There’s More Than One Method To Choose From
“There is more than one way to go with tattoo removal,” explains Debbie Thomas of the D.Thomas skincare clinic. “Laser is the most common but there is a chemical option as well, although this isn’t widely available. The latter involves tattooing a type of acid into the skin to cause a reaction and theoretically push some of the ink out.” Other methods include dermabrasion tattoo removal and a surgical method that removes the outer layers of the skin in a controlled manner.
Laser Is The Common Choice
“Laser tattoo removal works by removing the permanent pigmented ink used in your tattoo,” explains Sam Cinkir, managing director of Este Medical Group. “The heat generated by this laser travels through the surface skin layer to reach the tattoo ink underneath. This tattoo ink is then shattered into miniscule fragments, and, over time, your body’s immune system absorbs these tiny fragments, which makes your tattoo fades gradually. A course of treatments generally achieves the best results. At Este Medical group, we use a powerful handheld Q-Switched laser to treat the specific skin area.”
Several Sessions Are Normally Required
According to Debbie, patients generally need six to 12 treatments to get a result. Each session can be anywhere from five to 60 minutes long, depending on size of the tattoo, and treatments are normally three to six weeks apart. Sam adds: “The colours of the tattoo pigment, your skin tone, and how well your skin and body respond to the procedure will also determine how many sessions you require to get satisfactory results. We advise a course of several sessions for best results.”
Risks Are Involved
Tattoo removal is a strong treatment and as with all laser and advanced treatments, there are risks involved. However, says Debbie, when done with an experienced laser practitioner, the risks are much lower. “You could end up with a slight texture change or pigment change in the area long term. Short term, expect some blisters and crusting – but know most people do get good results with no long-lasting side effects.” Sam adds: “Laser treatment is much safer than other methods of tattoo removal, such as dermabrasion or surgery, as it selectively treats the pigment in the tattoo. There are very few side effects but, yes, some people experience slight blistering of the skin for up to a week post treatment.”
The Cost Can Be Considerable
Individually, the cost might be similar to that of the original tattoo, but as you have to have several sessions, the costs can mount up. At a reputable clinic, illustrates Debbie, a 3in x 3in sized tattoo will cost approximately £500-£1,000 to remove. Sam agrees the cost will land in direct proportion to the number of sessions required but estimates a typical cost of £70-£300 per session of laser treatment.
Full Removal Is Possible…
“Full removal of the tattoo is possible but can take some time, and it greatly depends on the tattoo,” says Roxanne Lanthier, senior aesthetician at Young LDN in Notting Hill. “Some respond quickly, while older ones can take a lot more time. In some cases, some tattoos never fully disappear, and a lighter shadow of the tattoo can remain. We also recommend that once a client gets to that stage, to use some pigment brightening products to aid with the brightening.” She adds: “Some practitioners will also combine laser treatments with peels or micro-needling to further help the fading of the tattoo, as some tattoos don’t respond to laser alone – especially if the ink is old and has been mixed with different colours. At Young LDN, we can remove black, blue and red ink and recommend a course of up to eight treatments to start with.”
...But It Won’t Always Work Perfectly
“Bear in mind that there are some new inks that don't respond as well as the traditional inks, and a test patch should be carried out before any treatment to show the ink’s reaction,” says Debbie.
“It may not be possible to remove 100% of the ink, so there may be a slight shadow/light bruise-like effect in the area long term.” Sam adds: “We can usually achieve dramatic results with our Q-Switched laser, and it is possible to remove the appearance of tattoos from the skin altogether. However, some stubborn tattoos may still be visible after treatment, even if they have faded considerably. This is all due to pigments used, your skin tone, and the absorption rate of the fragmented ink into your immune system.”
Aftercare Is Crucial
Not only is removing a tattoo more painful and expensive than getting one, but the aftercare is also similar – with patients urged to keeping the area clean and dry for several days. “If you have darker skin, there is a chance that you may end up with hyperpigmentation (loss of colour),” warns Debbie. “This could be temporary but can, in some cases, be permanent.”
DISCLAIMER: Always consult a certified professional before making any decisions based on your personal health.