Kat de Naoum | Contributing Writer | Monday, 23 November 2015

10 Things You Need to Know About Laser Tattoo Removal

10 Things You Need to Know About Laser Tattoo Removal

The Debrief: You thought it was such a good idea at the time, right?

Victoria Beckham is undergoing laser tattoo removal on seemingly all of her tattoos (even the 'DB' one on her wrist which we actually rather liked to be honest). And we get that - perhaps you're no longer on speaking terms with the 'BFF' you got matching ladybird tattoos with, maybe it’s just complete crap like Jennifer Lawrence’s or you basically want to make space for more tattoos. Whatever the reason for wanting laser tattoo removal, here’s all you need to know about getting rid of that inky offender once and for all.

1. The laser tattoo removal pain will get you thinking that maybe your butterfly tramp stamp 'isn’t so bad after all.'

On a scale of one to a hundred, laser tattoo removal pain is, like, a gazillion. OK, slight exaggeration, (in fact, some people don’t find it painful at all). The pain is often described as being 'like an elastic band snapping on the skin' or 'splatters of oil from a frying pan.' Depending on your pain threshold (which is highly dependant on the location of the offending tatt), you might want to check out topical anaesthesia options (painkiller injections or numbing cream). To get a better idea of why it hurts so much, let us tell you about the machine that will be removing your tattoo.

2. Introducing the fire-spouting mechanism from hell, a.k.a. the laser tattoo removal machine.

Laser tattoo removal machines have Q-switched lasers which create nanosecond, single colour, precise wavelength, light energy (in a narrow beam or a series of pulses) which carries energy to the skin and is selectively absorbed by tattoo ink particles shattering them into smaller ink particles without harming the surrounding skin. The shattered ink is flushed away by the body’s immune system causing the tattoo to fade more and more after several treatments, eventually leaving the skin free of ink. Basically, it works by targeting and shattering pigment in the dermal layer by spitting fire directly onto your skin. 

3. Guess how the ink leaves of your system. You WEE it out!

After tattoo laser removal treatment, the broken up bits of ink are dispersed into your blood stream, passed through the kidneys and come out of your urine (no, your wee doesn’t go black) and/or sweat. Because of this, you can imagine it’d be rather unhealthy and hefty on your poor kidneys to remove too many tattoos at a time.

4. Around 6-10 laser tattoo removal sessions are necessary to remove each tattoo, spaced at least 4 weeks apart

Depending on the density of the tattoo and skin quality of each patient, 6-10 laser tattoo removal sessions are needed to remove each tattoo. Treatments are spaced around 4 weeks apart to allow for the skin to heal and the body to process the shattered ink. For quicker results, some dermatologists may treat each tattoo up to 3 times per session, 20 minutes apart. Although you’ll probably feel like time has stood still, each laser tattoo removal session is surprisingly (and thankfully) quick, usually lasting between between 30 seconds and 10 minutes per session.

5. The laser tattoo removal cost stings… but not as much as the actual treatment does.

In rare instances (i.e. the tattoo has caused an allergic reaction or severe psychological trauma), you could be eligible to get laser tattoo removal on the NHS (yes, this is a thing and taxpayers are not very happy about it). If like most people you are not eligible to get it done for free on the NHS, then laser tattoo removal could burn in more ways than just your skin. The cost varies at each clinic but to remove a small tattoo, each session is approximately £45-60. Multiply that by the 6-10 sessions required to completely get rid of the tattoo and the cost could be anywhere from £270 to £600.

6. Immediately after a laser tattoo removal session, your tattoo will look like something out of The Walking Dead

Puss-filled blisters, redness and swelling, pinpoint bleeding, raising and/or temporary darkening of the tattoo... Don’t panic, this is all normal and will subside in one to two weeks. If not, see your doc, obvs.

7. Laser tattoo removal aftercare: How to treat your bloody, puss-filled blistery tattoo post-session

As soon as your session is done, your therapist will put an ice pack on the ouchy area and apply a topical antibiotic lotion/ointment, then cover it with a bandage or a plaster. At home, you should continue the aftercare by protecting the area with an SPF, applying antibacterial cream on it and, however tempting it may be, DO NOT pick at it. 

8. Laser tattoo removal risks: what could go wrong?

As science is progressing and laser tattoo removal is gaining popularity, there are fewer and fewer things that could go wrong, but here are a few of the reported risks involved in laser tattoo removal: 

•the initial side effects might not subside after a couple of weeks

•the treated area is at risk for infection

•the tattoo might not fade completely

•there’s a slight chance that you can be left with a permanent scar

•hypo-pigmentation (the treated area is paler than surrounding skin)

•hyper-pigmentation (the treated area is darker than surrounding skin)

•you might be left with a 'ghost' of your old tattoo.

It might come down to you asking yourself whether you prefer Ed Sheeran’s face on your ribs, or the ghost of Ed Sheeran’s face on your ribs...

9. What to do before you go ahead with laser tattoo removal.

Before you agree to subject yourself to laser tattoo removal, do do the following dos.

Do your research (this article is a great start; well done). Here’s some more vital laser tattoo removal reading:

This comprehensive tattoo removal guide from WebMD

Real people's experiences with laser tattoo removal

Everything you need to know about preparing for tattoo removal

Before and after pics to get you in the mood

Find out what really happens when you remove a tattoo with lasers

Be realistic; did you see point 8 above? You might have a ghost, we tell you, a ghost of your old tattoo. But maybe not.

Talk to an expert… or two or three. Get your unwanted tattoos seen by professionals who can best advise you about how to get rid of those motherfathers.

10. Laser tattoo removal London: Where you can get it done.

Here are 10 laser tattoo removal clinics in London for you to check out: 

1.Pro Skin Clinics

2.Laser Life Clinic

3.Brigstock Skin & Laser Centre

4.SKN Clinics

5.Pulse Light Clinic

6.Reset Room

7.The Laser Treatment Clinic

8.Skin Laser Clinic

9.London Premier Laser

10.PHI Clinic

The next best thing: Tattoo removal cream? Is this really a thing?

There are some tattoo removal creams (like Tat B Gone) which claim that they can remove tattoos in 3 to 9 months (“claim” being the operative word). These are highly disputed (more like, totally trolled) because apparently there is no cream which can penetrate the layer of skin that tattoos can get to. If tattoos were on an outer layer of skin then they would simply just fade away during our normal skind-shedding process. Also, for something that isn’t guaranteed to work, is not exactly cheap with a six-month supply costing around 250 quid.

However, this geeky science guy called Alec Falkenham is in the process of creating a tattoo removal cream which, instead of claiming to penetrate into unchartered layers of skin, will activate ink-munching cells in our bodies that slowly eat away at the tattoo, getting rid of it. This may cost as little as £3 and will be painless! Unfortunately, it’s still in the being-tested-on-tattooed-pigs-ears phase but, when it comes out for realz, it sounds like it’ll be quite awesome.

Watch this space.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

We Chatted To Grace Neutral About Her Clothing Collection, Tattoos and Body Modification 

The Politics Of Getting A Matching Tattoo With Your Mate

Questions You've Always Wanted To Ask Your Tattooist, Answered  

Picture: Getty

Tags: Tattoos