Your tattoo has outlasted your love for it — now what?
As the popularity of body art continues to rise, so does the demand for tattoo removal. Laser tattoo removal has established itself as the go-to solution for unwanted ink. Lasers provide effective removal of tattoo pigment with minimal side effects by harnessing the power of your body’s immune system.
At Coastal Dermatology and Medspa, our staff includes a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon, as well as certified physician assistants and a licensed medical aesthetician. Our team is passionate, understanding, supportive and committed to bringing world-class medical care to Jacksonville.
Our preferred laser tattoo removal device is a Q-Switched Nd: YAG/KTP laser. The laser emits pulses that send light energy into your skin, where it is selectively absorbed by the tattoo ink particles in the dermis. When the ink particles absorb this energy, they instantly shatter into tiny fragments. Your body's immune system then flushes out the ink fragments over the following weeks. We use different wavelengths of light to treat different ink colors.
Most adults are suitable candidates for laser tattoo removal. Individuals with fair skin and dark tattoos often get the best results, but those are not requirements for a satisfying outcome. With the right laser and device settings, we can effectively and safely remove tattoos from darker skin tones.
Anyone considering laser tattoo removal should be in good general health, have no history of abnormal scarring and be free of wounds or active skin conditions in the area to be treated.
Before your laser procedure, avoid excessive sun exposure and tanning for at least one month. This helps ensure the laser targets the tattoo pigment rather than pigment in your skin. Do not shave, wax or exfoliate the area that will be treated. Temporarily discontinue the use of topical products that cause photosensitivity, such as retinoids, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
During your initial consultation, your provider will give you pretreatment instructions and answer any questions you may have.
Pain tolerance is highly individual. Some patients describe the sensation of laser tattoo removal as being like getting the tattoo in the first place. Many say it hurts less than they expected. Numbing options are available to help take the edge off the procedure if you are concerned about your comfort.
After a session, you may experience redness, swelling, tenderness, bruising, blistering or scabbing in the treated area. These side effects are normal — in fact, some of them are part of the immune response that helps clear the ink from your skin.
Your laser tattoo removal aftercare instructions may include the following:
Keep the treated area clean and dry
Do not exercise vigorously for 24 hours
Avoid heat, including hot showers and jacuzzis, for 48 hours
Do not scratch the treated area
Never pick scabs or blisters
Avoid prolonged sun exposure
Use zinc oxide sunscreen to cover the treated area
Do not use artificial tanners for two weeks post-treatment
Apply any creams or ointments recommended by your provider a
Following your provider’s aftercare guidelines is critical for protecting your skin, accelerating the healing process and delivering the best results.
When the provider uses proper treatment protocols and the patient adheres to the aftercare recommendations, it is very uncommon to scar from a Q-switched laser treatment. Occasionally, the pigment of the treated skin may change; this is most likely to occur in patients with a tan or patients with darker skin.
If a scar is pre-existing from when the tattoo was originally done by the tattoo artist, it will remain after the tattoo is removed.
Laser tattoo removal takes time, but once the ink is gone, it’s gone forever. The fading process begins after just one visit. Each session that follows will fade the tattoo further, until full removal or maximum improvement is achieved. Laser procedures are the safest and most effective way to get rid of unwanted ink available today.
Laser tattoo removal requires multiple sessions because it takes time for your body to absorb and expel the shattered ink. You will receive an estimate of the number of treatments you will need during your consultation. The considerations include:
Amount of ink
Depth of ink
Fitzpatrick skin type
Your provider will be able to adjust the estimate after the first session once they see how your body responds to the treatment. Many tattoos are successfully removed in three to 10 visits. Others require additional sessions, up to 20 in some cases. Sessions are spaced eight weeks apart.
How well a tattoo responds to laser treatment depends on numerous factors, including the age of the ink, the color of the pigment and how deep the ink is in the skin. With today’s advanced laser technologies, many people see full removal, even of the more challenging colors that formerly would have been impossible to eliminate. Your provider will discuss what level of removal is most likely achievable for your tattoo.
You certainly can! Tattoo removal is not just for people who want a completely clean slate. Some people undergo tattoo removal specifically because they want a new tattoo placed over it.
Other options are semi-removal or tattoo revisions. We can remove a portion of a larger piece if you’re happy with the overall design but dislike a specific part. We can also fade a tattoo, but not fully remove it, to make it easier for a tattoo artist to do a cover-up.
There’s no reason to live with the embarrassment of an unwanted tattoo any longer. If you’re tired of covering old ink in concealing clothing or cringing every time someone asks for the story behind it, find out how laser tattoo removal can help. You can reach the Coastal Dermatology and Medspa team in Jacksonville at 904-727-9123 or nearby Ponte Vedra Beach at 904-567-1050. For your convenience, you can also contact us online.