Laser Tattoo Removal: A Guide to Potential Patients and Their Health Advisers

by Lynette K. Kennedy, MSN, FNP-C, CLS

Ms. Kennedy is a Family Nurse Practitioner, Certified Laser Specialist, Chief Instructor at New Look Laser College, and Director of Clinic Practice at New Look Laser Tattoo Removal

Overview: Laser tattoo removal is the preferred method of removing an unwanted tattoo. Over the past 30 years, technology and providers have developed to a point where the procedure is highly effective with minimal side effects and within the budget of most patients. This presentation is intended to provide a comprehensive explanation of laser tattoo removal for an audience of potential patients and the health professionals and advisers who assist them in making decisions regarding their tattoos.

Organization of Information: This presentation will be divided into four parts, with one section that presents a scientific perspective on tattoos, one that discusses laser physics and tattoo removal, one that reviews the medical components of laser tattoo removal, and finally what we provide as advice to laser tattoo removal patients.

This information is intended to neither encourage nor discourage anyone from getting a tattoo or having a tattoo removed. Instead, it is a review and discussion of the best available information that is relevant to potential patients, their health care providers, and the public in general.

I. Scientific Perspective on Tattoos

  1. Tattoo Ink Is Something of a Mystery
  2. Toxicity/Reaction with Tattoo Ink
  3. Tattoo Ink Carrier
  4. What Tattoo Ink Is Made Of
  5. Scientific Details on Tattoos
  6. Where Is Tattoo Ink In the Skin
  7. What Happens to Ink After Tattooing
  8. Side Effects of Tattooing
  9. How Tattoos Evolve In the Skin
  10. Effects of Sun on Tattoos

II. Laser Physics and Tattoo Removal

  1. LASER
  2. What is a Laser
  3. Key Components of a Laser
  4. Q-Switching
  5. Why Extremely Short Pulses are Useful
  6. Two Key Mechanisms Shatter Tattoo Ink
  7. Goals of Laser Tattoo Removal
  8. The Gold Standard: Nd:YAG lasers
  9. Other Tattoo Removal Lasers
  10. Future Tattoo Removal Lasers

III. Medical Components of Laser Tattoo Removal

  1. Overview of Skin
  2. Laser-Tissue Interaction
  3. Laser Light and the Skin
  4. Immune Response
  5. Skin Types and Tattoo Removal
  6. Typical Side Effects of Laser Tattoo Removal
  7. Contra-indications for Tattoo Removal
  8. Aftercare Instructions

IV. Advice to Tattoo Removal Patients

  1. Pick a Cool AND Smart Tattoo
  2. Research Your Tattoo Artist
  3. Understand that Tattoo Removal Isn't Overnight
  4. Look for a Tattoo Removal Specialist
  5. Identify the Laser Used
  6. Discuss Your Medical Background
  7. Review Side Effects Before the Procedure
  8. Have a Safe Procedure
  9. Aftercare for a Successful Treatment