Laser Tattoo Removal – Frequently Asked Questions

Lasers have been used for Tattoo removal for more than 20 years. Over this period the Q-switched ruby laser has been acknowledged as a most effective laser for this procedure. The following information is designed to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about Laser Tattoo removal.

Can any type of tattoo be treated successfully?

Laser treatments will effectively remove almost all tattoos but this cannot be guaranteed. The variations in size and colours of a tattoo will determine how easily it can be removed. Some colours are very hard to totally remove and they may still remain following treatment. Remember that tattoos are usually intended to be permanent.

How is the Q-switched Ruby Laser different to other tattoo removal lasers?

The Ruby laser produces extremely short pulses of high-energy, red light with a wavelength of 694nm. This light is absorbed strongly by particles of tattoo pigment but not by the surrounding skin. The tattoo pigment particles heat up and break down into smaller particles; these minute particles are targeted by the body's own immune system and removed. Because the energy is selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment, surrounding tissues are not usually affected and there is usually no lasting damage to the skin.

How many sessions will I require and how long do they last?

Because of the many different types and sizes of tattoo there is no simple answer to these questions. Amateur tattoos can disappear after only one treatment, but this is unusual as they often take between 2 and 6 treatments. Professional tattoos are more difficult and can require from 5 to 15 treatments. Without seeing the tattoo it is not possible to be more accurate and even on sight we will only be able to provide an estimate. Each treatment, depending upon the size and complexity of the tattoo can last between 10 minutes and an hour.

Is the treatment painful?

The short answer is YES. But probably no more painful than having the tattoo in the first place. We prefer to say that some discomfort may be experienced. The treatment can produce a stinging effect but anaesthetic cream can be applied to sooth the area to make you feel more relaxed during the treatment.

Will there be any scarring or other side effects?

Laser treatment should not cause any scarring although there is a risk that this can happen. Our Q-switched laser breaks down the ink under the skin into small particles, which the body's own defence system can carry away. As the skin isn't cut or burnt, no scar is left. After each treatment, the area may blister but this is quite normal and usually resolves in a few days. Once any blisters have subsided, the skin around the tattoo will look shiny for a number of weeks. Also there may be some pigmentation changes. Hypo-pigmentation (lightening of the skin) may be apparent after treatment, but this can eventually be expected to revert to your normal skin tone after 6 months or more.

How long is it between treatments?

Treatment cannot be repeated until your skin has returned to normal; this will usually take from 4 to 6 weeks. In some cases we have to extend the period.

How much can I expect to pay for treatment?

Every tattoo is different and so is every patient. The cost will be determined by the size and type of the tattoo and will be assessed at a confidential consultation before any treatment plan is agreed. As a general indication, our individual treatment prices start from £75 per treatment for small amateur tattoos and from £175 per treatment for bigger professional tattoos. Remember that you will need a number of treatments so we will give you an indication of the overall costs at your consultation with us.

We will be happy to answer any other questions that you might have about laser tattoo removal.

Dr Cheralyn Lumley LDS RCS Eng.LFHom(Dent)

Lumley Aesthetics llp