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Laser Tattoo Removal: Myths and Truths

Laser Tattoo Removal: Myths and Truths

For the past three decades, physicians, dermatologists, and cosmetic surgeons have continued to perfect laser technology for removing unwanted marks and blemishes from the skin. Clinics offering laser removal have continued to rise in popularity throughout the nation. While laser technology demonstrates ongoing success, many patients are still reluctant to choose this option as there are many misunderstandings about this type of procedure. The purpose of this blog is to better educate patients about some of the common misconceptions about laser technology, especially with regard to laser tattoo removal.

Common Misconception #1:  The primary medium by which lasers remove a tattoo is by burning it off of the skin.

Yes, older laser technology originally depended on carbon dioxide lasers that purposefully and aggressively burnt the external layers of the skin with the intention of removing a blemish or tattoo. However, since laser technology has become much more sophisticated, less invasive lasers are available and used in our practice. These lasers operate by using heat and light to specifically target the layers of tattoo ink embedded in the skin. As a result, these lasers indirectly stimulate an immune response in the body that draws attention to the area occupied by the tattoo in order to clear it. It is true that if applied in high-energy bursts, any laser can cause scar tissue to form; however, provided that laser treatments can require multiple visits to completely remove a tattoo, scarring is an atypical reaction.

Common Misconception #2: Alternative products like creams and ointments are more effective at tattoo removal.

A quick web search for tattoo removal creams will yield numerous results. These products often boast positive reviews as a marketing strategy to encourage sales. Nevertheless, contrary to the benefits of laser removal, there is no scientific research or backing regarding the effectiveness of tattoo removal creams. In many cases, the creams are abrasive, relying on harsh chemicals and acids to gradually produce a chemical burn on the skin’s surface. These burns have a higher rate of producing scar tissue. What’s more, the different kinds of ink used in tattoo artwork can vary in their own core chemical components. These chemical variations render some creams virtually ineffective at removing even traces of certain inks. Nothing about the chemical properties of the ointments is designed to specifically target a tattoo. The creams themselves only function to shed off layers of skin gradually, using strong acids over a longer period of time.

Common Misconception #3: Tattoos using multiple colors and design patterns cannot be removed.

For some reason, there is a huge misunderstanding in thinking that only black tattoos respond to laser treatments and not other colors. Yes, some tattoo ink colors can make it more challenging for lasers to stimulate a photothermal fracture that breaks up the tattoo. However, this is why different kinds of laser technology exists. Based on a patient’s needs, cosmetic surgeons will choose the appropriate treatment plan to completely remove a full spectrum of tattoo ink colors. It’s also true that black tattoos can, in fact, be more challenging to remove, especially if the tattoo contains an ink with a metallic base. Furthermore, if a tattoo is multicolored and treated with only one specific laser type, the tattoo may be more difficult to remove in just one treatment. If this is the case, the cosmetic surgeon may prefer to focus on eliminating specific colors at a time over multiple visits.

Common Misconception #4: It’s impossible to use lasers to remove a cosmetic tattoo.

To be frank, sometimes this can be true for cosmetic tattoos if the ink used is skin-colored. Flesh-colored tattoos can contain pigments of iron, which as a metal can provoke an undesired response from a laser treatment. To put it simply, the laser triggers a chemical response within the iron-based ink, causing the ink to turn black. However, if there is no metal in the cosmetic tattoo, it will be just as easy to eliminate as any other kind of tattoo. Another challenge to removing cosmetic tattoos arises if they are located in sensitive areas.

Special protection must be taken using laser shields in order to prevent eye damage. Also, because of the chemical process stimulated through laser treatments, the patient’s eyelashes and even eyebrows can be lost as a result of the procedure. Similarly, if cosmetic tattoos are removed around the mouth, the patient will need to wear additional protection for their teeth since the lasers can damage the enamel.

Laser technology has evolved in leaps and bounds since its initial implementation as a cosmetic procedure for eliminating undesired marks on the skin. If you are seeking treatment for tattoo removal, do not let any of the common myths dissuade you from looking further into your options. Visit Wisconsin Laser Tattoo Removal Center for the right answers.  Our initial consultations are always complimentary.

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