Tattoo removal surgery

Tattoo removal

What is Tattoo Removal?

Tattoo removal is a procedure done to try to remove an unwanted tattoo. Common techniques used for tattoo removal include laser surgery, surgical removal and dermabrasion.

Tattoo ink is placed beneath the top layer of the skin. That makes tattoo removal more complicated — and expensive — than the original tattoo application.

If you're interested in tattoo removal, consult a skin doctor (dermatologist) about the options. Don't attempt tattoo removal on your own. Do-it-yourself tattoo removal creams and other home treatments aren't likely to be effective and can cause skin irritation or other reactions.

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Before Tattoo Removal Procedure

Why it's done

You might consider tattoo removal if you regret a tattoo or you're unhappy with the appearance of your tattoo. Perhaps the tattoo has faded or blurred, or you decide that the tattoo doesn't fit your current image.

Tattoo removal might also be important if you develop an allergic reaction to the tattoo or other complications, such as an infection.

Best candidates for tattoo removal

Older tattoos as well as amateur (“stick and poke”) tattoos are easier to remove than newer ones.

Some colors are easier to remove than others as well. These include:

. Black

. Brown

. Dark blue

. Green

Larger, darker, more colorful tattoos are more time-consuming and expensive to remove than smaller, lighter, and less colorful ones.

Due to the risk of side effects, it’s also more difficult to remove tattoos if you have:

. Darker skin

. A preexisting skin condition, like eczema

. A health condition that affects the skin, such as herpes

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t remove your tattoo if any of this applies to you. It just means you may need to take a bit more time to find the best removal option for you.

Your healthcare provider can also help you if you have a health condition. For example, they can prescribe antiviral medications to prevent a tattoo removal procedure from triggering a herpes flare-up. They can also refer you to a dermatologist for further guidance.

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Risks

Scarring is likely after most types of tattoo removal. Infection or skin discoloration is possible as well.

How you prepare

If you're considering tattoo removal, consult a dermatologist. He or she can explain the options for tattoo removal and help you choose the method that's most likely to be effective for your tattoo.

 

For example, some tattoo inks are more responsive to laser treatment than are others. Likewise, small tattoos might be good candidates for surgical removal, while others are simply too large to remove with a scalpel.

Who should get laser removal?

Tattoos with many colors are more difficult to remove. They might require treatment with different lasers and wavelengths to be effective.

The best candidates for traditional laser removal are those with lighter skin. This is because laser treatment can change the color of darker skin.

If you have darker skin, your best laser option is Q-switched Nd: YAG laser treatment. It’s least likely to change the color of darker skin.

Older tattoos tend to fade most with laser treatment. Newer tattoos are more difficult to remove.

Who should get surgical removal?

Surgical removal is a very effective method for getting rid of an unwanted tattoo. It’s often less expensive than some of the other options. However, surgical removal will leave a scar, so it’s usually preferred for small tattoos.

Who should get dermabrasion?

Dermabrasion isn’t recommended for people with sensitive skin or skin conditions like eczema.

Blood thinners may put you at risk for bleeding, bruising, and changes in your skin color if you receive dermabrasion.

People with darker skin may be at a greater risk for skin pigment changes.

During Tattoo Removal Procedure

What you can expect

Tattoo removal is often done as an outpatient procedure with local anesthesia. Common techniques for tattoo removal include laser surgery, surgical removal and dermabrasion.

Laser surgery

. How does laser removal work?

Most experts consider laser removal to be the most successful and cost-effective way to remove tattoos.

Today, most tattoos are removed with a Q-switched laser. It sends out energy in one strong pulse. This pulse of energy heats up the ink in your skin to dissolve it.

You’ll need to receive a number of laser treatments over several weeks or longer to remove your tattoo.

Often, lasers don’t completely remove a tattoo. Instead, they lighten or fade it so it’s much less noticeable.

. What’s laser removal like?

You can get laser tattoo removal at an aesthetic clinic. A laser technician will numb the tattooed skin with a local anesthetic. Next, they’ll apply the laser to the skin. The skin may bleed, blister, and swell following each procedure.

This process is repeated over multiple sessions until you’re happy with the extent to which your tattoo has faded.

