Tattoo removal

The history of skin tattooing is as old as humanity. Tattooing is known in all parts of the planet and in all historical eras. Tattooing is a process of mechanical pigment insertion into the third layer of the skin – the dermis. In time, due to a change in attitudes or other social reasons there comes a decision to permanently remove the tattoo.

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It is possible to remove a tattoo in several ways. Depending on the localisation, size and depth of the pigment, various ways of removing a tattoo are possible. Until modern lasers appeared, there was no adequate treatment.

To remove tattoos, various lasers have been used, erbium, CO2 laser, argon laser. The mode of operation was to destroy the pigment mechanically, however there was also damage on the surrounding tissue. The results were weak and skin damage was severe.

Only when the technology advanced and when alexandrite, ruby and Nd:YAG lasers were used was it possible to achieve the desired results. These lasers affect only the pigment since they have a short impulse. There is no damage to the surrounding tissue, or any bleeding.

When can a tattoo be removed with laser?

The earliest tattoo removal is possible a year after tattooing. This is the amount of time required for the skin pigment to stabilize.

Can tattoos be completely removed?

It is easiest to remove monochromatic tattoos. In tattoos with multiple colors it is possible that a faint outline will sometimes remain visible. Black, blue and red color are easiest to remove. Also, professional tattoos are removed more easily considering the quality of the pigment.

How does a laser remove a tattoo?

The laser beam, thanks to a specific wavelength, hits only the pigment, not damaging the surrounding tissue. The pigment dissolves into particles which will be reabsorbed by our lymphatic system.

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How many treatments are needed to remove the tattoo?

The number of treatments depends on the size of the tattoo, the types and the amount of colors, professional or amateur work during tattooing, cleanliness and type of pigment and the depth of the tattoo. Removal of the tattoo is usually performed in 5 to 7 treatments lasting up to 10 minutes. The first treatment produces only mild results because the dermatologist estimates the tattoo pigment and skin reaction and adjusts the lasers impulse strength accordingly. It is extremely important that the treatment is conducted by an experienced dermatologist. If the power of the impulse is too strong, a complete loss of pigment in the treated region is possible.

How much time should pass between treatments?

Between treatments should pass at least 4 to 6 weeks.

Does laser tattoo removal hurt?

Laser impulse is measured in nanoseconds. In that time the laser comes to a temperature of a few hundred degrees celsius and especially developed cooling system cools the skin so that the patient feels the whole process only as slight pricking. Most of the patients do not require anesthesia and if they do, a local one is administered.

How does the skin feel after the treatment?

The treated region becomes dark brown, it is mildly swollen, the pricking sensation lasts from 15 to 20 minutes after the treatment. During that time the patient keeps the cold compresses over the treated region. Later, during the day there is a sense of warmth in the treated area.

How to behave after the laser tattoo removal treatment?

After the treatment the patient receives instructions on applying adequate creams that enable faster skin peeling and regeneration. It is strictly forbidden to peel or strip the treated area. After the pigment is lost, new skin is very sensitive to sunlight. UV protection is necessary for three months.

What are possible complications during the tattoo removal?

Smaller damage to the surface area of the skin is possible, but in time it degrades. The final appearance of the treated region comes only after six months from the completion of the treatment. Decrease in skin pigmentation occurs rarely but it is possible. In persons prone to keloids there is a possibility that keloids will develop.

Spec. Dr. Svetlana Djurisic, dermatologist
Dermatological clinic DERMATIM, Belgrade