Blink The Ink: Your Tattoo Removal Guide
Tattoos are very popular in Australia, as well as other places in the world. It’s a booming trend. But like all forms of art – personal, photographic, body art and other mediums – your preferences can change over time. So you might have LOVED your tattoo (or tattoos) when you first got them, and felt you were ready to embrace a permanent adornment. Yet a few years or decades after getting yourself inked, the love affair you first had with your tattoo – has faded or worn off. Perhaps the tattoo itself has faded and you don’t want to go through a re-application process due to the pain of getting a tattoo. Or you may simply want to apply for a job where tatts aren’t accepted as being ‘on brand’. So how do you go about tattoo removal and divorce your tatts?
So you got inked? The Tattoo Removal Stage of “Permanent” Body Art
Maybe it was a month ago or years ago, but whenever it was, you probably loved the idea of getting your first tattoo. Or maybe two tattoos, or multiple tattoos on different body parts. But what about when you change your mind? You may never thought you would, but many people eventually do want to get their tattoo(s) removed.
So what seemed like an amazing decision at the time, possibly going along with friends or made on a whim after a big night out – may end up leaving you feeling regret.
Are you are wanting to explore your tattoo removal options?
Who doesn’t know someone with an ex-partner tattoo mistake? Or whose job prospects or summer fashion choices feel limited by having a very visible, yet suddenly-not-so-appropriate, tattoo or tatts? If your lifestyle, political beliefs, favorite quotes or colour preferences have changed since you last got inked – you may want to consider having your tattoos removed.
Do your tattoos no longer suit your social circle or your lifestyle?
When you think tattoo removal, the first thing that comes to mind are probably:
- how much will this cost me?OR
- will it hurt?
The fact you’re thinking about those two questions means you likely heard about the cost and discomfort of tattoo removal at some point in your life.
What is really involved when removing a tattoo?
Tattoo removal is often painful, yes. Potentially far more painful than the original session of putting one on.
That’s why we always encourage people to think through what it means to get a tattoo, instead of simply being on trend, and to consider that one day they may have to undergo a lot more pain to be tattoo-free. Tattoo-free also doesn’t mean your skin will look exactly as it did before you got your tattoos; because the skin in that area will likely never look the same again, and there are often tell-tale traces of past tattoos even after extensive processes to remove your tatts.
Laser Tattoo Removal: How it works
When you get a tattoo, you essentially allow someone to mechanically insert (embed) pigment (ink) into the deeper layers of your skin, i.e., the dermis layer (below the epidermis). It’s essentially placing ink into the second layer of your skin, which is why it is long-lasting and ‘quasi-permanent.’
Therefore, when and if you decide to get it removed, your Tattoo Removal Clinician will have to essentially get under your skin (epidermis) to the dermal layer to “erase” the ink.
There are many ways to TRY to get rid of a tattoo, not that all of them work equally. For example, there’s a homemade remedy that claims to remove tattoos using salt as a form of dermal scrub….for some superficial tattoos it might work, but for most, the tattoos are a deeper problem that needs deeper skin treatments for removal. Hence the most efficient methods for tattoo removal typically involves laser tattoo removal techniques.
Laser tattoo removal techniques are still evolving, but began to come into common use over two decades ago.
How does laser tattoo removal work?
- A laser beam penetrates the skin covered by a tattoo
- The beam is a form of light or ‘wave lights’ that are harmless for the surrounding skin or non-inked, non-tattoo’d skin
- The beam helps breaks the ink into tiny fragments
- The ink particles are absorbed by the lymphatic system and naturally excreted (egested) from the body.
What you should know before removing a tattoo
- You have to wait at least a year after you got a tattoo before removing it. That’s how long it takes for the ink of your tattoo to stabilize into your skin.
- It is typically much easier to remove a single-coloured tattoo, such as a purely black tattoo, than a multi-coloured one. In this case, it is possible that a faint outline of the original tattoo will still remain visible after removal (as mentioned above, your skin won’t ever look quite the same again but you can nearly erase some tattoos, and new skin treatments are continually evolving to help restore, refine or rejuvenate the skin).
The laser tattoo removal procedure typically needs to be done by a qualified Medical Professional or Skin Clinician, such as a Dermatologist, but you may have several options for different types of Clinicians. Be sure to ask about the type of tattoo removal/skin laser they will use, who will be administering the treatment, and how well trained they are (how much experience they have).
