At Lappert Plastic Surgery, we continue to see more and more people who wish to have tattoos removed. Throughout Dr. Lappert's career, he's seen tattoos go from typically small, black mementos of a man's military career to large, multi-colored art pieces of the bare midriffs of 40-something moms.
Tattoos are so common these days that it's now sometimes considered radical or non-conformist to be in your late 20s and not have at least one!
Many people get tattoos thinking they will enhance their image, whatever that image may be. They can represent any type of belief or emotion, such as playfulness or faithfulness or anger or devotion. No matter the reason, it should always be remembered that tattoos are permanent and over time, they will look worse, not better.
One day your playful mood will pass, your anger will abate, and the love of your life may betray you, but your tattoo will remain.
Surveys conducted in Scotland and the US in the past 5 to 8 years show that approximately 20% of people regret their tattoo within the first year of getting it. As their lives change, they often see their tattoos as a source of embarrassment. Their self-image that seemed so permanent at 19 years old is now a folly.
Is It Possible to Remove Tattoos?
The answer to the above question is "yes and no." Tattoos are created by depositing ink into the dermis (the lowest layer of your skin). The ink is a suspension of pigment granules. The permanence of your tattoo is the result of the fact that those ink granules are large and mostly stay where they're placed.
Dr. Lappert served in the Navy for 24 years and got to see a wide variety of tattoos, both new and ancient! A tattoo on a young sailor who just returned from deployment looks nice and bright with crisp, clean edges. A tattoo on a retired Master Chief looks blurry, dull, and faded.
This happens because our immune systems work to remove the ink from the moment it's placed there. White blood cells attack the pigment granules and munch off pieces of it. They then carry the pieces away to be excreted from the body. The problem is that pigment granules are large, making it difficult for the white blood cells to bite pieces off.
Despite the difficulty, the process continues and your tattoo gets duller, blurrier, and more faded over the years.
Our main method of tattoo removal makes use of this natural process by speeding up the removal of the ink. A laser is our primary tool, and it works by turning big pigment granules into tiny pigment granules. By reducing the size of the granules, the white blood cells become much more efficient at accomplishing their task.
For the traditional laser to work, it has to produce the correct color of light and deliver it in a specific way. Ink has a particular color because it absorbs light of a particle wavelength. If you hit the tattoo with that color of light at very high energy levels over short intervals, the pigment granule rapidly heats up and explodes into tiny "edible" pieces.
Breakthrough Technology With Picosecond Pulses
New technology is available in the form of a laser that delivers light in picosecond pulses. These are pulses that are 1000 times shorter than were ever before available. When the laser energy hits the pigment granule, the pulse is so brief that the pigment doesn't even have a chance to heat up.
The pigment is shattered into pieces that are many times smaller and are therefore absorbed much faster and with fewer treatments than tattoo removal used to require. Since there is little to no heating, there's no scarring to trap unabsorbed pigment!
Keep in mind that no tattoo is removed in a single treatment. Expect to be treated at 8-week intervals, typically 6 to 8 times. More frequent treatments do not improve results.
Contact Lappert Plastic Surgery
today for additional information or to schedule a consultation. Some questions you may want to ask us or any specialist include:
- What type of lasers are being used? PicoSure (best), Q-switched (ok), long pulse (worst)
- What is the cost of treatment?
Remember that individual results from surgeries or laser procedures vary from patient to patient.