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Laser Tattoo Removal: New & Improved

tattoo-model

The stigma surrounding tattoos has been, for the most part, eased in recent years. Because of this, more and more people are getting inked. From sorority girls to suburban dads, it seems like everyone has a tattoo these days. Unfortunately, with the spike in tattoos, there has also been a spike in tattoo removal at my Honolulu office. In this post, we’d like to give you an overview of our approach to tattoo removal.

How does tattoo removal work?

Laser tattoo removal works similarly to laser hair removal. At our office, we use the PicoSure® laser. The laser uses short, high-intensity pulses of light that are absorbed by the pigment of the tattoo ink. The contrasting tattoo color absorbs the laser energy more than the surrounding tissue. This causes the ink to break down and be absorbed by the body without affecting the surrounding tissue.

What makes the PicoSure laser different?

Instead of using one particular wavelength of energy for all tattoo colors, the PicoSure laser can produce a wide variety of wavelengths that can precisely remove the spectrum of tattoo ink colors. It also uses ultra-short pulses that break down tattoo ink into even smaller particles than many other lasers. These smaller particles are more easily eliminated by the body. This results in fewer treatments.

How is the treatment performed?

About an hour before your treatment, I start out by numbing the skin with a topical numbing cream. Once the skin is numb, I use the handpiece to carefully trace over the tattoo. The treatment times vary according to the size, color, and type of pigment used. Black, red, dark orange, and blue inks are usually easier to remove than green, purple, brown, light orange, and light blue. Typically, the treatments range from about 15 minutes to an hour. Many patients describe the feeling like being snapped by tiny rubber bands.

What is the recovery like?

For about 24 hours after your treatment, your treated skin may look red and slightly puffy, similar to a sunburn. I recommend that my patients use a cool compress to increase comfort and reduce swelling. Avoid sun exposure, wear sunscreen, and wash the treated area with a gentle cleanser twice daily. Many patients need to repeat treatments, depending on a number of factors. However, in order to avoid discoloration and scarring, each treatment must be spaced about 4 to 6 weeks apart.

Check out our before-and-after gallery to see what laser tattoo removal can potentially do for you. If you want to learn more about the PicoSure laser or think you may be a good candidate for laser tattoo removal, give us a call at (808) 585-8855.

Shim Ching, MD