Chances are if you have a tattoo, you’ve had second thoughts about it at some point. For some of us, the regret is immediate and all-consuming, and our only thought is “how soon can I get this removed?!” Luckily, tattoo removal is a somewhat recent advent to cosmetic treatments that was developed as an answer to this question, without having to go get an entirely new tattoo to cover it up. However, the simple answer to your question is “not right away.”
There are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding tattoo removal, specifically when can it be done, how long does it take, and how effective it will be. Here, we’ll focus on when you can begin to look at getting your tattoo removed, and why this timeline is so important, as well as what steps to follow to have your ink regret removed for good.
In case you weren’t already familiar, getting a tattoo means having a small needle punched repeatedly into your skin over and over at a high speed to have the ink injected into your skin so it will stick. This means that the skin is taking significant trauma and will need adequate time to heal before you add a powerful laser to break up the ink particles in your skin. It typically takes 6-8 weeks for a tattoo to fully heal, depending on the size and placement, as well as other factors. To protect your skin, it is best to wait at least this amount of time before beginning the removal process so as not to cause unnecessary trauma to your body.
Do keep in mind that however long it took to get your tattoo, it will take even longer to remove it. Your skin will also need time to heal between removal sessions, approximately 6-8 weeks as well, to ensure that your immune system has had a chance to wash away the ink and your skin can heal. It will also take several sessions to remove the ink completely, so it could take another several months or more before you are ink-free.
The number of sessions it will take to remove your tattoo also depends on the size, age, colour, placement, and your skin colour. Larger and older tattoos will naturally take more time, whereas tattoos closer to your central lymphatic system will break up faster as this is what removes the ink particles from your body- i.e. head tattoos will take less time than hand tattoos. Different colours of inks will need different wavelengths of light to break up the particles, and certain inks will penetrate deeper into the skin. More melanin in the skin may also mean more difficulty removing the tattoo. However, you don’t have to have your tattoo removed entirely- you can always have it lightened enough to be covered up if you want to get a different
Ultimately, while you will have to wait 6-8 weeks for your tattoo to heal before removal can begin, it will likely take an additional few months to a year before your tattoo is removed successfully. This is one procedure you don’t want to rush!
Tattoo removal, in its simplest form, uses lasers to send beams of light into the skin to break up the ink in your tattoo. Because not all colours of ink respond to light the same way, you may need multiple wavelengths to break up each specific colour in your tattoo. As such, it may take several treatments to break up the various colours in your tattoo.
Tattoo removal uses an Nd-YAG laser to break up the pigments. How does this work? The different colours of ink absorb the energy from the light emitted from the laser and break it down into tiny particles. From there, your body will naturally rid itself of the extra particles. The laser runs at two different wavelengths- 532nm, which breaks up darker inks like black and 1064nm, which breaks up the brighter inks, like red. All you really need to know is that some adjustments may need to be made depending on the colours in your tattoo, to ensure it is removed correctly and safely.
Though you might be concerned about damage to the rest of your skin, rest assured that any area not pigmented will not be affected by the laser at all. That said, you may experience some pain on the tattooed area for several days after treatment.
But just how effective will the laser be on the tattooed area, and what results can you expect after your treatment is complete?
As mentioned above, removal times and efficacy will depend on the size, placement, colour, and age of your tattoo. Typically, it takes 5-10 sessions to remove a tattoo, and you can see fading of up to 95% by treatment’s end. Of course, the results also depend on what you are looking for from your removal. You can have your tattoo removed just enough to be light enough for a cover-up if you’d like to give another tattoo a try! In this case, you may need fewer sessions to achieve the desired results.
If you do elect to have your tattoo removed fully, or as fully as possible, you may see some lightening in the pigment of your skin or white patches/scarring on the previously tattooed area.
If you’ve managed to read this far and are ready to commit your time, money, and energy to remove your tattoo, then Fairview Laser Clinic is where you need to be. Dr. Jain has over 25 years of experience in cosmetic dermatology, and along with her expert team, can provide a free consultation to see what your removal options are, and just how long it will take to have your ink regrets gone forever.
Contact us today to learn more about tattoo removal at Fairview Laser Clinic and book your free consultation!
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