All About Laser Tattoo Removal
Lasers have been developed in recent decades specifically to treat and remove marks from human skin. Laser treatment is now the standard method of removal for unwanted tattoos. Laser removal is low risk, non-invasive, and has a very low incidence of scarring (about 5%).

IPL – Intense Pulsed Light Therapy does not involve lasers, but the two processes are similar. IPL has been used to treat and remove irregularities in the skin such as birthmarks, hair, discolorations etc. The advantages of tattoo removal with IPL include the short recovery time (there is a no burning and very little sensitivity), and patients need to wait only 3-4 weeks between treatments. The greatest advantage is that most tattoos can be removed with only 3-4 sessions. The drawback is the expense - IPL can cost $10 and more per pulse.

The Process starts with a consultation with a dermatologist. Be sure to choose one who is experienced in the removal of tattoos. The practitioner can give you a good estimate of how many visits you may require and what end results you can expect based upon the size, age and color (or colors) of your tattoo. Remember, however, that the estimate may not be exact. There are around 100 different tattoo inks in use today, and some can be removed more easily than others.

The Pain of the laser pulse is most often compared to the sensation of having hot grease spattered on the skin, hair removed by extraction or to being repeatedly snapped with a rubber band. Some people don’t take anything against the pain, but the dermatologist can supply a topical skin cream that will numb the area, or even inject local anesthesia. You might also take an over the counter painkiller like acetaminophen (found in Tylenol®) prior to the procedure. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (found in Advil®) are not recommended, as they may result in bruising.

The Procedure usually lasts 15-30 minutes per session. It involves laser pulses passing through the epidermis of your skin and into the dermis, where the tattoo ink absorbs the light energy. Over the following three to six weeks, the skin naturally removes the ink, which has been fragmented by the laser energy. A low-grade inflammation may occur after each procedure; this has been compared to mild sunburn, and any discomfort usually passes within a few days. After the skin has rested and the immune system has done its job (usually after 4-8 weeks), the patient is ready for another visit to the dermatologist.

The Professionally applied tattoo may be easier to remove than an amateur tattoo, or it may be more difficult. A good tattoo artist will apply all of the ink evenly in the same level of the dermis, which makes removal more predictable. But the newer inks found in tattoo parlors may also be brighter and more difficult to remove. Black, blue and red inks are most responsive to lasers and easiest to remove. Tattoos with green and yellow inks are the most resistant. Old tattoos may be easier to remove than new ones, as the inks can fade over time.

The Price and the total time involved depends on the size, age, and color of the tattoo. Each laser removal session can cost from $200-$1500, depending upon your practitioner. Most insurance companies don’t cover tattoo removal, since it is considered a cosmetic procedure. Some tattoos can be removed in 6-8 sessions, while others may require 16-18 sessions spanning over two years or more. As you can see, the removal of a tattoo can be quite costly in money and in time, but it can be worth the expense.

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