It’s easy to subscribe to the idea that tattoos are permanent. After all, the process involves depositing ink into the layers of your skin. But that ink is actually rather easily removable. If you have an old tattoo that you no longer want, know that you can effectively erase that tattoo at Still Waters Day & Medical Spa, located in Pensacola, FL. You don’t have to live forever with that unwanted ink – get rid of it today by making an appointment for laser tattoo removal.
How Long Does It Take to Get Laser Tattoo Removal?
Although tattoos can be easily and effectively removed, doing so does take some time. When you first have a consultation at Still Waters Day & Medical Spa, we will give you an estimate of how long we think your tattoo will take to be fully removed.
It’s important to remember, however, that this is only an estimate; the length of time it takes depends on many individual factors. For most individuals, tattoos take anywhere from 6 to 10 sessions to fully remove, and these sessions are scheduled 6 to 8 weeks apart.
Let’s review some of the individual factors that can affect how long removing your tattoo will take.
Laser removal works to get rid of ink particles buried within layers of the skin. To do this, the laser needs to target the ink, but not the skin. The laser does this, in part, by targeting the colors of the tattoo; this is best accomplished when there is greater contrast between the ink and the skin.
That means that the lighter your skin tone is, the more easily the tattoo can be removed. Not to worry, though – tattoos are still effectively removed from darker skin tones, it just takes a little bit longer.
The location of your tattoo also affects how quickly it can be removed. Generally, the closer the tattoo is to your heart, the more quickly and effectively it can be removed. Furthermore, areas of the body that have high lymph node count, like the face and neck, chest, and upper back and arms, are the easiest places to remove tattoos from. The lower down on the body the tattoo is, the less blood and lymph nodes there are, and the longer it will take to remove.
Most tattoo artists mix their own inks to create the perfect pigment. There are many different types of ink that host different compounds. Some compounds are more receptive to laser removal than others, and can therefore influence the rate at which the tattoo is removed.
How well you care for your tattoo after you get it, and how well it heals, also affects how quickly and effectively your laser removal process will go. When you get a tattoo, your skin is repeatedly being punctured by a needle. If you don’t care properly for your tattoo after you receive it, scar tissue is more likely to form. Removing a tattoo from scar tissue can make the process more difficult and can force it to take longer.
Age of Tattoo
Over time, tattoos tend to degrade and sink into the skin. Removing an older, faded tattoo, generally takes less time than removing newer tattoos.
Depth of Ink
When you get a tattoo, the ink is deposited at different layers within the skin. When your tattoo is professionally done, the ink tends to be deposited more deeply within the skin. This helps your tattoo look bolder, but it also means that the tattoo will take a bit longer to remove than a stick-and-poke or other amateur tattoo.
Size of Tattoo
The size of your unwanted ink is one of the biggest factors in how long it will take for your tattoo to be fully removed. Obviously, the smaller your tattoo, the more quickly it will be removed.
Color of Ink
It seems to make sense that lighter colors of ink would be removed more easily than darker colors. However, this isn’t the case. Because laser removal works best when there is a distinct contrast between the shades of ink and skin, dark ink on light skin is the easiest to remove. Light-colored ink, such as yellows, greens, and blues, is more difficult to remove. There was a time when it was near impossible to remove, but with the advancement of lasers, it simply takes longer.
After each laser removal session, your body does the work of getting rid of all the shattered ink particles. Your immune system uses macrophages, cells that eat and destroy foreign bodies, to remove the destroyed ink particles and process them out of the body through lymph nodes. If you have a healthy immune system, this process will occur more quickly than if your immune system is weak.
Smoking easily reduces the effectiveness of your tattoo removal. Smoking reduces the chances of successfully removing your tattoo by 70% over a ten-session period. Over 20 sessions, that number halves to 35%. If you want to have your tattoo removed successfully and more importantly, quickly, you need to stop smoking before you start having removal sessions.
If your skin is sunburned, you can’t undergo laser treatment. And if you have a recent tan, the tattoo will be more difficult to remove. If you’re planning to have a tattoo removed, you should stay out of the sun before, during, and after your treatments. If you can’t avoid the sun, fully cover the area that is being treated.
