Laser Tattoo Removal – Factors that Effect Your Results
Laser tattoo removal is the most effective way to remove a tattoo. Advancements in laser technology have significantly improved the efficacy of laser tattoo removal, while also making it less painful, safer on all skin types, and less likely to cause scarring. Most tattoos require several laser treatments to achieve complete skin clearance. Just how many treatments are necessary is determined by several factors. Read on to learn more about tattoo removal and the various factors that influence your treatment.
The Color of Ink
Tattoos are permanent because the particles of ink are too big for macrophages (the white blood cells that attack and metabolize foreign bodies) to absorb. Laser tattoo removal uses thermal energy to heat up the ink particles, causing them to fracture into smaller pieces that can be absorbed by macrophages and removed by the immune system. Dark colors absorb light better than lighter colors, therefore, darker colors respond better to the laser than lighter colors. This means tattoos with green, blue, and black ink are easier to remove than tattoos with yellow, orange, and red inks.
Location of the Tattoo
As mentioned, laser tattoo removal depends on the lymphatic system to collect and process the shattered ink particles. It does this by sending macrophages that travel through the blood stream to attack foreign bodies such as fractured ink particles. This means tattoos located in areas with good vascular supply and high blood count, such as the back, the face, and the neck, are easier to remove than tattoos located in areas with limited circulation. Areas with less circulation include the hands, the feet, and the lower legs.
The Age of Your Tattoo
Older tattoos are easier to clear than newer tattoos. This is because time gives you a jump-start on the removal process. Over the years, the lymphatic system has removed smaller particles of ink. This causes fading. During your laser tattoo removal treatment, the pulsed energy from the Cutera Enlighten laser will break up the ink into particles small enough for your lymphatic system to collect and process out of the body.
Tattoos are typically easier to remove on individuals with lighter skin tones, or skin types 1 or 2 on the Fitzpatrick scale. Darker pigments absorb light better than lighter pigments. This includes the pigments in the ink of our tattoo as well as the pigment in our skin, called melanin. The easiest tattoo to remove is black inks on light skin because the energy from the laser is solely absorbed by the dark pigment in the ink. Skin tones with more melanin require special consideration to ensure that the energy from the laser is absorbed by the dark pigment in the ink, and not the dark pigment in the skin.
The Enlighten™ system from Cutera, offers the latest innovations in laser technology. Its innovative system combines three different wavelengths and dual pulse duration (Nanosecond + picosecond) to deliver extremely short, high-powered pulses of laser energy. Customizable wavelengths and pulse duration allow the laser technician to calibrate the laser for the specific skin type and color of ink. This allows laser tattoo removal treatments with the Enlighten™ system to be safe for all skin types as well as less painful and less likely to cause scarring.ⁱ
The Size of Tattoo
Tattoo size influences the amount of treatments needed to achieve full skin clearance. Logically, the larger the tattoo the more treatments necessary to remove it. Even though breakthroughs in laser technology, make laser tattoo removal less invasive and less painful, the technician will still limit the amount of ink that is treated in one session to avoid overwhelming your immune system that gets to work processing and removing the fractured ink particles following a treatment.
Layered tattoos or cover-ups occur when someone tries to cover their initial tattoo with another tattoo. This may include second tattoos with dark ink or second tattoos with ink matching the pigment of the skin. Cover-ups add volume and density to the ink of the tattoo and are more challenging to remove and typically require more treatments.
The quality and volume of ink
Variance in ink quality and volume is most apparent in amateur tattoo artists compared to seasoned tattoo artists. Tattoos that are not professionally inked are typically done with lower quality ink, which is easier to break up and therefore easier to remove with laser treatments. Professional tattoo artists, on the other hand, usually work with high quality ink that has more volume and higher density than cheaper inks. Summed up, tattoos by experienced professionals are harder to remove.
Along the same lines as ink volume and density is ink type. Tattoo inks come in a variety of compositions. Many compositions are unique to the tattoo artist. There are popular ingredients, such as beryllium that are especially hard to remove.
Scar tissue leaves deposits of collagen that are more difficult to penetrate. If your tattoo resulted in scarring, it may be harder to remove. However, advanced laser systems that use nanopico technology can actually improve scar tissue while breaking down a tattoo.
Your Age and Health
Because Laser tattoo removal depends on the body’s immune system to process the fractured ink particles, younger, healthier patients typically have uncompromised circulation and experience ink clearance faster than patients with slower immune systems do.
Smoking significantly impairs your ability to achieve skin clearance from your laser tattoo removal treatments. This is due to the decreased circulation and compromised immune system caused by smoking. One study found that smoking decreases the rate of skin clearance over ten treatments by 70%.
The laser system and technician
With laser tattoo removal, the type of laser, and the person using the laser greatly influence the success of your treatments. More advanced lasers, operated by experienced and skilled technician can reduce the amount of treatments needed, decrease pain and the chances of scarring, and improve the appearance of clearance.