How Does Tattoo Removal Actually Work?

When it comes to declarations of true love, few actions speak louder than tattooing your lover’s name on a part of your body. It’s romantic, for sure — until you break up. Then it’s an eyesore you can’t wait to get rid of. Or, maybe it’s not your loved one’s name that’s bugging you. It could be that super-cute Tweety Bird you had tattooed on your arm during high school or the flaming heart on your shoulder. Whatever the subject, some tattoos just don’t have staying power. And when a tattoo overstays its welcome, pretty much all you can think about is how to get rid of it. The problem is, until recently, getting a tattoo was a lot easier than getting rid of it.

Thankfully, laser technology has a solution — and while it might not be quite as easy as getting inked in the first place, today’s lasers are a lot more effective than ever before when it comes to getting rid of unwelcome tattoos. The key is to have your removal procedure performed by professionals who take advantage of state-of-the-art technology that’s designed to safely and efficiently remove all sorts of body ink.

Picotechnology: Cutting-edge tattoo removal

At Holladay Dermatology Clinic, we use the enlighten® laser system, designed specifically for the safe, effective removal of all sorts of tattoos. The enlighten laser uses picotechnology, a breakthrough in tattoo removal that relies on ultra-short bursts of laser energy instead of the longer pulses of other laser systems. Picotechnology means tattoo pigments can be removed more quickly and more efficiently, so treatments take less time and are more comfortable than traditional laser tattoo removal treatments. Plus, the enlighten laser system is completely configurable, so it can be adjusted based on the color of your inks, the age of your tattoo, and plenty of other factors for better results. 

Laser tattoo removal works by targeting the pigments in your tattoo while leaving the surrounding skin tissue unharmed. Since the tattoo pigments are darker than the rest of your skin, they absorb more of the laser energy. As the laser heats the pigments, they break apart into tiny microparticles that can be carried off by your body’s natural “waste disposal” processes over time. The enlighten laser system’s ultra-fast bursts of laser energy are much more effective at breaking apart tattoo pigments, and the particles they leave behind are much tinier than those left after a traditional laser treatment. That means your body can eliminate the pigment fragments a lot faster, so you can get the results you want without waiting weeks and weeks to enjoy clearer skin.

And that’s not all. Picotechnology’s rapid delivery system means most people need fewer treatments to get the results they want, and because the energy is delivered more rapidly, the risk of scarring is considerably less compared to traditional laser tattoo removal systems that use longer bursts of energy and more intense heat. Faster treatments also mean less discomfort and a shorter recovery time.

Laser tattoo removal: What to expect

Laser tattoo removal is performed right in our office, and there’s no downtime, so you can get right back to your regular activities after your treatment. After your skin is cleansed, the laser device is moved over your skin, emitting laser energy that penetrates to the layers where the pigments are located. Laser removal can be uncomfortable; most people compare it to the snapping of a rubber band against the skin. If you’re very sensitive to pain or if you’re nervous about the treatment, Dr. Topham can apply a topical anesthetic to numb your skin before the laser treatment begins.

Once your treatment session is over, you might experience some mild tenderness, redness and swelling, but all these effects will disappear fairly quickly. You’ll need to protect the area from sun exposure as it heals, just as you did after your tattoo was applied.

Because tattoo ink typically is applied in layers, you’re going to need more than one treatment to completely remove the tattoo. The number of treatments you’ll need will vary depending on the type and colors of the inks used, the age of the tattoo, and other factors. Most patients need between three and six treatments with the enlighten system to get the results they’re looking for. During your initial office visit, we can give you an estimate of the number of treatments you’ll probably need. Repeat visits can be scheduled about six to eight weeks apart to give the area time to heal.

Don’t let an old tattoo make you feel self-conscious. To learn more about tattoo removal treatments at Holladay Dermatology Clinic or to schedule an office visit, contact the practice today.

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