What to expect from laser tattoo removal
There are a lot of things you need to factor in to your decision when you are considering whether laser tattoo removal is for you. If you’re reading this, chances are you are living with some sort of tattoo regret. Here is a beginners guide help if this is the correct treatment pathway for you. Included, is also a list of common side effects experienced after laser tattoo removal, so you know exactly what to expect and don’t get any nasty surprises if the area blisters and swells (totally normal!)
1. Set your expectations
Treatment is successful on nearly all patients, but individual results cannot be guaranteed. During our free consultations we give you an honest assessment of what you can expect. For example, black, blue and red inks react particularly well to the laser, while some lighter inks like aqua and yellow may be a little more resistant. Different inks, types of tattoos (professional or amateur), location, skin type and age of the tattoo will all affect the end result, as well your general overall health.
2. Getting the tattoo removed is more expensive than getting the tattoo put on
A lot of people are surprised by just how much laser tattoo removal can cost. The laser used for tattoo removal is a highly specialised piece of equipment, and a single session cam cost up to £200 a session.
3. One treatment is not enough
Sorry, but one treatment just won’t be enough! Even with the best machines that we have invested in on average, it takes 2-4 sessions to start to fade a tattoo so it is light enough for a cover, and between 6-12 sessions for complete removal. We would not expect any movement after 1-2 session. We assess each tattoo during the initial consultation to give you an estimate of the number of sessions, however we cannot predict exactly how many sessions it will take. Your overall health and how well your body responds to the laser treatments plays a vital role in determining how many sessions it will take. The location of the tattoo also plays a big role in how quickly it fades. Feet and hands are notoriously hard, because of their distance from the heart – the closer the tattoo is to the heart, the better the circulation, and therefore the quicker you will see results. Also the skin on our hands and feet is very thick and need more energy of laser to penetrate to the deeper layers of skin.
4. Laser tattoo removal can be painful
For most people there is an element of discomfort involved with each laser session. We’ve invested in a cry cooler and this machines blows freezing air out and when aimed at the skin will cause cooling so that the discomfort is reduced. This really helps and we are surprised that so few clinics use this method. We have the luxury at Wales Laser Clinic of the clinic being overseen by Dr Alun Davies and working at the clinic we have 3 nurses. We are therefore able to prescribe prescription medication to help with pain relief. The most common form of pain relief is a topical anaesthetic. This is a cream that numbs the skin and can take the edge of the discomfort.
5. The tattoo will turn white during the treatment
We call this ‘frosting’ – it is caused by carbon dioxide being released as a result of laser penetration and surfaces on the upper layer of the skin. This reaction indicates that the laser is penetrating the ink effectively, and also shows that your body is reacting and healing quickly. The white frosting is always evident during the first treatment, but once more ink gets removed from further sessions it won’t appear as much.
6. After the session these are the most common side effects:
Swelling is normal and can spread beyond the lasered area, and can be reduced by elevating the area and resting. Icing the area can also help to alleviate the swelling, just ensure you wrap the ice pack in a cloth and don’t leave it on for more than 5 minutes at a time to avoid freeze burn.
Redness usually occurs immediately after a treatment and can last for up to 72 hours.(Note: it can last longer on some people. If you are concerned, you should contact the clinic where you got the treatment or your doctor.) Minimal to moderate pin point bleeding can occur directly after treatments and is mostly bleeding that is within the skin. Redness will usually be accompanied by tenderness of the area. It will feel similar to a sunburn, and should be treated like one. You can use an after sun cream or aloe vera to help the heeling process.
Blistering is very common, especially on newer tattoos, and ones that are ink heavy. It is also extremely common in people who have sensitive skin. It will look like a bubble on the top layer of the skin, and can occur both where the laser treatment has been done and in the surrounding areas. It is recommended that you do not pop the blisters, as they are protecting the skin underneath, and stop infections from happening. If you pop the blisters, the area can get infected. The blisters contain both water and the ink, and so they often take on the colour of the tattoo, which can be alarming if you are not expecting it. They might not look pretty, but they are an excellent sign that the healing process has begun.
Itching is super common and you should avoid the urge the scratch it, as this can cause scarring. If it is really bad, you can take an over the counter antihistamine to help alleviate the discomfort but the best thing to do is apply an emollient / moisturiser with aloe vera which will help keep the skin cool and moist.
Scabbing and crusting usually happen once the blisters subside, however if you did not get any blisters, this can occur not long after the treatment. The crusting can make the ink look darker, which alarms a lot of people as they think it means the treatment has not been effective. Do not pick or scratch any scabs as this can cause scarring. Trust that your body is doing it’s thing to flush out the shattered ink particles.
Bruising can occur in people who bruise easily, but is also dependent on the location of the tattoo. If you bruised when you got the tattoo, then there is a very fair chance that you will bruise after your laser session. If the area is bruised it will probably be tender to touch, and you should avoid any strenuous activity which may impact the area.
An infected area will be swollen and crusted and will be oozing with discharge that is not from a blister but from a deeper lesion within the skin that doesn’t seem to be getting better, it will hurt and redness will still be visible or even spread. If you think you have an infection, contact the clinic or your own GP where you can be assessed.
During your initial consultation at Wales Laser Clinic or at another clinic, you will be talked through all the possible side effects as well as what to expect. Be sure to ask lots of questions during your consultation, as it is not only there to develop a treatment and pricing plan, but also for you to find out everything about the process.
If you are still keen to get that tattoo removed then give us a call 01633214674