How Does Laser Removal Work?
During a laser removal session, one of our practitioners will guide a laser over the area of your body where the tattoo is placed. The lasers used during this treatment don’t produce a continuous beam of light, like many of the lasers we are familiar with. Rather, these lasers produce very quick pulses of light energy.
Each pulse of light penetrates through the skin and is absorbed by the ink particles. When the ink particles absorb the light energy, they shatter into tiny ink fragments. Once the ink particles are shattered into fragments, they are small enough to be removed from the area by the immune system’s macrophages.
The Importance of Q-Switching Lasers
Q-switched lasers are a special type of laser that releases powerful pulses of energy that typically only last a few nanoseconds. Once the light energy is absorbed into the ink particle, it is converted into heat energy. This extremely fast pulse allows the energy to be absorbed by the ink particles without doing damage to the much larger skin cells. The pulse of energy is actually so fast that only part of the ink particle absorbs the energy, and the opposing hot and cool forces within the ink particle tear it apart.
At Still Waters Day & Medical Spa, we use a technologically advanced q-switching laser called the PiQo4. It utilizes both nano and pico energies to give you the most powerful tattoo removal system around. It allows the practitioner to choose the length of the laser pulses so they can remove tattoos more efficiently than with other systems.
Targeting Tattoo Ink
In order for the laser removal process to work, the ink particles have to absorb the light energy. You probably remember a bit about reflection and absorption of the light spectrum from grade school. We know that visibly white light holds within it all the colors of the rainbow; you can see the spectrum when the white light is broken up by a prism. When you look at an object that is visibly green, that’s because that object absorbs all the different wavelengths of color in the light spectrum, except for green; rather, it reflects the green light.
Green tattoo ink, therefore, wouldn’t absorb visibly green laser light; it’s best targeted by a visibly red wavelength. The PiQo4 offers four different wavelengths of visible light to effectively target and remove the most popular ink colors from your skin.
The Immune System’s Work
Once the ink particles are shattered into smaller fragments, they are small enough for your immune system to effectively grab onto and move to the nearest lymph node to be flushed from your system. This process, however, takes some time, which is why it’s important that you wait 6 to 8 weeks between laser tattoo removal sessions.
If you have another laser removal session before the already fragmented ink particles have been removed from the area, it won’t be helpful. When you have a session, the light emitted from the laser is only able to reach the most shallowly deposited ink particles. Only once the more shallow ink particles have been removed from the area can the deeper ones be shattered.
What Can You Expect From the Process?
When you come into Still Waters Day & Medical Spa for tattoo removal, we’ll give you a pair of glasses to protect your eyes from the laser. We’ll also apply some anesthetic to the area being treated to ensure that you are comfortable throughout the process.
For the first several days after your treatment, you’ll want to keep the area hydrated with a layer of antibiotic healing ointment. Keep it bandaged with sterilized gauze and refrain from putting any other creams or makeup to the area that has been treated. After three days, the bandage can be removed, but you’ll still want to keep the area as clean and dry as you can. At this point, you can moisturize the area with Aquaphor or vaseline. Vitamin E can also be helpful, as it helps to restore damaged skin cells. Whenever you go outside in the sun, wear a sunblock of at least SPF25+.
You can shower once you remove your bandage to keep the treatment area clean. You should make sure you are gentle with the treatment area and use mild soap. You will want to avoid high-pressure water and pat the area dry. You shouldn’t soak the area until it is completely healed, so you will want to avoid baths, swimming pools, and hot tubs as this can impede the healing process.
Let Us Help You Be Rid of the Ink
Whether you want to get rid of an ex’s name that you regret marking permanently on your skin, or there’s an old lyric or design that no longer resonates with you, you shouldn’t have to live with the past written on your skin. With laser tattoo removal at Still Waters Day & Medical Spa, you can erase your unwanted tattoos and free yourself from the past.
You deserve to feel the confidence that clear skin can give you; you deserve to move forward with your life without being held back by your past choices and old ink. For any questions, or to schedule a laser tattoo removal consultation, give us a call at Still Waters Day & Medical Spa, located in Pensacola, FL.