In general, this is what will happen during an office visit for tattoo removal using the newer lasers:
- Protective eye shields are placed on the patient.
- The skin's reaction to the laser is tested to determine the most effective energy for treatment.
- The treatment itself consists of placing a hand piece against the surface of the skin and activating the laser light. As many patients describe it, each pulse feels like a grease splatter or the snapping of a rubber band against the skin.
- Smaller tattoos require fewer pulses while larger ones require more. In either case, the tattoo requires several treatments and multiple visits. At each treatment, the tattoo should become progressively lighter.
- Immediately following treatment, an ice pack is applied to soothe the treated area. The patient will then be asked to apply a topical antibiotic cream or ointment. A bandage or patch will be used to protect the site and it should likewise be covered with a sun block when out in the sun.
Most patients do not require any anesthesia. However, depending on the location of the tattoo and the pain threshold for the patient, the physician may elect to use some form of anesthesia (topical anesthesia cream or painkiller injections at the site of the procedure).
What Are the Possible Side Effects of Laser Tattoo Removal?
There are minimal side effects to laser tattoo removal. However, you should consider these factors in your decision:
- The tattoo removal site is at risk for infection. You may also risk lack of complete pigment removal, and there is a slight chance that the treatment can leave you with a permanent scar.
- You may also risk hypopigmentation, where the treated skin is paler than surrounding skin, or hyperpigmentation, where the treated skin is darker than surrounding skin.
- Cosmetic tattoos like lip liner, eyeliner, and eyebrows may darken following treatment with tattoo removal lasers. Further treatment of the darkened tattoos usually results in fading.