Laser treatments to remove tattoos.
Men seeking tattoo removal do so for a range of reasons including a change of circumstances or regret and in some cases, skin reaction to tattoo ink. Some simply want to fade a tattoo rather than entirely remove it so they can replace it with a different design. This is called remodelling and is becoming an increasingly common request.
We know when men want to have a tattoo removed their 2 main questions are how many treatments will it take and what is the cost. We have been performing laser tattoo removal for over 20 years and experience has taught us results are unpredictable, as we are dealing with a lot of unknowns with the tattoo ink and with an individual’s metabolism, and this needs to be honestly explained. What we do know is the best result, with the lowest risk of scarring, is achieved with experienced University qualified practitioners using a range of high quality lasers in a clean and professional medical clinic environment.
Laser Tattoo removal is the process of removing tattoo ink with laser technology, and it generally requires multiple treatments over months. Different types of lasers target different colours and types of tattoo ink, so for the best results in removing tattoos a number of different lasers are usually needed. The most recent advance in laser tattoo removal technology is the use of picosecond lasers and the most established of these is the PICOSURE. It’s designed to pulse for fractions of a second (in the picosecond range) causing a sound wave effect that shatters the tattoo pigments.
In addition to the introduction of picosecond lasers, there have also been advances in treatment protocols that combine the use of fractional lasers with picosecond lasers and the use of multiple pass techniques rather than older single pass protocols.
Laser tattoo removal has evolved over the years with recent advances significantly improving the results in terms of faster clearance and a reduced risk of scarring.
All tattoo ink colours can be treated with laser tattoo removal. However, the response varies depending on the type of ink used.
The number of treatments varies with the type of ink used (in particular the size of the ink particles), how much ink was used and how deep the ink was inserted. There are factors related to an individual patient’s immune system and how quickly it can clear broken down ink particles.
It also varies with the level of clearance wanted.
There is no regulation on what is in tattoo ink and how tattoo inks are made, so the response to laser can be unpredictable. As a guide, expect a tattoo can be removed in about 10 treatments, and less if you want remodelling.
The cost depends on the type of laser being used, the size of the tattoo being treated, and whether anaesthetic is needed. In a medical laser clinic with an experienced medical doctor performing the procedure expect the cost to start at $150 per treatment. For larger tattoos about the size of an A4 sheet of paper expect the price to be around $350 per treatment.
Tattoo removal is unregulated in Victoria. There are no regulatory controls on who can do the procedure, where it can be done or the standard of equipment that is used. The safest and most reliable results in laser tattoo removal are obtained when an experienced medical doctor in a medical clinic using medical grade lasers performs the procedure.
At the Collins Cosmetic Clinic we have been performing laser tattoo removal for over 20 years. All laser tattoo removal treatments are performed by medical practitioners who in addition to their medical degree have extensive post-graduate training in laser procedures. Laser tattoo removal is performed in our accredited medical practice, and a range of the latest medical grade lasers are available including the REVLITE Q Switch laser, the SINON Q Switch laser and the PICOSURE laser.
Laser tattoo removal is a safe procedure when performed correctly, but skin damage, infection, and scarring can occur mainly when unqualified operators use cheap equipment.
The lasers used are Class 4 lasers and as such, have the potential to cause eye damage and the laser operator, and the patient must wear specialised eyewear.
Immediately after treatment, blistering and crusting can occur, and if the proper wound care is not undertaken, then infection and even scarring can occur. Pigment change, either the loss of pigment (hypopigmentation) or an increase in pigment (hyperpigmentation) can occur after treatment, and these can be long-lasting, especially in darker skin types.
When a laser shatters tattoo ink, as well as smaller tattoo pigment particles being created, unknown decomposition products and other new compounds can also develop. Allergic reactions have been reported as these various particles are removed from the skin via blood vessels and the lymphatic system. These allergic reactions can appear as small localised itchy lumps, but rarely can be a generalised systemic allergic reaction that is severe enough to require medical treatment. Allergic reactions seem to occur mainly with red and yellow inks.
Most patients characterise the level of pain as more painful than getting the tattoo in the first place. With small tattoos, this is not usually a problem as the latest lasers can pulse at a high repetition rate, which means the removal process can be swift. Some areas, however, such as over bony areas like the ankle bone, or large areas like sleeves can be more sensitive and may require an anaesthetic. Because the PICOSURE doesn’t rely as much on the laser heating up the ink particles, much lower power settings can be used, typically half the power is required compared to Q-Switch nanosecond lasers. This has the dual advantage of being much less painful than Q-Switch lasers and also reduces the heat reaction in surrounding skin and hence a significantly reduced risk of pigmentation change and scarring.
Pain relief can be provided in a medical laser clinic if necessary, and this can range from chilled air, topical anaesthetic creams, or in some instances local anaesthetic injections or anaesthetic inhaler.
The latest development in laser tattoo removal is the Picosecond Laser, which delivers laser pulses in ultrashort pulses (much shorter than nanosecond Q-Switch lasers) to more effectively shatter tattoo pigment. The PICOSURE is particularly useful in green and blue tattoos, which are typically otherwise difficult to remove. The PICOSURE is also very useful in clearing up residual tattoos that have stopped responding to Q-Switch laser treatments. At the Cosmetic and Laser Medical Centre, we have been using the PICOSURE laser since it was released in Australia in 2013.
It is best not to be tanned in the area of the tattoo, so if necessary avoid sun exposure for at least 2 weeks before having laser treatment. Topical anaesthetic (EMLA) that is available from pharmacies can be used to reduce discomfort and should be applied 60 minutes before treatment with glad wrap over the top.
A dressing is applied after treatment with an anti-inflammatory cream and should remain in place for 48 hours if possible. A cold pack after treatment can help reduce discomfort. Wound care is very important especially in the first week.
Infection is rare after laser tattoo removal but if redness develops use BEPANTHEN cream and if area becomes painful or pus develops this indicates infection and you need to be reviewed for possible antibiotics.
Before and after images are presented purely as a reference point of the results that can be achieved. Everyone is unique and outcomes will vary and realistic expectations need to be discussed on a case by case basis.
Got questions? Or ready to book in? Contact our experienced and friendly team to start your journey to healthy skin with us.