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 Clinical Practice at New Look Laser Tattoo Removal.

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.

Part 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

Pick a Cool AND Smart Tattoo

If you decide to get a tattoo, begin with the end in mind. you may want it forever, or you may hate it a month from now. certain colors are tough to remove such as greens and blues so you want to be 100 percent sure you want this tattoo. This may mean thinking about your career goals, family life (pregnancy, children, etc), personal style and taste flucuations and see if the tattoo you are considering today would still fit into your life 10-20 years from now.

Research Your Tattoo Artist

Do your research before you choose a tattoo artist – make sure they use safe materials and ask your friends if they’ve had a good experience with them. Ask to see photos of previous work and ask how long the artist has been a tattoo artist. Make sure the artist is willing to spend some quality time with you and your design so that you both know exactly what you are wanting. getting a tattoo removed because the job was not done to your satisfaction isn’t as good as getting it right the first time around.

Do your research before you choose a tattoo parlour- make sure they use sterile products for tattooing. Ask if they have an autoclave to sterilize their tools and make sure the shop looks very clean and professional. consider whether or not the other clients in the shop appear to be having a good experience. Ask how long they have been in business. Stay away from the shops that tend to herd people in and are more interested in mass production of tattoos versus quality work.

Understand that Tattoo Removal Isn’t Overnight

Tattoo removal doesn’t magically make a tattoo disappear. Laser tattoo removal is a highly-effective procedure that is the only proven method of removing a tattoo. Most tattoos will need three to ten treatments to remove. A number of factors affect the number of sessions (generally spaced four to six weeks apart) that will be needed to remove a tattoo:

The age of the tattoo: older tattoos are easier to remove than new tattoos. Over the years, the ink in a tattoo with fade from exposure to sunlight as well as the body’s attempts to remove ink particles, albeit mostly without success.

Look for a Tattoo Removal Specialist

When you consider removing a tattoo, look for a clinic or medical practice that either specializes in laser tatto or does a high volume of these procedures such as a dozen a day. Some clinics may add laser tattoo removal to their practice as an after thought and only do a handful of treatments a month and may not be able to give you the quality results you deserve.

Ask how long the clinic or medical practice has been in practice. Ask how long they have offered laser tattoo removal. Some clinics may have recently added this procedure to their list and may not have as much experience in the one important laser treatment you are interested in.

Identity the Laser Used

Make sure the clinic uses a Q-switched laser and that it looks modern and somewhat sleek vs. huge and old. This type of laser delivers the energy quickly and allows for the best results for tattoo removal. Q-switched lasers are the only lasers that should be used for laser tattoo removal.

Ask questions about the type of Q-switched laser and what colors they are able to remove. Nd:YAG is the industry standard. Alexandrite and Ruby lasers are great for some common colors, but weak at other common colors.

Discuss Your Medical Background

Make sure the clinic asks for your medical history and be cautious if you have certain conditions. Tattoo removal should not be undertaken by women who are pregnant or breast feeding, people on chemo or radiation therapy, people taking medications that may cause sensativity to light such as accutane, or people who have immune system conditions.

Review Side Effects Before the Procedure

Ask about what side effects you’ll experience before you start your procedure. Knowing these ahead of time and preparing yourself mentally makes the experience better. If you know that your skin will be somewhat swollen and possibly blistered after your procedure, you are less likely to be so concerned that you won’t attend your next treatment.

Have a Safe Procedure

During your procedure, be sure to wear eye goggles to protect your vision. The medical clinic should have these available at the office for your use. You do not need to purchase or bring your own.

Aftercare for a Successful Treatment

Your tattoo removal clinic should give you a list of aftercare instructions to take home with you after your laser treatment, or at the very least review in detail these instructions at your office visit. The aftercare instructions should include details such as: for how long should you keep the area covered, how long and what kind of antibiotic ointment should be used, guidance on how to care for the area in water and sun, and many other issues.

These aftercare instructions will provide the guidance and clarity that the patient will appreciate – if you aren’t surprised after having a medical or cosmetic procedure, you are much more likely to return for future treatments and achieve your goals of removing your tattoo completely.

Go back to I. Scientific Perspective on Tattoos
Go back to II. Laser Physics and Tattoo Removal
Go back to III. Medical Components of Laser Tattoo Removal