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Omaha Tattoo Removal
How does laser tattoo removal work? And can YOUR tattoo be removed?
Are you concerned that aging and gravity are changing once fresh images into smudgy messes? Maybe you simply changed your mind about your body art. You don't have to live with the cute flowers you loved on your ankle, the Chinese characters on your back, or the devil on your bicep that seemed so right at the time.
Skin Specialists in Omaha, Nebraska, under the guidance of board-certified dermatologist and board-certified dermatologic cosmetic surgeon Dr. Joel Schlessinger, offers consultation and treatment for tattoo removal.
Tattoo removal depends more on the color of the tattoo rather than on the design and size. Cost for removal varies according to the size, location, and quality of the tattoo.
At-home remedies can be unsafe and are invariably ineffective. Tattoo removal at home is unlikely to lead to complete removal of the ink and may cause burns or other unwanted skin damage. Remedies such as creams or bleaching agents found on the Internet are ineffective and can cause more damage than help.
It's best to consult with a specialist to examine your needs and decide on the best course of removal.
Who is a candidate for tattoo removal?
Tattoos are a concern for many people who may have outgrown them. Skin Specialists has been treating unwanted tattoos since 1997 and has great results with many of them. Additionally, Dr. Schlessinger is ethical and is careful to let patients know who may not have a good result on their tattoo prior to starting treatment.
It is always important to know when treatments may or may not succeed and pick the correct candidates. Dr. Schlessinger is very careful to make sure that his patients know what results to expect and when and how many treatments may be necessary. In this area in particular, treatments can vary greatly depending on the colors of the tattoo and the types of tattoo ink used.
What results can you expect?
Dr. Schlessinger can discuss expectations at an initial consultation in his Omaha, Nebraska office about tattoo removal. You may view some of his before-and-after photos here.
How are tattoos removed?
Proper use of various types of lasers for removal of tattoos is very important. Dr. Schlessinger has three lasers that can be used for tattoos, and this selection allows him to treat a variety of colors and tattoo patterns that might otherwise be impossible to treat.
Black ink can almost always be removed in a series of treatments a month apart that zap the ink particles and the skin cells that contain them. Yellow, white, orange, purple, or green tattoo colors may take more treatment and are more difficult to remove completely. That's where the skill of the doctor in deciding if your tattoo is treatable as well as the options available in their office makes a huge difference in your outcome.
How does laser tattoo removal work?
Simply put, this is how the laser procedure removes tattoos.
Tattoo ink is made up of particles, which are placed into the skin with needles as you get a tattoo. Depending on the tattoo, you may have various different colors of ink deep in the layers of your skin.
A laser is a device that delivers a pulse of light. Light can be generated in different colors. Only an experienced dermatologist such as Dr. Schlessinger is able to choose the right laser and the right pulse of light energy in the right color for the best outcome.
If the color of light shot into the skin matches the color of the ink, the ink will heat up the particles. The heat then vaporizes the particles or breaks them into smaller particles. As the particles become smaller and smaller through multiple treatments, they go away by absorbing into your body.
Some tattoo inks may be a combination of different colors, so the laser light may only remove part of the ink. Another laser wavelength may remove the rest.
Because the laser delivers light that can generate heat, the heat can also cause scarring. This can be a particular concern on highly sensitive areas of the skin, such as removing permanent makeup tattoos on the lips, for example.
What you need to know before the laser tattoo removal procedure.
Some tattoos are easier to remove than others. Some ink colors are easier to remove than others.
Tattoos in areas of the skin that are hard to get to (such as those covering folds of the skin or on the face) may be more difficult to remove.
Some areas of the body may produce more scarring than others. Particularly vulnerable to scarring are the neck, upper arm and shoulder, and the chest.
People with darker skin may have some challenges removing tattoos completely without lightening the surrounding skin.
The success of laser tattoo removal depends more on the color of the ink or inks used than on the size of the tattoo itself. Some tattoos can be noticeably reduced in 3 to 5 sessions with 4 to 6 weeks between sessions. Others may take 10 to 12 sessions over a period of a year or even never respond satisfactorily. During the time between sessions, your body is removing the small particles of pigment vaporized by the laser.
What happens during the laser tattoo removal procedure?
The tattooed skin will be prepared. Anesthetic is placed over the area to be treated. Occasionally, injections of anesthetic may be necessary.
Treatment with laser pulses lasts approximately minutes, but the preparation may be an hour or so between entering the building and having the laser procedure, so bring a book in case you wish to read.
Pain is controlled by using topical anesthetic and/or injectable anesthetic. The laser pulse has been described as feeling like an elastic band snapping your skin.
What happens after the procedure?
You will see incremental improvement from one session to the next, but most of the wide improvements occur after the 4th session. Dr. Schlessinger will explain what types of changes you can expect to see.
You may resume all activities right after treatment. Do not rub or scratch the area treated. In fact, you will want to keep the area covered to protect it from sunburn. For arms, wear long-sleeved clothing. For facial areas, be sure to cover the area with sunscreen and wear hats to protect your skin from sun exposure.