The average course of treatment varies greatly from person to person. In general, it takes about six to eight sessions to remove a tattoo with laser treatment. You’ll have to wait six to eight weeks between sessions for best results.

 Surgical removal

. How can surgical removal help?

Surgical removal, also called excision tattoo removal, involves cutting off tattooed skin and stitching remaining skin back together.

Surgical removal is the most invasive method of tattoo removal. However, it’s the only surefire method of completely removing a tattoo.

. What’s surgical removal like?

The procedure can be done in a plastic surgery office. During the procedure, a surgeon will inject your skin with a local anesthetic so you don’t feel pain.

They’ll use a sharp, knifelike instrument called a scalpel to cut away the tattooed skin. Then, they’ll stitch the remaining skin back together.

Surgery to remove a tattoo may take one to several hours, depending on the tattoo’s size and the surgeon’s repair method. It usually takes several weeks for the site of your tattoo removal to heal.

Dermabrasion

. How can dermabrasion help?

Dermabrasion involves using a sanding device to remove layers of skin to allow ink to leach out.

Dermabrasion is a less common tattoo removal option. Its efficacy varies widely from person to person. It can sometimes remove most of an existing tattoo.

. What’s dermabrasion like?

During a typical dermabrasion session, a clinician will chill or numb your skin with a local anesthetic to reduce any pain. They’ll use a high-speed rotating abrasive device that sands off the top layers of the skin to let tattoo ink escape.

Dermabrasion is usually done during one procedure at a cosmetic surgeon’s office. The length of time the procedure takes depends on the size and color of your tattoo.

Larger tattoos with many colors may take more than an hour to treat.

After Tattoo Removal Procedure

Laser surgery aftercare

Your technician will give you specific aftercare instructions.

In general, apply antibacterial ointment to your skin for several days following each procedure. The ointment will help heal your skin and reduce the risk of infection. Change the wound dressing each time you apply the ointment.

For at least the next two weeks:

. Keep the treated area clean and dry.

. Avoid wearing tight clothing.

. Avoid exposing the treated area to direct sunlight.

. Don’t pick at any scabs or blisters that form.

. Scarring and other risks

Some people experience scarring. To reduce your risk for scarring, don’t pick at the area as it heals. Also, be sure to follow your provider’s instructions and recommendations.

Surgical removal aftercare

Your surgeon will give you specific aftercare instructions.

In general, apply the prescribed or recommended ointment for several days after the procedure to help heal your skin and avoid risk of infection. Keep the site clean and out of the sun for at least two weeks.

. Scarring and other risks

Everyone who chooses surgical tattoo removal experiences scarring. However, you can reduce the risk of severe scarring.

Be sure to follow your surgeon’s aftercare instructions for best results. Don’t pick at the site, and avoid strenuous activities that put tension on the area immediately after surgery.

Dermabrasion aftercare

Your clinician may recommend applying an antibacterial cream to the treated site as it heals to avoid infection and reduce scarring.

The treated area will likely feel painful and raw for several days after the procedure. Your skin may look red or pink during this period.

Full recovery can take two to three weeks. The pinkness of the treated area usually fades in 8 to 12 weeks.

Your clinician may also advise you to:

. Avoid direct sunlight for three to six months after the procedure.

. Apply sunscreen to the site every time you’re outside.

. Avoid wearing tight clothing on the site until it heals.

. Avoid soaking the site in water as it heals.

. Scarring and other risks

Some people experience scarring from dermabrasion treatments. You can reduce scarring by:

. Using the prescribed ointments

. Wearing sunscreen

. Avoiding the sun

. Using anti-scarring oils and creams, after the treatment site has fully healed

After treatment, dermabrasion may cause:

. Changes in skin color, such as lightening, darkening, or blotchiness

. Infection

. Redness, swelling, and bleeding

. Scarring from poorly done dermabrasion

To prevent these complications, be sure to follow your clinician’s aftercare instructions. Make sure the clinician has proper licensing and good reviews, too.

Results

Tattoos are meant to be permanent, and complete tattoo removal is difficult. Some degree of scarring or skin color variation is likely to remain, regardless of the specific method of tattoo removal.

 

Sources:

. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/tattoo-removal/about/pac-20395105

. https://www.healthline.com/health/tattoo-removal-how

 

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