Part Two: Tattoo Removal
In Part One, I talked through the basics of why someone might want to get a tattoo removed. I went through some tattoo removal history and it revealed pretty scary procedures. As Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy (Bones) might say “Barbaric.” Ok that’s my inner geek peeking out. I’ve added some updated information regarding laser treatment options. Specifically the PicoSure Laser.
Thanks to new laser advances and processes, the approach is less painful and reduced impacts to our bodies. However, note I said less painful rather than painless. Pain will still accompany the removal steps. And there are potential side effects to your skin. Working with a knowledgeable and trained specialist can reduce these.
In this post, I’ll go into what will occur once you’ve decided to go forward with the laser treatment. I’ll also give you some resources in your search for the right specialist.
Ok, I’ve Decided I Want My Tattoo Removed
So you’ve made the decision. It may have been hard or maybe actually rather easy to decide. So let’s talk about the procedure. First it’s important to understand this won’t be just one appointment. It can take on average 7 or 10 sessions depending upon size, colors, age of the tattoo, and your skin. Because the laser’s job is to target the ink particles and break them up so your immune system can carry them away, the tattoo will gradually fade but in some cases may never, completely.
With the advancement of lasers, especially the PicoSure laser, which is a picoseconds aesthetic laser, the treatments can be much more effective. But be aware that this direction is not cheap, it can cost you upwards in hundreds of dollars for each treatment and most insurances see this as cosmetic work and won’t cover it.
Because there may be some impression of the original tattoo and the skin will be impacted, many people get another tattoo on the same spot. This is something to think about, but not an immediate concern unless you are uncomfortable with the look of the area.
However, if you’re ultimate plan is getting another tattoo on the same spot it might be worth investigating if your tattoo can be covered up, instead of going the tattoo removal route. Because removal can entail multiple and painful sessions, with unexpected skin reactions. While getting another tattoo can be shorter, easier, and financially better on your wallet.
Finding the right professional
Each state has it’s own regulations, you can find their guidelines at your state’s Medical Licensing website. This information will tell you what can and cannot be performed in your state. Some regulations are pretty loose and don’t require the person to have any medical background or license.
I know our first instinct is to Google “Tattoo Removal” to find a “Professional” but you have to do your due diligence to determine if they are actually knowledgeable and have appropriate training and safe guards. I would start with your Dermatologist or Primary Care Doctor for references. Some will have Cosmetic Surgery Divisions that can perform the procedure. If, however you decide on a tattoo removal clinic, ensure they have a medical director or doctor on their staff and available during operating hours. Also find out if there is a 24 hour number you can call if you have any medical concerns.
Really investigate them and reach out to your Better Business Bureau to see if they’ve had any complaints and what their standing is. And tread cautiously when you see bargain deals, bundles, etc.. It could be just a marketing ploy, they don’t have a good reputation, or enough business.
Prior to the actual procedure your doctor, surgeon, or technician will have a consultation with you to assess your specific tattoo and what it will take to remove the tattoo. They’ll look at your tattoo, talk with you about the age of it, your skin sensitivity, health related questions should also come up, they should walk you through what to expect, potential side effects and risks, and aftercare following each treatment.
This is also a perfect time for you to evaluate the professional and clinic that will be removing the tattoo. I have a list of questions below that you can take with you to ask. Also feel free to use the questions even prior to the consultation to narrow down where you will go for the work. Always be proactive with your health.
Before beginning the laser treatment, you will be given special glasses to protect your eyes. Some doctors will either apply a local anesthetic to the area or prescribe a anesthetic cream to be applied prior to your arrival. Just like a tattoo, the technician will warn you and test an area so you can gauge the pain level. It’s said to feel like very fast, rubber band snaps. Obviously, your ability to handle it is dependent upon your pain tolerance.
As the area is gone over, with the laser there will be what’s known as “Frosting,” which is a result of the fast heating of the area releasing carbon dioxide gas. It is a temporary effect. I’m not a scientist, so I’ll leave that one to the smart kids on the block.
After the session, your technician should provide you with directions for aftercare and what your wait time until your next visit.
Potential Side Effects
As mentioned, you will need time to heal between treatments and you will need to observe how your skin is handling the laser. It’s important to be prepared for potential side effects. They can include, but not limited to:
Just after the treatment
- Pinpoint bleeding
- Swelling of the area
Down the road
- Hyper-pigmentation (darkening of the skin)
- Hypo-pigmentation (lightening of the skin)
- Keloid scarring
Questions to Ask
Here are some questions you can take with you when finding the right specialist. You can print these questions from this document
1. What is your education/credentials in laser tattoo removal?
2. How long have you been doing laser tattoo removals?
3. On average how many clients do you see per month for laser tattoo removal?
4. How long are the sessions?
5. What determines the amount of sessions I will need?
6. How much time in between sessions will I need?
7. What is your aftercare guidelines?
8. What Laser(s) does your treatment center use and can all colors of my tattoo, including yellows, reds, greens, and whites be treated?
9. What changes to my skin color or texture might I experience and how often have you seen that for my skin type?
10. Can I see your portfolio (before and after images)?
11. What are the costs per treatment?
12. Will my insurance cover this?
13. What are your payment methods? All or as each treatment occurs?
Unfortunately many insurances don’t cover this procedure as it is deemed cosmetic.
How Laser Tattoo Removal Works – Smarter Every Day 123 Love this guy’s work. Brings out my inner nerd.
Dr. Jon Mendelsohn reviews PicoSure Laser Tattoo Removal I’m in no way affiliated with this clinic nor support them. I felt the video was informative.
PicoSure Laser Tattoo Removal Treatment An interesting account of someone’s experience
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed medical professional. Always talk first with your doctor when making decisions that effect your body and health.