What are possible side effects of laser tattoo removal?
With luck, your tattoo will fade away to where it can be noticed, but very minimally. Most of the time it won't be like the darker image you started with. Your results depend on the skill of the dermatologist, the lasers owned by the practice, the colors of the inks that were used in the tattoo, the depth of the inks, how well your immune system helps remove the pigment particles generated by the laser, and how many treatments you have.
Sometimes patients may see a darkening or lightening of the skin in the area where the tattoo was removed. Skin texture may change.
Occasionally, a patient may develop a reddened area that looks like a burn. Most likely, it is a condition called post-inflammatory erythema (PIE), which can be caused by the laser procedure. Dr. Schlessinger can advise you how to lessen the inflammation until it goes away.
Questions & Answers About Laser Tattoo Removal
Dr. Schlessinger will answer your questions on tattoo removal. If you have a question, please email us.
Can I have permanent makeup tattoos such as eyebrows, eyeliner, and lip liner removed?
Work with a skilled dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon who has done many of these procedures. Dr. Schlessinger has performed these procedures for years and is an expert in his field.
This procedure will require many sessions to slowly remove tattoos on these highly sensitive areas of your face and can often lead to changes in coloration that aren't good. For this reason, Dr. Schlessinger avoids doing lasers on these areas unless patients are well aware of this possibility.
Which types of tattoos are easier to remove?
Amateur tattoos are sometimes easier to remove. Amateur tattoos tend to be just one, darker color and use less ink less deeply. Black and blue inks are easier to remove than reds, greens, orange, and yellows.
Professional tattoos, on the other hand, can be more difficult to remove. Professionals use higher quality inks and place the tattoo ink deeper into the skin more uniformly. The more colors used, the more difficult the removal becomes.
Colored tattoos may never be completely removed. Older tattoos seem to respond to laser removal faster than fresher tattoos.
If there is scarring after less-than-successful tattoo removal techniques, can the scars be fixed?
See a skilled dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon such as Dr. Schlessinger in Omaha, Nebraska for a consultation. You may be seeing the faded tattoo and not scarring. Or you may have a raised scar, which is a concern. At that time, you can discuss techniques for scar removal with your doctor.
Sometimes tattoos themselves become raised due to scarring from the tattoo process itself in which the recipient is actually allergic to tattoo dye. Talk with a dermatologist about how to treat this condition. It may involve certain steroid injections followed by laser removal.
Are there other ways to remove tattoos?
Yes, but they are mainly historical as they cause so much scarring and usually aren't successful to any appreciable degree.
- Dermabrasion is a treatment that sands the skin to remove the tattoo. Dr. Schlessinger does not do this procedure due to poor results and scarring.
- Excision is actually cutting away the skin. Sometimes, this is the most effective treatment for tough colors of tattoos, especially if they are smaller in nature and need to be removed quickly.
- Bleaching lightens the skin and helps fade tattoos, but not predictably. Bleaching creams sold on the Internet can be dangerous and contain harmful chemicals that can permanently damage your skin. Do not use these home treatments.
How soon can you start laser tattoo removal on a new tattoo?
Patients often have regrets about getting tattoos. Sometimes they hate them right away. Other times, they have had tattoos for years and wish to have them removed. Often these tattoos are names of people such as spouses or girlfriends or boyfriends who have moved on.
Once the tattoo has healed (approximately one month), laser removal can begin.
Are lasers effective in removing tattoos on darkly pigmented skin?
The success of laser tattoo removal depends on the colors in the tattoos. For African Americans and others with darker skin pigments, removing colors such as red or green can lighten the skin. Even when removing black and blue tattoos, there is a risk that the lasers will permanently lighten the skin in the area of the tattoo.
Can I have a tattoo placed over an area where I had a tattoo removed by laser?
Please rethink your decision to have another tattoo. You obviously regretted one tattoo and went through the long and expensive procedure to have it removed. Is this something you wish to do again? Do you want this particular body art? Or are you having a tattoo just to cover a faded, removed tattoo? Give yourself plenty of time to make this important decision. But the answer is probably yes.
Are tattoos on young women's lower backs a hazard if they need an epidural during childbirth?
There has been some question whether tattoo ink on the lower back would be forced into the spinal canal if a woman has an epidural (a procedure in which a needle is placed into the lower back to deliver pain-blocking medication during childbirth). Some physicians will perform the epidural; others will not.
Dr. Schlessinger encourages his patients to think twice about getting a tattoo in this area (or anywhere) and was actually quoted in an article in The New York Times about the current trend for young mothers to get "mommy" tattoos such as a child's footprint.
"If you want to celebrate your children, have a party, don't get a tattoo," he was quoted in The New York Times. "Even when the needles are sterilized, the technique isn't always safe. People can later on develop allergies to the ink or can find out years later that they've contracted hepatitis C."
Can only parts of a tattoo be removed, if desired?
Yes, it's possible with precise laser treatments by a professional dermatologist to target the removal of a name or certain color.