How does a laser remove tattoo ink from the skin?

photo courtesy of by artzenter

Lasers can be used for a wide variety of purposes from scanning bar codes at the grocery store, to playing a CD, to sealing up surgical wounds, and even removing tattoos. To do all these many jobs, lasers need to be calibrated differently. You couldn’t just place your tattooed arm on the check-out scanner and have it remove your tattoo, and a surgical laser would burn right through the ink and potentially damage the skin in the process.

A tattoo removal laser is calibrated very specifically to produce nanosecond pulses of energy. Varying wavelengths are used for different colors of ink. Wavelengths are attracted to colors on the opposite end of the visible light spectrum. The tattoo ink absorbs these energy pulses which cause it to heat up and shatter. Imagine a potato in the microwave. If you’ve forgotten to pierce the skin, it will heat up and shatter (explode). So back to tattoo ink…Once all the ink has been shattered, the laser’s job is done. The shattered ink is then removed from the body by your immune system; sounds simple enough.

Now many of you may be thinking, “Wow! That’s it. One zap with the laser and my tat will be gone forever.” If only it were that easy. Janet and the rest of the Vanish staff would LOVE for this to be a one and done process, but unfortunately it is a multi-step process. The laser works through the ink in layers. Setting the laser too high would result in unnecessary trauma to the skin as well as potentially too much shattered ink than the immune system can handle at one time. Both could result in unsightly scaring, and nobody wants to trade an unwanted tattoo for a scar shaped like the unwanted tattoo.

On average, 5-10 treatments is needed to remove a tattoo. Sessions are spaced approximately 4-8 weeks apart. This allows your skin ample time to heal and your immune system the ability to flush away a good deal of shattered ink before more is shattered with another laser treatment. We’ll make every effort to get you the best possible results in the least amount of time and treatments necessary. Remember, we get just as excited as you do when that tattoo fades away. We want you to be totally satisfied with your results. Don’t hesitate to ask questions when you have them.