Is Laser Tattoo Removal the Best? Expert Interview

medical teamIt used to be that if you wanted a tattoo to disappear, your only options were to hide it under clothing, “sand” it off with dermabrasion or surgically remove it. Nowadays, most people opt for laser tattoo removal, which is more effective and less invasive than most other methods. Here, our experts answer your most frequently asked questions about laser tattoo removal.

Q: Does laser tattoo removal hurt?

Laser tattoo removal may cause mild pain or discomfort, which many patients have likened to the feeling of a rubber band snapping on the skin. The pain is usually more tolerable than the pain associated with tattoo application, however. After each treatment, the skin may feel sunburned and sensitive. Many tattoo removal clinics offer a topical anesthetic or injections of local anesthetic if the patient is uncomfortable.

Q: How long do laser tattoo removal treatments take and how many treatment sessions are necessary?

The answer depends on a number of factors such as the size and age of the tattoo, the ink colors used, skin tone (color), and the health of the patient, among other factors. Most laser removal sessions take anywhere from a few minutes to two hours. Results are not immediate; the tattoo fades after a series of treatments are completed over weeks to months. One-month intervals between treatments are common. Most tattoos require between three and eight treatments. Some tattoos may require more treatments. Most tattoos are significantly diminished after the first treatment.

Q: I’ve heard of a newer laser tattoo removal called the R20 Method that can get results in fewer sessions. Is it the R20 method that Angelina Jolie and other celebrities are using to make their tattoos disappear so quickly?

The R20 method of tattoo removal involves the same high-tech laser devices that are used for traditional laser removal, but the approach is different to accelerate tattoo removal. With the R20 protocol, a dermatology laser surgeon uses the laser device to administer a series of treatments over the inked area at 20-minute intervals in a single office visit, rather than as a series of treatment sessions spaced over several months. The aim is that more ink is broken down and lifted per visit and, hopefully, you won’t have to return for quite as many follow-up treatments.

Q: What are the success rates of laser tattoo removal?

Since each tattoo is unique, no clinic can guarantee 100 percent successful removal for everyone. Success (complete removal) depends on many factors, including the ink colors in the tattoo, the age of the tattoo, and whether it was done by a professional tattoo artist. Patients with lighter skin types usually experience better results. A tattoo removal specialist will be able to provide an idea of what results you can realistically expect.

Q: What risks are associated with laser tattoo removal?

Laser tattoo removal is relatively safe for most patients, and most tattoos are removed with little or no scarring. The risk of infection is extremely low when post-treatment instructions are followed. There is a slight risk of hyperpigmentation (the skin in the affected area becoming darker than usual) or hypopigmentation (the skin in the affected area becoming lighter than usual). To reduce risks, seek the care of trained medical professionals who use well-maintained equipment.

Q: How much does laser tattoo removal cost?

The cost of laser tattoo removal varies, depending on the size, color(s), and complexity of a tattoo. Prices generally start at around $100-150 per square inch per treatment session. To find out how much laser tattoo removal may cost for you, consult with a tattoo removal specialist in your area.

Q: How long is the average recovery time?

Most patients can return to their daily activities immediately after a treatment session. An approved dose of over-the-counter acetaminophen can relieve associated pain post-treatment, and applying ice and topical anesthetics can help further minimize discomfort and any swelling. Following care instructions closely is important and certain activities may be limited due to the nature of the treatment (such as avoiding sun exposure and refraining from intense physical activity that involves the treated area) to ensure proper healing.

You can read more questions our experts have answered about laser tattoo removal at:

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