If you are looking to remove a tattoo, chances are you have done some research and discovered that laser tattoo removal is one of the most effective methods. Yet, while laser tattoo removal is probably the most effective method, it is not without its drawbacks. For one thing, the procedure is painful and expensive. For another, the laser does not work effectively on all tattoo ink colors.
How Laser Tattoo Removal Works
Tattoo ink is embedded into your skin, which is why it’s so difficult to remove. Lasers are used to deliver targeted bursts of intense light that pass through the top layer of your skin and into the ink of a tattoo. As the ink absorbs the light, it breaks the ink down into tiny particles that are then absorbed into the body.
The tattoo laser can sometimes affect your skin pigment as it penetrates the tattoo ink, and can leave behind lighter patches, especially in dark skin. The same lasers that remove tattoos have also been used to remove skin discolorations such as birthmarks, freckles, and age spots.
Lasers and Colored Tattoo Inks
In order for the laser to work effectively, the inks in the tattoo need to absorb the light. Surprisingly, darker ink pigments like black and blue absorb light more readily, which makes them easier to remove. Brighter ink colors like reds and oranges, as well as pastel hues, white, and fluorescent hues actually reflect light, which makes them harder to break up and remove with a laser.
In some instances the tattoo removal technician can adjust the light frequency of the laser for more success with tough-to-remove colors, but that still may not completely remove the ink. However, the laser could fade the ink enough that it is not as noticeable. Lighter inks might also require more laser treatment sessions than the darker inks. More laser sessions could mean greater expense and a greater chance for adverse effects.
Age and Colored Tattoo Inks
Tattoos will naturally fade over time, so even though they are still there, they are not as vibrant as when you first got them. Tattoos that have been exposed to the sun will fade even faster. If you have a tattoo with a lot of light colors in it, like yellow, blue, or white, or if you have a tattoo with fluorescent ink, you can try fading the tattoo by exposing it to sunlight for a few minutes each day.
Also, if your tattoo is more than 10 years old, the light ink could be faded enough that you won’t need to remove it with a laser; or faint enough that laser fading could remove it completely.
If your tattoo is old and faded enough, you might also consider a chemical peel or microdermabrasion, which are two other tattoo removal methods that may help remove the rest of the ink of a faded tattoo.
Choosing the Right Tattoo Removal Method
If you are planning to get a tattoo removed, and it contains a lot of colorful inks, you should consult with the dermatologist or tattoo removal technician to determine if the laser tattoo removal method (or light frequency setting of a laser tool) will work on that color and type of ink. In some cases, it’s just a matter of using a different laser tool, making adjustments to light frequencies or undergoing extra sessions to remove a tattoo, while in other cases it's a matter of choosing another tattoo removal option.