Laser Tattoo Removal
Learn More About Laser Tattoo Removal
Laser tattoo removal is based on using a type (color) of laser light and the right treatment settings to selectively remove the tattoo ink while minimizing collateral damage to surrounding normal skin tissue. The proper matching of the type of laser as well as the parameters and technique to a particular person’s tattoo and the individual colors within their tattoo is critical to obtaining optimal results while minimizing the risk of side effects. This is typically also the most cost effective way to remove your tattoo.
There are many variables in tattoos. Many are professionally applied, but there are also many so-called amateur tattoos. Many of these are created using India ink which is usually one of the easiest types of tattoos to remove. The professional inks come in a wide array of colors and different tattoo lasers (or different settings for those lasers) may be required to remove various colors of ink.
Some colors are very treatment resistant (e.g. many types of green ink) and may require a special laser to remove them. Having a selection of different tattoo removal lasers and light energy devices typically allows the best removal options and also commonly it allows removal in the shortest period of time. Some medspas offer only one laser or have a limited menu of devices and also may have limited experience with tattoo removal. Experience really is important for developing the most effective and cost/time effective treatment plan for each tattoo. This becomes especially important when dealing with cover-up tattoos where partial lightening with laser is desired before the tattoo is reworked with additional tattooing and this is becoming more popular and more creative in recent years.
Despite advances in technology, there remain some types and colors of tattoos that cannot be fully removed. Also skin of color patients may encounter some unique problems in trying to remove certain colors as the lasers may damage the natural background skin color in certain situations.
One of the newer technologies is the PicoSure™ laser. This laser is the first picosecond laser, which means that individual laser pulses are faster than for traditional QS Nd:YAG lasers. The PicoSure™ laser is being used to successfully treat stubborn tattoo pigments such as greens, blues, and purples, and is also typically effective for tattoos that were previously treated but not completely removed. Dr. McDaniel’s Laser and Cosmetic Center is currently the only center to house this advanced laser technology in Virginia.
There are also various types of “traumatic tattoos”. These range from things such as gunpowder tattoos to various pigments from auto accidents or industrial issues. Some people have skin that is already damaged or traumatized from prior attempts at removal whether older methods or sometimes even from poorly performed tattoo removal laser treatment.
Permanent make-up tattooing has become very popular and dissatisfaction with the color or the application itself are not that uncommon and these present special challenges for laser removal as some of the pigments used can turn very dark black upon treatment with tattoo lasers. There are also situations with gang related tattoos and we have a special program for these as well which you may inquire about.
Many treatment options exist for tattoo removal but lasers have emerged as the dominant method for many reasons not only for efficacy but also due to risks of scarring, keloids and permanent pigment damage from some of the older methods. So seeking expert advice before beginning your tattoo removal treatment is always a good idea.
We will be happy to discuss your specific tattoo situation and your treatment options during a consultation with us.
Our Pricing for Standard QS Nd:YAG Laser*
*PicoSureTM fees are higher (approximately double). We will provide an exact price quote at your consultation.
For patients who wish to prepay for a package of treatments, we do offer some special discounts. If you buy 4 treatments you receive a 25% discount (you basically get one treatment free with this package) on the traditional lasers: the QS Nd:YAG laser and all other lasers we might use except for the PicoSure laser. For the Picosure laser we offer a 10% discount. We do not advise prepaying for more than this 4 treatment special.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Which laser is right for me?
If you have a tattoo on fair colored skin, the odds are that your tattoo will respond to most the QS tattoo lasers. The decision between being treated with a QS Nd:YAG laser and the Picosure laser may be a financial one. If you are in a hurry to remove your tattoo, the Picosure may well be your fastest option, but it is a very expensive laser to purchase and the fees are higher per visit. However, if it requires fewer total treatments than the Nd:YAG lasers, then your total cost may be about the same. If you are not in a hurry, using the older Nd:YAG lasers will be less expensive at each treatment visit, but more visits over a longer time likely will be required. Another cost-effective option sometimes is to begin with the less expensive Nd:YAG as see how well you respond, and if needed, switch to the Picosure laser for the stubborn areas.
Should I get my tattoo removed?
That is an individual issue and one that you should give significant thought to. Tattoo removal procedures are not as quick and easy as getting the tattoo, and they tend to cost more as well. In general, you need to really dislike the tattoo or have some other important reason to choose to treat it.
Can my tattoo be removed?
To fully answer this question, we really need to see your tattoo. This is why we start with a consultation. In general, black and red inks are the most likely to be completely removed. Green and yellow are usually the most difficult colors to remove, but the new Picosure laser has demonstrated good results with green ink. Even if you have previously attempted tattoo removal and you did not get the results desired, the new Picosure laser may be able to help with the residual ink pigments. Some of the newer inks have been designed to be more easily destroyed by lasers during tattoo removal (so-called “removable inks”) and may respond better than older, more traditional inks. How well your tattoo responds may also depend on the artist, the depth of the colors, and the types of inks used as well as the anatomic location and your skin type.
Should I get my tattoo removed, or would I be better off with a cover-up or revision tattoo?
This is also an individual choice. We can advise you about how well your tattoo is likely to respond during your consultation. Having a tattoo removed is typically more expensive than having it re-worked. In general, we recommend trying removal first. Even if complete removal is not successful, it is often easier for a tattoo artist to re-work or cover the partially treated tattoo because the inks will be faded.
Does it hurt and will it scar?
It can be uncomfortable during the actual treatment to have a tattoo removed. Many patients report that it is similar to the level of discomfort of getting the tattoo. We typically use topical numbing creams and, if needed, local anesthesia to improve patient comfort during the procedure. We may also use cold air during your treatment. Scarring is relatively uncommon when laser tattoo removal is properly performed, but it is a potential risk. Our staff will assess your skin and provide you with a more personalized answer during your consultation.
How long will it take to remove the tattoo? How many treatments will I need?
The length of time each treatment will require also varies based on the size of your tattoo and the colors used—tattoos that cover a full back may need two hours, while very small tattoos (under 1 inch) can be treated in a few minutes in many cases. The average number of treatments required to remove a tattoo varies significantly based on colors, inks, location, and other factors. The new Picosure laser may require as few as half as many visits to achieve similar results as the QS Nd:YAG lasers, but this also varies and we will discuss your tattoo with you during your consultation. Most people do not know how deep their tattoos are, or what types of ink were used, so some of these factors require waiting to see how your tattoo responds to the first few treatments.
Can this be done on skin of color?
Skin of color and skin with deep or dark tans can be treated in some but not all cases. There is some risk of pigment lightening and texture changes, or scarring or keloids for some cases. Skin of color patients should be especially aware that they may (or may not) have unique risks and this should be discussed during your consultation.
How much will it cost? Do you have financing available?
For very small tattoos, prices start around $97. Removal of very large tattoos or multiple tattoos will vary and a quote can be provided with your consultation. The visual guide below can be printed so that you can test the “fit” of your tattoo. We do accept all major credit cards, and we offer CareCredit (you can apply online at CareCredit.com ), but given the economy, we encourage you to not incur debt or use credit unless you have a special situation.