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Tattoo Removal

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Your tattoo might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but do you still love it today? If not, you may want to consider having it removed.

Laser tattoo removal can erase that artwork with the energy of light. The laser passes harmlessly through the skin and forces energy into the target molecules at such a high speed that they vibrate and shatter, breaking the ink down into tiny particles which are removed by the natural filtering systems of the body.

If getting the tattoo wasn't pain-free, getting rid of it probably won't be, either. The impact of the laser's powerful light pulse has been described as feeling similar to the snap of a rubber band or a grease splatter. Discomfort from the procedure can be alleviated with a local anesthetic injection or cream, which is applied and wiped off just before the procedure.

When the session is over, the technician applies an antibacterial ointment and dressing to the site. The area should be kept clean and covered with ointment as directed. It should not be scrubbed, but a daily shower is fine.

Some postprocedure redness and swelling is common and may continue for several weeks. Any scabs that form should be handled with care. Once healing is complete, the site will continue to fade. Normal skin tone should return within 6 to 12 weeks; some whitening of the skin may occur. Other possible side effects include pinpoint bleeding, infection of the site, possible scarring, and a lack of complete pigment removal.

On average, tattoos require 6 to 8 treatment sessions spaced 4 to 8 weeks apart. The actual process depends on the size, location, depth, and color of the tattoo. The treatments usually last between 10 and 30 minutes, and improvements are seen almost immediately. The best results are on black or dark ink tattoos because they absorb all wavelengths of the laser light; other colors, like green or blue, selectively absorb the light and can only be treated by lasers based on pigment color. Other techniques for removing tattoos (dermabrasion, saltabrasion, surgical excision) leave behind scars where the tattoo once was.

Some spas claim a fade rate of greater than 95%, but keep in mind that tattoos are meant to be permanent, so removing them can be difficult. Be skeptical of any promise of "complete removal." How much of the tattoo remains depends on several factors, such as size, location, the type of ink used, how it was applied, how long you've had the tattoo, and your ability to heal. The ink in a tattoo by an experienced artist was probably more evenly injected and will be easier to remove. Older tattoos are easier to remove than new ones because they've had a chance to fade. Tattoos done by amateurs can be difficult to remove because the inks may have been imbedded very deeply.

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