The age of tattoo removals is likely just a few years younger than the age of tattoos themselves. Fortunately, advances in modern medicine such as laser tattoo removal have drastically improved upon the barbaric methods of tattoo removal used in the past. Here at Seattle Plastic Surgery, we are proud to offer state-of-the-art laser tattoo removals in our Seattle plastic surgery facility using our custom-made Nd:YAG Q-Switched laser tattoo removal machine. And yes, we know that’s a mouthful. For those only interested in a quick read- laser tattoo removal is the only method of tattoo removal with almost zero risk of scarring and our laser is the best laser tattoo removal device available. We would be happy to schedule you for a consultation at your convenience in our private office.
The video to the right is a clip of a first time patient’s first treatment demonstrating our laser’s effectiveness.
How does laser tattoo removal work?
To explain the laser tattoo removal process, we first need to have an understanding of the science behind tattoos. The tattoo process involves the injection of inks containing pigments comprised of heavy metals underneath our outermost layer of skin. As the tattoo heals, the ink stays at the injection sites because the individual ink particles are too large for our bodies to carry them away.
The Science of Laser Tattoo Removal
White blood cells in our bodies are responsible for the removal of foreign invaders within us, tattoo inks included. These cells work by “eating” any invaders and carrying them away to be flushed from our bodies. If you were to look at a tattoo under a microscope, you would see that the individual ink particles are significantly larger than the size of the white blood cells around them. By analogy, the white blood cells cannot eat the ink particles just as we could not eat an entire pineapple in one bite. To eat the pineapple, we first have to cut it into pieces. For our white blood cells to eat the tattoo ink, we have to “cut” the particles into bite sized pieces for them.
That’s where the laser comes in. Tattoo removal lasers work by targeting the ink particles with incredibly powerful bursts of energy, but only for a billionth, or even a trillionth of a second. The energy from these beams is so powerful that it literally causes the microscopic metals used to color the ink to shatter into even smaller pieces. These pieces are now small enough for our hungry white blood cells to eat and carry them away. The illustration below provides a useful depiction of this process for those more visually-inclined.
The overwhelming majority of individuals require multiple sessions spaced six to twelve weeks apart to ensure all the ink particles get broken down and flushed. After all required laser tattoo removal sessions at our private plastic surgery office in Seattle, WA it will be close to impossible for anybody to ever even know there was once a tattoo.
Who is a good candidate for laser tattoo removal?
In short, anybody with a tattoo they no longer want.
It is estimated that 45 million American currently have a tattoo, 36% of whom are 18-25 and 40% are 26-40. The statistics show that the overwhelming majority of individuals with tattoos received them in their younger years, with the average age of laser tattoo removal candidates at just 29 years old. The fact is, we all change over time. Our individual styles and attitudes change, partners become former partners, employment concerns may arise, tattoos fade over time and sometimes individuals simply just don’t want a particular tattoo any longer.
The majority of our laser tattoo removal patients are from Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland and the Greater Puget Sound Area. You should not be pregnant and should be in relatively good health, with realistic expectations and no skin cancers or recent wounds to the tattoo area and its immediate vicinity.
How much does laser tattoo removal cost?
The cost of your laser tattoo removal is going to depend on a number of variables including:
The number of treatments required for removal. It usually takes 4+ sessions.
The size of the tattoo. Larger tattoos take longer to remove.
The depth of the ink. Deeper inks are more resilient.
The colors of the tattoo. Some colors are harder to break down.
The age of the tattoo. Inks break down on their own over time, with older ink typically easier to remove than newer ink.
The composition of the ink itself. Some brands of ink break down easier than others.
Your body’s overall health. Healthier individuals have stronger immune systems and can process the broken-down ink particles quicker.
Laser tattoo removal is a very safe procedure, with decades of research on its safety and efficacy. While the lasers used for tattoo removals emit incredibly powerful bursts of energy, we don’t receive permanent damage because our skin receives such short individual bursts at a time. The bursts are just long enough to break up microscopic pigments without causing scarring. By analogy, we won’t get burned if we briefly pass our fingers over a flame. However, we do if we hold our fingers over the flame for longer than a brief pass. It’s the same thing with tattoo removal lasers.
Does laser tattoo removal hurt?
The overwhelming majority of patients report a mild burning sensation at the site of the treatment. You can apply a numbing agent 30 minutes prior to the treatment if you are particularly sensitive to pain.
What should I do to prepare for my appointment?
To prepare for your laser tattoo removal session, we ask that you:
Avoid sun exposure at the tattoo site for at least 4 weeks prior.
Avoid exposure to any harsh chemicals or products for 2 weeks prior.
Discontinue taking any photosensitizing medication for at least 6 months prior.
Shave all hairs and clean your skin of all soaps and lotions immediately before your session.
What should I do after a removal session?
You may notice a “frosting” appearance at the site of the treatment immediately after your session. This is perfectly normal and is caused by tiny gas bubbles forming as a result of the high energy beam. Some patients may experience minor burning, swelling, redness and blistering for the first week. We will give you specific care instructions at each session, which include:
Keeping the treatment area covered with sterile bandages and protected with a thin layer of antibiotic ointment for the first week. Do not pick any blisters or scabs; this could cause scarring.
You may apply cold compresses if you experience any swelling.
You may resume showering 2 hours after treatment, but avoid water pressure directly to the treatment site. Do not submerge until healed, to avoid infections.
Wear SPF 25+ sunscreen for 3 months after treatment.
Avoid lotion and makeup to the treatment area for 2 days after your session.
Full healing is usually complete within a few weeks of treatment.
DISCLAIMER- results may not be typical. Photographs may have been modified and edited, including but not limited to, changing tattoos, scars, body (or body part) size, implant position, implant size, nipple position, nipple size and other body morphology.