A practice centuries old, tattoos represent a way to display your character, personal beliefs, memorialize an experience or express yourself artistically. A once shunned practice reserved for those on the fringe of society, tattoos have surged in popularity and are a widely accepted adornment with everyone from doctors and judges to bikers and construction workers taking part.
A Growing Culturally Acceptable Social Norm for Residents of Toronto, Mississauga, and Kitsilano
One thing is certain, tattoos are an increasingly acceptable social norm. The industry is growing, and with it, there has been an increase in individuals opting to remove or cover past tattoos that may no longer represent who they are, what they like or what they want to represent.
One of the most popular methods of tattoo removal today is the use of lasers. Laser tattoo removal technology has seen a great many advancements over the years, but how exactly does the laser removal process work? How long does it take? And what else should you know about it before taking the plunge?
In this guide, the team at Chronic Ink and Tattoos will help residents of Toronto, Mississauga, and Kitsilano explore some of the most interesting facts about laser tattoo removal. By the end of this guide you should have a better idea of whether or not tattoo removal is a good option for your situation and goals.
Facts About Laser Tattoo Removal
1. The laser doesn’t actually remove the ink from your skin
It’s a common misconception that the laser does all the heavy lifting when it comes to removing ink from your skin. The reality is that your body actually does most of the work involved with processing and eliminating ink as a waste product.
When your tattoo was initially applied, the ink was injected into the dense middle layer of your skin. While our bodies are designed to target any foreign particles and eradicate them, tattoo ink remains because the pigment particles are too large for our bodies to absorb and discard.
This is where the laser comes into play. The laser targets the ink and pigment molecules, breaking them down into small enough particles for our bodies to absorb and process. Ink molecules pass into the bloodstream where they are processed by your kidneys and liver and later excreted as natural waste products.
2. Once the pigment is broken down, you pee it out!
Now that you know the laser is what breaks down the ink particles, your next question is likely how your body actually excretes the ink itself, eliminating the pigment in a safe and natural way.
First, your body disperses the ink particles into your bloodstream, which provides a medium in which to make their way to your kidneys and liver where they can be processed. After your kidneys do a bit of the heavy lifting, the remainder is released from your body through urine and sweat. But don’t worry, you won’t actually see any discolouration in your urine or sweat. For those of you hoping to pee out the colours of the rainbow, sorry to disappoint. Likewise, you won’t have to worry about ink-saturated sweat staining any clothing.
That said, it is smart to not do too many tattoo removal sessions in a row or too large of a session at once. Your tattoo removal specialist will help counsel you on the proper time that should be allowed between sessions.
Because the ink is processed by your body’s natural filtration system (kidneys and liver) intense removal sessions or back-to-back sessions without much downtime between can put undue stress on your bodily system, causing them to work overtime, and potentially leading to other health issues down the road.
When proper protocol is followed, removing your tattoos one at a time is considered to be a safe and effective procedure.
3. Your tattoo may get darker before it starts to fade
This may sound counter intuitive, but your tattoo may actually darken before it begins its disappearing act. So don’t be discouraged if your tattoo appears the same or even a bit darker after your first few sessions.
This darkening is completely normal and is a direct result of the way in which the lasers impact the layers and tissue of your skin.
First, be aware that lasers target the deepest layers of pigment first. Often, while your body works on eliminating these deeper layers, the layers closer to the surface will appear a bit darker.
Secondly, irritation and even light bruising can also occur as a result of laser treatments, making your tattoo actually appear darker than it really is.
4. Multiple laser sessions are required to fully remove a tattoo, no matter its size
How long does laser tattoo removal take?
The answer varies based on a number of factors, but keep in mind that even the smallest of tattoos generally will require at least 3 laser sessions to fully remove (with 5 sessions being more common for smaller work).
Other aspects that can impact how many sessions will be required to fully remove a tattoo include the tattoo’s location, colours used, the age of the tattoo, and your skin type.
