable professionals.

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