Ingrid E. Trenkle, MD in Redlands, CA understands that sometimes the choices we make in a moment can have lasting impacts later in life. Laser tattoo removal is one of many offerings available to help remedy unfortunate situations that may arise when we still have old souvenirs on our skin that we’d like to leave behind.
What Happens During Tattoo Removal?
One of the most common questions asked when someone is exploring laser removal is how it all works. Fortunately, it’s a pretty simple treatment that is done through a number of sessions. Each session is non-invasive and easily predictable, meaning there is no need to feel anxious about the process.
Prior to treatment, the doctor may do a small skin test to see how your skin responds to the laser. This will be just a short burst of activity from the laser against the skin and then a waiting period to see how the skin responds after a time delay. This will help the doctor better formulate a treatment plan that will work well for you and your skin type.
Using a high-intensity light beam, the laser will break up the inked pigment of the skin. This process is the most time consuming and will need to be separated into several sessions to ensure that the process is done safely and effectively. It is often frustrating to hear that your best results will require multiple visits, but it is important to remember that the outcome is permanent and, therefore, worth the added time investment now.
Rest Between Sessions
You will need to wait a while between sessions. The standard for most people is about four weeks between sessions, however, this may be stretched to six or eight weeks depending on how your skin responds to the laser treatment. It is important not to rush the process because doing so can result in complications and long-term scarring in the area.
Following this same process through every session will help the doctor gain a clear understanding of what to expect from each subsequent session. She will also be able to determine what, if any, aftercare guidelines need to be tweaked to offer the best outcome for your situation.
How Many Sessions Are Needed?
Each person responds differently to the laser, so the best way to gauge how many sessions will be needed or how long each session should be will become more clear as time goes by and the doctor has a more full picture of how your skin cells respond. There are certain factors, though, that will help the doctor make a rough estimate prior to beginning treatments.
Size of Tattoo
Obviously, the size of the area needing treatment will play a part in determining how many treatments will be necessary. A small heart on the wrist, for example, may only require two or three sessions to fade out while a full-sleeve design will need many many hours of work. Often, the question is asked if there is a time/size ratio that can be used for estimating. Unfortunately, there is not. Size is only one of many factors involved in evaluating the time needed.
Coloring of Tattoo
Black ink responds best to laser tattoo removal treatments. It absorbs more of the laser’s energy and breaks up more easily over time. Other colors may require a few more treatments. Red and purple hues of ink, in particular, can be very difficult to remove. As a general rule of thumb, the more colorful your tattoo is, the more sessions you should expect for the removal of it to require.
Lighter skin colors often require more sessions. This is because the inked skin pigment will need to fade out much more to even out the appearance. In darker complections, a little of the ink can remain because the natural pigmentation of the skin will cover it up or otherwise disguise it.
Think about a pencil mark on a piece of brown cardboard, then the same pencil mark on a sheet of white paper. It will always show up more prevalently against a lighter canvas and, therefore, more “erasing” will be needed.
Location on Body
Some parts of the body tend to hold ink longer and more strongly than others. The small of the back holds ink fairly strongly, while knuckle tattoos are more apt to fade over time. If the tattoo you need removed is found in one of the areas that are quick to fade, it will need fewer sessions overall.
The number of layers to a tattoo also must be considered. Sometimes an attempt at covering up an old tattoo with new design comes before the idea for tattoo removal. In these cases, there are sometimes several layers of ink that now must be broken up and away from the surface of the skin. The same is true in well-maintained tattoos that have been touched up a number of times throughout the years.
While these factors will give the doctor a rough estimate on expectations, keep in mind that there are other factors that will come into play. Time expectations may change as the process evolves.
Will the Whole Tattoo Need to Be Removed?
Sometimes people don’t wish to remove the entire tattoo. They may like the majority of the work or have an idea for how to incorporate parts of the work into a new design. Similarly, misspellings or incorrectly documented dates are frequent objects of tattoo removal, but what if they are only a small part of a much larger area that is otherwise perfect?
Occasionally, there is a part of the old that a person may want to bring forward into the new. Imagine a tattoo of a skull with a rose. Now, instead of a skull, someone wants to have the rose marking the pages of the book. Eliminating the skull through laser removal will make the coverup much easier and prevent any risk that the skull may seep through the pigmentation of the newer book artwork over time.
Getting tattoos with or for friends or lovers always seems romantic and fun in the moment, but it doesn’t always turn out to be a great memory later. It’s not uncommon to have someone come for laser removal because they got a tattoo they loved but had the name of someone that they no longer love etched across the bottom or outer rim of the tattoo. The name can absolutely be removed without doing any damage to the rest of the artwork.
Layers of Work
Depending on the age and the ink used, it may be possible to remove only the upper or most current layer of a tattoo’s work. Often a test run is needed to determine if this is in fact a viable outcome of treatment, however, so there is some risk involved in beginning such a process. If you know that a change needs to be made, though, it’s often worth a shot.
If you are curious about how to remove only a small part of your tattoo, the best way to determine the possibility is to speak to the doctor in person and allow her to see the area of interest. This will help her gain a more clear understanding of the specific aspects of the request.
How Can I Help Between Sessions?
The time between sessions is just as important as the session itself. In terms of getting the best possible results from the laser treatment, there are a number of ways that the doctor may ask you to help between the times she will be able to see you in person. There are actually a few very simple lifestyle changes that can be made to ensure the best possible results.
Eating foods rich in Vitamin D will help the skin better respond to the treatments over time. Avoid foods that are high in saturated fats or sodium, which can interfere with the skin’s natural ability to recover following laser treatments. As always, pay special attention to the amount of vegetables and protein you are consuming in relation to carbohydrates. A balanced meal plan is key.
Follow All Guidelines
The doctor will give you a list of aftercare instructions between sessions. It is important to follow these instructions as closely as possible. These instructions will range from describing any covering that you may need to wear to avoiding certain salves and hygiene products. Remember that these are not suggestions, but rather a step-by-step recipe for the greatest outcome possible for your treatment. Between sessions, only you are responsible for what happens.
Exercise promotes circulation, which is one of the key factors in skin rejuvenation. If you want to reduce the amount of time between sessions, developing and maintaining a regular exercise routine may help your skin better respond and decrease the amount of time you will need to invest, overall, in achieving the outcome you desire at the end of your treatment path.
Smoking is obviously bad for circulation, which will slow the process of recovery between treatments. Smoke also tends to leave a fine residue on the body of the smoker, though, which can also create some complications in terms of keeping the area clean and promoting sanitary skincare habits throughout treatment.
Avoid the Sun
Skin that is well moisturized will respond better to laser removal. The sun actually draws moisture out of the skin. When this happens, the laser will have a harder time removing the pigmentation from the upper layers of the skin. Also, a dark tan can disguise some of the ink. This means that, as your tan fades, the ink will begin to resurface in areas that you thought were finished being treated. Overall, it’s a far better idea to avoid sun exposure until tattoo removal is complete.
Consider sleep a sort of “factory reset” for the entire body’s healing systems. When we sleep, our systems recharge and our bodies do their best work at recovery from the things it experienced and endured in the hours before. Getting ample rest will help your circulatory system as well as keep your mind and body working positively toward change.
Depending on your circumstances, the aftercare guidelines may change. Some parts may even be eliminated or others may be added. It is important to always follow the specific instructions of the doctor in regard to the plan she puts in place for you and your individual process.
Schedule a Consult for Laser Removal Now!
If you’re ready to explore Tattoo Removal services, call Ingrid E. Trenkle, MD in Redlands, CA today to schedule a consultation.