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Till recently tattoos were considered as permanent. However tattoos can now be removed via various treatments either totally or partially. Before the laser removal technique was developed, the techniques in use were dermoabrasion and TCA (Trichloroacetic) – a kind of acid that removes the outmost layer of the skin, bringing to the surface the skin layer which is not effected by the tattoo.
Another technique is salabrasion (rubbing the skin with salt), a cryosurgery that destroys tattoos in the skin. Laser tattoo removal started in the beginning of 1990’s. Today ‘laser tattoo removal’ refers to a non invasive removal of the tattoo’s pigment. One survey conducted in U.S.A. in 1912 shows that 1 out of 7 (14%) out of 21% of Americans interviewed having a tattoo regret having done one. According to the survey, the main reasons for tattoo removal were the young age when the tattoo was done, they did not like the tattoo anymore, the tattoo was incompatible with their workplace, etc. Laser removal is conducted in a fragmented way, removing the tattoo in a time distance of 30 days from one session to the next as this is as long as the skin needs to regenerate in order to withstand the next hit.
Tattoo pigments have a specific spectrum of absorption as the energy emitted by laser is defined by the filter installed in the hitting moment. Some pigments, like yellow, green, red, and white as well as the fluorescent ones are more difficult to treat compared to black or other dark colours.
Several sessions are required to remove a tattoo completely and the number of sessions depends on the size of target area, kind of dye used, and skin characteristics. This is why tattoo removal period length varies from one person to the other. Tattoo removal is not a nice process. Many patients admit that it hurts as much as having a tattoo done. However, anaesthetic creams can be used in case the patient cannot stand the pain.
The most common method of tattooing in modern times is the electric tattoo machine which inserts ink into the skin via a single needle or a group of needles proceeding in high speed to ‘cut’ the outermost layer of the skin. In reality, the more carefully the tattoo is made, the easier it is to remove it in the future because the pigment is all set in the same depth in the skin. Complete laser tattoo removal requires numerous treatment sessions because, as mentioned above, it depends on the skin type, location, colour, amount of ink, scar or tissue change, and layering. The patient decides if s/he wants to use local anaesthetics. The type of laser used to remove the tattoo depends on the colour of its pigment. Yellow and green colours are the most difficult to remove while black and dark blue are the easiest.
Tattoo removal is most commonly performed using lasers that break down the ink particles in the tattoo via light impulses of high intensity without causing any damage to the skin layers. The broken-down ink is then absorbed by the body, mimicking the natural fading that time or sun exposure would create. The healthier, moisturized, and relaxed the body is, the easier your immunity system will eliminate these small pigment particles. Patients say that the tattoo removal causes almost similar pain as when it is made. Tattoo removal requires several treatment sessions at a four to six weeks distance from each other during which the skin regenerates and can be hit again. After the session the skin is sensitive and can form crust. During the following weeks the pigment in target areas will fade. The side effects and complications that limit the treatment are:
– lactation period;
– medication that causes photosensitivity or have skin thinning effects;
– allergy towards products or materials used during the treatment;
– cardio-vascular pathologies (thrombosis, phlebitis, hypertension, hypotension, heart conditions);
– pathology of connective tissue (scleroderma);
– skin diseases;
– sun burns;
– keloid scars.