You will typically be required to wait about 10 weeks between laser sessions in order to allow your body to safely process and eliminate the ink from the previous sessions, and for your skin to heal properly.
A good skincare regiment for your between sessions can go a long way towards helping ensure the process goes smoothly and your skin heals properly before your next session.
5. Where your tattoo is located will impact its healing time
Circulation and blood flow play a big role in helping your body eliminate the broken down pigment particles quickly. Because of this, the location of your tattoo plays a role in how quickly you’ll begin to see results from your laser session.
Areas of the body with better circulation tend to fade quicker, such as those tattoos closer to the heart on your chest or torso. Tattoos on extremities such as hands and feet generally take the longest to fade. So don’t be alarmed if that hand tattoo seems to be fading at a snail’s pace, the treatment is working, the results just won’t be visible as quickly as other parts of the body.
6. Getting some cardio in at the gym can speed up the process
Speaking of circulation and blood flow, taking part in activities that increase circulation or get your heart pumping can help speed up the fading process. So if you’ve been putting off those trips to the gym, now is the time to start getting your money’s worth from your gym membership.
Fast paced cardio workouts are best for increasing circulation, but any physical activity can help. If going to the gym isn’t your thing, you could take up another cardio based activity such as jogging or hiking, though you might want to avoid swimming in any public pools if you’re experiencing any blistering or open wounds from your laser treatments to avoid the risk of infection.
You should also be mindful of avoiding those activities that reduce circulatory health and function, such as smoking cigarettes and excess caffeine.
7. Different laser settings are needed to target different colours and pigments
Different pigments react to different wavelengths of light, meaning that not all colours will fade at the same rate. Black inks attract all wavelengths, making black the easiest colour to remove with a laser. Blue and green inks, on the other hand, are notoriously stubborn to remove so tattoos that rely heavily on these colours may take longer to fully eliminate.
The good news is there are advances in laser technology every year, and we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were only a few years back, making it easier to remove troublesome colours than ever before. Keep in mind that if your tattoo features multiple colours, it’s completely normal to notice some colours fading much faster than others.
8. Everyone experiences the pain from laser tattoo removal differently
One of the most common questions regarding laser tattoo removal is whether or not laser tattoo removal hurts. Just like getting a tattoo in the first place, the question of laser tattoo removal being painful is largely dependent on individual circumstances. Most people agree that the pain level is about equal to the pain of getting a tattoo applied in the first place, though the sensation is quite different.
The most common descriptors for the pain used are either a rubber band snapping against your skin or hot oil hitting your skin from a frying pan. However, everyone’s pain threshold is different. If you have a low tolerance for pain and are worried about getting laser removal for this reason, talk to your laser technician about topical anaesthesia options. Often numbing creams or injections can be used prior to treatment to lessen the pain factor.
9. The number of patients receiving laser tattoo removal treatments is growing every year
As laser technology becomes more advanced and more widespread, the number of people opting for laser tattoo removal has grown along with it. These increasing numbers may also be impacted by the fact that tattooing, in general, has become more common and socially acceptable than ever before. As the demand grows, the technology is able to advance more quickly, giving laser technicians the ability to remove complicated and colourful tattoos better than ever before.
10. Not everyone is a good candidate for laser tattoo removal
Those with weakened immune systems and pregnant and breastfeeding women may also not be able to undergo laser. Another big factor that may come into play when considering laser tattoo removal is cost, laser can often be quite a bit more expensive than getting a tattoo in the first place! If laser treatment is out of the question in your situation, you may want to consider an alternative method for fixing an undesirable tattoo, such as an artistic cover-up done by an artist who specializes in cover-up tattoos.
Have More Questions? – reach out or stop by today!
At Chronic Ink and Tattoo we love helping individuals with everything from tattoos to piercings. If this guide left you with a few lingering questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. We would love to learn more about your situation and how we can assist.
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