Tattoo removal is at the top of most trending l ists these days. According to a recent Marketwatch report, tattoo removal procedures increased by more than 440% over the last decade. “Patients typically love their tattoo for five years and desire removal after seven to ten years” says Dr. Jennifer Mundt, Medical Director, Delete – Tattoo Removal and Laser Salon. Whatever the reasons behind the desire to get a tattoo removed, consumers seeking tattoo removal services should always be educated about the process. Not all lasers, laser technicians and results are the same. Given the increased demand for tattoo removal, it is no surprise that newer technology is being introduced. But do claims that one technology is superior to another really mean anything? And what does ‘superior technology mean’? Getting past all the hype about the latest technology and faster removal can be daunting. In our experience, patients are fearful (for good reasons) of the pain, expense and risk involved in tattoo removal. We feel that is worthwhile to take a moment to more fully understand how certain factors can influence the safety and effectiveness of tattoo removal. Our next post will compare the latest in technology advancements coming to tattoo removal.
Tattoo Removal Factors
There are a number of factors that influence the success of laser tattoo removal. The first, and most obvious, is the device. It is critical that your medical practitioner utilizes the right technology. Not all lasers were designed for tattoo removal, and use of the wrong kind of laser can do more harm than good. Q-switched laser technology is a laser tattoo removal technology that replaced other invasive removal techniques, such as salabrasion, dermabrasion, and ablative CO2 laser removal, that destroyed layers of skin and created a large scar where a tattoo had been. Creams that claim to remove a tattoo have been proven ineffective time and time again. Q switched laser technology is the safest, most effective way to remove a tattoo.
The next set of factors concern the actual laser treatments and the laser settings. It is important that your medical practitioner utilizes an effective wavelength (determined by ink color), spot-size (determined by depth of treatment), and a pulse-rate (speed) that targets the destruction of the ink pigment while minimizing the thermal damage to the surrounding skin. The wrong laser settings can damage the skin, cause wounds that bleed and ooze, or worse, cause permanent scarring. Practitioners who are unfamiliar with the intricacies of laser technology, the tattoo removal process, and the nuances of the human body can turn an unwanted tattoo into a horrific scar. These tattoo removal scar images are prevalent on the internet. This is why we recommend that only physicians and registered nurses that have been fully trained with hands on experience in laser tattoo removal perform your treatments.
Different wavelengths are used to target different colors of ink and protect different shades of skin. The four available q-switched laser wavelengths are 694 nm Ruby, 755 nm Alexandrite, the 1064 nm Nd:Yag which converts to a 532 nm wavelength when passed through a KTP crystal. The 532 nm wavelength can be converted by dye laser hand pieces into 585 nm and 650 nm wavelengths. Tattoo ink color varies significantly, pigment does not always respond predictably. For example, black inks often contain shadings of blue and therefore will require multiple wavelengths to treat. The physicians of Delete ? Tattoo Removal and Laser Salon believe in the laser-pumped laser delivery technology found in the AlexELETE by Candela, a q-switched Alexandrite/Nd:Yag laser that delivers three wavelengths to safely treat nearly every tattoo color on every skin tone. Using the AlexELETE laser, our medical providers find red and black to be the easiest colors to remove. Although red is a notoriously difficult ink color to remove, Dr. Mundt and her team have removed it with a 532nm wavelength in as few as two treatments. Other tattoo ink colors that have been completely removed by the AlexELETE’s combination of 532nm,755nm and 1064nm wavelengths are blue, green, purple, brown, orange, pink, and yellow. This is unlike most other tattoo removal lasers with limited wavelengths .
The larger the spot size the deeper the tattoo removal treatment. The spot size is reduced to decrease the depth and increase the fluence i.e. power of the wavelength. According to Dr. Mundt, ‘It is important to treat the deepest layers of ink first and avoid superficial treatments with excessive power because scarring occurs around your ink and actually adds to the number of laser tattoo removal treatments needed.’ Trapped deeper ink results in a recalcitrant shadow of your former tattoo. When tattoo artists begin an outline of a tattoo they use a deeper needle to allow for a thicker edge to fill ink into. The deeper the ink is set into the skin, the larger spot-size is needed. The AlexELETE is an effective laser for inks of all depths (deep, medium and superficial inks). It can hit the very deep borders of tattoos as well as the lighter, superficial tattoos due to its different spot sizes.
The most frustrating aspect for tattoo removal patients is often the length of time it takes for the human body to remove the ink after the laser has broken it up. Pulse-width affects the size of the particles that the ink is broken up into when treated with the laser. In general, the faster the pulse, the smaller the ink particles. The latest tattoo removal technology approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is the picosecond technology. This technology delivers a pulse fired in pico (trillionths) of a second versus Q-switched models which deliver pulses by the nano (billionths) of a second pulses. The faster pulse breaks the ink into smaller particles, and smaller particles have been shown to be easier for the body to remove. This is where the picosecond technology is revolutionary.
As the leader in expert and comfortable tattoo removal, Delete–Tattoo Removal & Laser Salon’s physicians are committed to delivering the safest, fastest and most effective tattoo removal treatment possible. Our before and after photos tell our story. All breakthroughs are continually researched and our conclusions willingly shared. The pico-second technology is the newest tattoo removal technology and was reported on in the May/June 2014 MedEsthetics’s ‘Erasing The Past? article. One of the most highly marketed lasers in recent years, the Picosure laser by Cynosure was the first picosecond laser commercially available in 2012 with a single 755 wavelength and single spot size. In November 2014, the FDA approved Candela’s Picoway and Cutera’s Enlighten picosecond lasers with 1064 nm and 532 nm wavelengths. In our opinion, this latest approval signals a new era in tattoo removal technology. As experts, our hope (once again) is that only trained physicians deliver tattoo removal treatments with these powerful pico lasers to minimize risk to patients. We’ve seen firsthand the scars left by amateur removals.Our post next week will share our conclusions as we compare the three picolaser options newly available.