How Many Treatments to Remove a Tattoo?

How Many Treatments to Remove a TattooHow Many Laser Treatments Will I Need?

This is a very common question that patients ask at their first consultation.  There are many factors to consider when removing a tattoo. Generally, most patients need 4 to 6 treatments, but there are many factors that can change this.

What Kind of Tattoo is it?

Is it a professional, or amateur tattoo?  Professional tattoos are generally harder to remove as they have deeper and denser ink.  Amateur tattoos tend to have less ink density, and they are shallower.  The denser and deeper the ink, the more sessions it will take.

How Old is Your Tattoo?

Older tattoos are easier to remove than newer ones. Older tattoos are easier to remove because the body has had time to break down the ink and remove it.  The ink particles are also smaller in older tattoos, which makes them easier to remove.

What Type of Ink was used?

Unfortunately, there is no standard for tattoo inks.  Some inks will react differently to the laser than others.  What color is your tattoo?  Black is the easiest color to remove, and most tattoos have some black in them, even color tattoos have black in them.  The hardest colors to remove are yellows and oranges.  

Location of Tattoo

Where is the tattoo located on your body?  Typically the closer to your heart the faster the removal process will be.  Closer to the heart means better circulation; which in turn means your body will be able to get rid of the ink quicker.  Tattoos located on the head, shoulders, and chest are the fastest, and tattoos located on the hands and feet being the slowest.

What is the Health of the Patient?

The laser uses photoacoustics to break up the ink, after that ink has been broken into smaller particles it is up to your immune system to remove it.  If the patient is not healthy, or doesn’t have a healthy immune system it’s going to take longer for the ink to be removed.  This doesn’t mean that the treatment won’t work for you, it just means that you will need to have longer treatment intervals than the usual 6 to 8 weeks.

What is your Skin Type?

Tattoo removal is most effective for individuals with lighter skin. Fitzpatrick types 1 and 2.  The reason for this is because they have less pigment in their skin, and the laser focuses all of its energy on the tattoo ink, instead of their skin pigment.  This doesn’t mean that darker skin types can get their tattoos removed, but it will take more treatments to remove it.  Darker skin types have to be treated at a lower laser energy to avoid scarring or hypo-pigmentation.

Is there Scarring in the Treatment Area?

If the tattoo is scarred it will be harder to remove.  It is harder to remove ink from under scar tissue.  People with darker skin types are more prone to this. This could be caused from the process of getting the tattoo, or poor aftercare.
For information on scarring treatment, read Vivace RF Microneedling for Reducing Scars.

How Many Layers is the Tattoo?

Layered tattoos have significantly more ink and denser ink.  If you are trying to remove a cover-up or multiple layers of ink, it will require more treatments.

How Does the PiQo4 Laser Work?

The PiQo4  laser uses photoacoustics to break up the ink particles.  Think of the ink as a large rock, the laser breaks that rock up into smaller pieces.  Once the ink is broken up into pieces the body’s immune system removes it.  This is why it takes time after your treatment to notice the ink fading away.
Picosecond lasers are the most effective lasers on the market for removing tattoos. The PiQo4 laser is the most powerful pico laser on the market, and it has 4 wavelengths that can remove any color of ink.

Does Tattoo Removal Hurt?

Tattoo removal can hurt, but it doesn’t have to hurt.  People say that it feels like a rubber band snapping on your skin repeatedly.  At our office, the doctor will apply topical numbing cream, and you also have the option to receive lidocaine injections.  When lidocaine injections are done the patients report not feeling anything, and are very comfortable for the entire treatment.

Tattoo Aftercare

After your tattoo has been treated we will apply Tegaderm (a second skin) to the treatment area to protect it from the elements.  This will stay on for a few days.  The tattoo will be red and puffy for a few days after treatment.  You will leave the office with an ice pack to reduce swelling and irritation.  You can keep applying ice after you are home for as long as you want.  No swimming pools, saunas, or sweating for the first 24 hours after treatment, and no sun exposure.  
You will return to the office 6 to 8 weeks later for your next treatment.  This allows your body’s immune system time to clear out the ink that the laser destroyed.
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