Getting a tattoo can be exciting, but sometimes, this can lead to regret and the only option is removing the unwanted tattoo. Laser tattoo removal is the only non-invasive way to remove a tattoo permanently. However, not all lasers can remove some tattoos due to the colouring of the tattoo. Typically, a Q-switched laser will remove black and other darker-coloured inks completely. While lighter colours such as yellows and greens are still very difficult to remove. Success can depend on a wide variety of factors including skin colour, ink colour, and the depth of the tattoo ink.
What laser do you use for tattoo removal?
At the Everything Skin Clinic, we have extensive experience in treating tattoos. In our experience, there is not a single laser beam which offers 100% guarantee of removal of pigment from a tattoo. However, we will only use the best, which is why we use the best laser wavelengths including the Q-Switched Ruby Laser for the removal of tattoos. We use the Quanta Q plus C laser for tattoo removal at our clinic.
What is the Q-switched Ruby laser?
A Ruby laser uses a synthetic ruby crystal as its laser medium. The active laser medium is a synthetic ruby rod that is then energised through optical pumping. Ruby lasers produce pulses of visible light of a deep red colour. Any laser can produce the right wavelengths of light, however, unless the energy is accurately applied for the correct length of time and with sufficient power, you will not achieve the desired effect. For tattoos, which are very small particles, the laser will need to deliver a lot of laser energy in a very short duration, nanoseconds or less to be able to destroy the tattoo particles. This is achievable with the Q switched lasers.
Does the Q-Switched laser remove coloured tattoos?
The majority of pigments especially colours like blacks and blues respond well to the treatment. However, some pigments such as greens are resistant to treatment with commonly available Q switched lasers. Q switched Ruby laser can be effective in treating green colours. Red pigments in tattoos can reflect the Ruby light and not respond to the treatment however in practice red tattoos do tend to fade very well. Flesh coloured inks, as well as some red and white colours, can go black in the early stages of treatment, however, this is rare.
Modern inks that are bright are more unpredictable than others and they may take longer to fade, or we may not be able to remove them entirely.
How long does it take to remove a tattoo?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a guaranteed number of sessions. Due to the variety of sizes, colour and type of tattoos, the number of treatments will differ for each person. The number of treatments needed can also depend on the body’s defence mechanism and if it is effective. For example, amateur tattoos applied with Indian ink can take between 1-10 treatments whereas tattoos done professionally can between 8-20. Seeing the tattoo in consultation will give a better estimate on how many sessions you will need.
Are there any side-effects from tattoo removal?
With any lasers there is a risk of scarring however the Ruby laser does not heat the area of skin around the tattoo, this reduces the risk of scarring. There may be some blistering after treatment with some patients. This is normal and will usually resolve in about a week. Once the blisters have gone, the area of skin around the tattoo may feel and look shiny for some weeks.
The biggest side effect is skin de-pigmentation, as the laser targets dark pigments, the melanin in the skin absorbs the ruby laser energy as well. The most frequent side effect is that the natural colour in the skin is likely to ‘bleach’ after a number of treatments. Freckles can often disappear during the treatment.
Due to the risk of damage to skin pigment, we cannot treat tanned skin and will need to postpone the treatment until any form of suntan has faded. We recommend that patients not allow their skin to tan before or during the treatment. During the course of the treatment, you should use sun protection (factor 30+) on the area daily and you will need to keep the area covered.
Laser Tattoo Removal with Q-Switched Ruby Laser
The Q Switched Ruby laser works by producing extremely short pulses of high energy red light. The light is then absorbed by the particles of the tattoo pigment but doesn’t get absorbed by the surrounding skin. The tattoo pigment then heats up and starts to break down into small particles. The body’s own immune system then targets these minute particles and removes them gradually over time.
After the procedure, you should take care for the first few days following the treatment and avoid scrubbing the area.
Does laser tattoo removal hurt?
Yes, you will feel some pain during the treatment. The amount of pain felt is dependent on the type of tattoo, where is it placed on the body, how many treatments you will need and your pain threshold. For some patients, they don’t feel anything whereas others do feel pain during the treatment. Patients have described the pain ranges from a flick of an elastic band on the skin, to chip fat splashing on the skin. The majority of patients do tend to tolerate the treatment well.
Will I lose hair?
While the Q-Switched laser will not remove all hair in the treatment area, it’s important to note that it can sometimes reduce the amount of hair growth in that area.
Benefits of the Q-switched laser for tattoo removal
The advantages of the Q-switched laser are we can adjust the laser to treat the specific tattoo. The treatment itself is non-invasive and has no downtime. If requested, we can combine the treatment with other cosmetic procedures.
How does it compare to other lasers?
Before the Q-switched laser gained their popularity, continuous wave lasers were the popular choice for tattoo removal. These lasers would rely on burning to breakdown the targeted tissue or pigments. However, photo-thermal effects are slow which give more time for the laser light to reflect and scatter into the surrounding skin. This can cause unwanted damage and scarring on the skin and skin tone alteration.
Unlike the continuous wave lasers, the Q-switch lasers method is to send continuous waves but in short powerful bursts or pulses. The intense amount of energy used then breaks down the targeted area resulting in a shockwave that disrupts the pigment.
Therefore, due to the precision pulses of the Q-switch laser, it minimises the damage to the healthy tissue surrounding the treatment area making it a much safer procedure than the continuous wave lasers.
What is it used for?
In terms of eligibility, there are many different aspects to check to see if you are eligible for laser tattoo removal. If you have lighter skin but you have a suntan, you will have to wait until you are no longer tanned as we will not treat tanned skin. Self-tanner lotion also counts, so it is best to avoid this as well. Tattoo removal is not suitable for those in the early stages of pregnancy.
Why choose Everything Skin Clinic?
At Everything Skin Clinic™, we have a team of highly trained Consultant dermatologists, who have completed specialist training in Dermatology and are on the specialist register of the General Medical Council. All our consultants hold substantive contracts with the best Dermatology centres in leading NHS hospitals. Therefore, you can be certain of the highest quality private care.
We offer a range of treatments and can offer one, or a combination of treatments to achieve the best results. Unlike many other clinics, we can offer diagnosis and treatment all under one roof by expert consultant dermatologist, so you know you’ll be in safe hands.