Contributing Factors & Side Effects
Updated: Jun 27, 2021
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked “how many sessions do I need?” I’d have a sh*t load of dollars! If there was a uniform answer to this question I wouldn’t mind it being asked so much..... actually no wait, I lied - I probably would still mind haha!
There are so many factors which contribute to how efficiently a tattoo is removed and which of these factors each individual client possesses is not known - and can remain unknown until the client is multiple treatments into their treatment plan.
Some people achieve complete removal in 4 treatments while others are in for the long haul and need 10+ treatments. The reason for this? Well, not only is everyone different but their tattoos are also very different too therefore - cue long list of factors that contribute to laser tattoo removal treatment effectiveness in alphabetical order:
After care: Having a good aftercare routine is super important in helping to keep the skin healthy throughout the healing process.
Brand of ink: Different brands of ink means different levels in quality and therefore different levels of ease to remove.
Competency of Tattooist: "Backyard tattooists" is a term we're too familiar with. If a tattooist moves the gun slower/too slow for a particular line, tattoos too deep, stops in one spot for too long, etc. this can create a different level of energy to remove that particular part of the tattoo compared to the rest of the tattoo.
Country tattooed in: Some countries use traditional styles to tattoo the skin which can create different levels of difficulty to remove a tattoo.
Fitzpatrick skin type: Results of a heavy black tattoo on skin type 1 will dramatically differ from results of a lighter coloured tattoo on the same skin type, the laser is drawn to darker pigments.
General health of client: THIS IS A MASSIVE CONTRIBUTOR! Your body is the main player in removing the ink from your skin, it basically does all of the removing, the laser just breaks the ink down for your body to do the hard work of removing it! For this reason the healthier you are the better your body is going to get rid of the ink!
Ink colours: More colours means more techniques to fade each of those colours. Also, sometimes tattooists mix ink colours to achieve a particular shade which may not be detected until after the first 1-2 treatments. This particularly happens with cosmetic tattoos.
Location on the body: The further the tattoo is away from the heart the weaker the blood flow will be in the area which in turn effects how well the ink is removed (through the blood stream) from the area. This means tattoos on hands and feet can sometimes require more treatments.
Pre-existing scarring: If your tattoo is over existing scars and the ink is either tattooed into the scar tissue or below the scar tissue this can create a need for further tattoo removal techniques beyond just lasering. Alternatively a less aggressive approach may need to be taken to not agitate and/or worsen particular scarring.
Scar tissue from getting tattooed: If during the healing process of getting tattooed you’ve developed scar tissue in the Epidermis this can hinder how effectively the laser gets through to the ink. This again can create a situation where you need more than just laser treatments to remove your tattoo.
Tattoo layering: If the tattoo is a cover up or the tattooist had to do extensive touch ups this creates multiple layers of ink in the skin and can potentially mean there's layers of scar tissue there too.
Are there side effects involved with Laser Tattoo Removal?
Yes there are, but if all of the proper protocols are followed based on the tattoo and the clients skin, all side effects are temporary. The most common temporary side effects are:
Redness, tenderness & swelling: Redness, tenderness, and swelling typically subside within a day or two following treatment.
Blistering, scabs & bruising: Blisters usually appear within 24 hours of treatment; sometimes the blisters are large and may look alarming – this is completely normal. Scabs, bruising, and blistering may take up to a week or longer to heal. The skin is amazing, trust the process, keep the skin nice and clean and let it heal.
Hyperpigmentation & hypopigmentation: Hyperpigmentation and Hypopigmentation can occur when the body's production of melanin is skewed after a laser treatment. With hyperpigmentation, the body overproduces melanin in reaction to the laser treatment, so skin in the treated area is darker than the natural skin tone. With hypopigmentation, the melanin is depleted by the laser treatment and the skin appears bleached. Both hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation are typically temporary and resolve naturally with time.
Frosting: What is frosting? Rapid, localised heating of skin pigment causes gas or plasma to form, carbon dioxide is released as a result and surfaces on the upper layer of the skin, this causes the white frosting you sometimes see during and after laser treatment.
Clients are generally more concerned about permanent side effects rather than temporary ones; the side effects that could become permanent are scarring or pigmentation changes which as previously mentioned are completely avoidable if the proper protocols are followed and good aftercare is implemented.
Aftercare is discussed during consultations, our aftercare information is posted on our FAQ page, the link to this page is given to our clients incase any questions or concerns arise throughout their treatment plan.
Ok so as you can see there’s a lot to think about before starting to remove a tattoo. One more thing to add into the mix and surprisingly isn’t a question we are commonly asked is...
How long will it take to remove my Tattoo?
This is another question that can be tricky to answer because of the previously mentioned factors. To be brutally honest, it's not uncommon for the body to take around a year to completely eliminate a tattoo. Why so long you ask? To allow the skin enough time to adequately heal between treatments and the body's lymphatic system to flush away the ink we initially recommend a minimum of 6 weeks between laser treatments. Throughout your treatment plan this can increase up to 12 weeks due to the significant increase in laser energy pulsed into the skin. Not allowing the skin enough time to heal between treatments can cause damage and permanent side effects!