Getting a tattoo has always been considered an uncomfortable experience, but having one removed has in the past been at least as painful, with no guarantee of complete erasure. The tattoo removal process is different today, however, thanks to the miracle of the laser light. Employing radiation emission, this powerful beam can be concentrated in a small area to ensure precision when cutting diamonds or, in this case, when removing an unwanted tattoo.
Prior to undergoing laser treatment, patients may want to take some type of pain medication. However, doctors recommend the use of such products as Tylenol rather than aspirin or related drugs, which can cause bruising after the procedure. Additionally, an anesthetic cream may be applied to the surface of or a local anesthetic injected into the area being treated, although either treatment is optional.
The actual procedure involves the laser being directed into the tattoo, with the light pulses breaking up the pigments of ink or dye. Over a period of time, the residue pigment will be destroyed by the body’s own cells. Although the actual procedure should itself take only minutes, more than one treatment will usually be needed to remove the average tattoo. An interval of about three weeks will be required between each treatment session to allow the pigment to be naturally absorbed.
After each treatment, the doctor will apply an ointment and cover the area with a bandage. The area will need additional applications of ointment and will have to be kept clean, but not with scrubbing. Laser tattoo removal has been compared with having hot particles of grease strike the body when cooking or being snapped by a rubber band. After the tattoo has been removed, the skin may be irritated for a couple of days and may appear red for a period of weeks. A scab may also develop on the area, but the site will in time fade away.
A tattoo that is black, which will absorb every wavelength of light, is easier to remove than colors that selectively absorb light. Tattoos that use different colors may thus require the use of different lasers. One of the possible side effects involves hyperpigmentation, or the development of excessive color in the skin. Those who undergo the procedure should also examine the area for infections, scarring and the fact that the tattoo was not completely removed.