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Skin Problems

TATTOO REMOVAL - a patient's guide


This article looks at laser treatment to remove tattoos without scarring. It discusses the effectiveness of removing certain dyes and how many treatments may be necessary.

tattoo removal

Scar-free removal of tattoos

All previous methods of tattoo removal have involved cutting or branding or burning the skin - often producing ugly scars.

The new unique laser treatment with the Q-switched YAG laser fades the tattoo from the skin without scarring.

How does it work?

This new laser removes tattoo pigment by producing powerful bursts of light which pass harmlessly through the skin and are absorbed into the pigment.

The rapid absorption of the powerful burst of light by the pigment causes it to shatter into very tiny pieces. The body is then able to use scavenger cells to remove the pieces from the skin.

What is involved?

An initial consultation will be needed, to evaluate your tattoo. Should YAG laser treatment be appropriate, the laser will be traced over your tattoo, to cover it with a rapid series of laser light pulses. A typical treatment session lasts 15 to 30 minutes.

Does it hurt?

The laser pulses feel like a series of rubber-band flicks against the skin. Most often this is well tolerated without any local anaesthetic.

What do I see?

The tattoo-containing skin will swell a little, immediately after treatment. This soon settles. The tattoo slowly fades over the next 4 weeks, as the body's filtering systems remove the shattered pigment.

How many treatments are needed?

This depends upon the amount and depth of the tattoo pigment. Amateur tattoos usually need only 2 to 4 treatments, each a month apart, while professional tattoos may need 6 to 8 treatment sessions, sometimes more.

Will the tattoo disappear completely?

In many cases, yes! Blue-black and red tattoos respond best, while green is slower to fade and may need further treatments.

Some tattoo pigment lies so deep in the skin that it is impossible to remove it completely, although significant fading is possible.

Can I undertake normal activities after treatment?

Yes. Apart from possibly using a light dressing for 48 hours after treatment, the treated body part needs no special care.

Does it leave a scar?

No! The risk of scarring with the YAG laser treatment is very small. However, no guarantee can be given that absolutely no scarring will result.

What will it cost?

The cost is comparable to other methods of tattoo removal with the additional benefit of a scar-free result. However, the total cost depends upon how large your tattoo is and how many treatments will be required to remove it. This can only be assessed at the time of the initial consultation.

What about birth marks and sun spots?

The new laser is also able to fade and remove certain types of brown pigmented birth marks. It will also remove various types of sun-induced brown skin blemishes, such as freckles and "liver spots".

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