- The Professional Tattoo Removalist should be able to determine what number of treatments, and types of treatments, will be required – and over what period of time – based on your tattoo’s characteristics.
- How many treatments it will take (and how long before you get tattoo free) are usually only an estimate and everyone’s tattoo’s respond differently to laser tattoo removal, so you may need to be patient and expect to undergo a number of painful treatments before you are tattoo-free, technically speaking.
Cost of Removing a Tattoo: Tattoo Removal Treatments are Expensive
- Having a tattoo removal treatment often costs MUCH MORE than getting a tattoo (often $200 to $500 per tattoo removal treatment).
- You should expect some level of pain with the ink removal experience.
- You will typically need at least 5 treatments.
Your Tattoo Removalist can also give you numbing cream and/or local anesthetic (injections) to help numb the area being treatment.
Frosting is a term used to describe the Impact of Tattoo Removal Laser on your skin (your skin’s reaction).
The first removal session(s) are usually the worst in terms of pain or discomfort; this gets slightly better each time, but is unlikely to be pain free at any stage.
For tattoo removal on darker skin, a particular wavelength (1064 Nd:Yag) is often used.
Laser tattoo removal without any anesthetic or numbing agents are notably VERY painful for most patients.
How effective is Laser Tattoo Removal?
If you decide to pursue tattoo removal, you should know that laser tattoo removal often requires a commitment to long-term treatment which isn’t comfortable. You typically need at least 5 sessions to have the tattoo removal be effective and traces of your tattoo may still remain.
The good news about laser tattoo removal is that it is usually quick, but of course, this depends on the size of the tattoo (tattoos) being treated. One tattoo removal session with a laser typically lasts up to 10 minutes not including anaesthetic or skin numbing time.
Usually, the first laser skin ink removal session has no visible effects.
The first session typically has no visible effect, as it is more of a planning session to see how the tattoo responds to a particular wavelength. This is practitioner-dependent, however – meaning there is variability between Clinicians and Practitioners.
Also, keep in mind that the time you need to wait between sessions is usually at least 5 weeks; but can vary depending on the laser settings being used.
Typically, in each tattoo removal session, the skin laser will go deeper into the layer of skin to break up the ink.
Skin Discolouration Risks of Tattoo Removal using Lasers
There are possible side-effects from laser tattoo removal, some of which include pigmentation related issues (excess colour or a lack of colour in the treated area).
You might end up with removal of your unwanted tattoo, but you could end up with hyperpigmentation (dark spots) or even hypo-pigmentation (a lack of colour) in the treated skin; as well as skin scarring – and, in some cases, infection (all risks are always worsened if you smoke or otherwise neglect to look after your health).
Regardless of these risks, laser tattoo removal may be an efficient way for getting rid of unwanted ink tatts from your body, face, neck, hands or fingers.
But the removal process and rate of effectiveness will differ from one person to another person, as well as from tattoo to tattoo.
Aspects of your tattoo that impact the effectiveness of laser tattoo removal options:
- tattoo size
- tattoo color and number of different colours in the tattoo
- age of the tattoo (Tattoo maturity)
- natural pigmentation of your skin
- how the original tattoo was performed (e.g., amateur or professionally).
If you proceed with removal of your tatts, you have to be very careful during the entire process – and follow your Clinician’s care instructions carefully to avoid infections and optimise your potential results for a good outcome.
This usually means not using certain products on your skin around your treatment times, and avoiding sun exposure which can lead to excess pigmentation. You will usually need to wait at LEAST four weeks before you allow your treated skin to have sun exposure.
Again, your skin won’t look the same AFTER tattoo removal laser treatments as before you ever got a tattoo. But after a number of treatments, your old tattoo might fade to the degree it is readily covered by mineral makeup or other camouflage techniques, especially if you want to minimise or hide your tattoo when attending a wedding or other special event, or when getting photographed or applying for a job.
Even though laser tattoo removal is a safe and sure way to try to remove your tattoo, that doesn’t mean it’s all right for you to go into a tattoo parlour with this possibility in mind.
Think carefully before you get a tattoo – because removing it will be a long, expensive and uncomfortable process. So much so that many people learn to live with old tattoos rather than have them removed, although many people wish there was an affordable, easy way to get rid of their tattoo.