Getting a tattoo you’re not happy with can be a time when you feel defeated. You’ve spent a lot of money, endured severe tattoo pain only to end up with a tattoo you don’t like. Fortunately, laser tattoo removal is fairly well established and successful in removing and fading tattoos.
Laser tattoo removal is generally the best and safest method of removing ink permanently.
But how does the laser remove the ink placed inside the layers of skin? And, does the color of the tattoo play a role in the effectiveness of the laser removal procedure?
In the following paragraphs, we will discuss these important questions that anyone looking to get a tattoo should ask themselves. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Laser tattoo removal: how does it work?
Before discussing ink colors and how they can be removed, we must first discuss the removal method and how it works.
Laser tattoo removal involves the use of laser lights or the photomechanical effect to target the ink in the skin and remove the pigment by dissolving the ink particles. The laser uses infrared light at specific frequencies to target the ink and heat it until it dissolves. Laser tattoo removal is done using Q-switched lasers. The laser works as follows;
- Infrared laser light penetrates the layer of skin known as the dermis, where the ink is placed
- The ink then absorbs the light or heat from the light
- As the laser light energy heats the ink, it begins to dissipate into the surrounding skin
And that’s all. The whole process is quite simple and straightforward. A laser tattoo removal procedure can take up to 10 sessions for standard sized tattoos. However, in some cases where the ink is a specific color or the location of the tattoos is difficult to reach, laser removal may require up to 20 sessions.
information: Types of Q-switched lasers used to remove colored tattoos;
- Q-switched ruby laser – 694 nm wavelength for blue, green, purple and lime ink colors
- Q-Switched Alexandrite Laser – 755 nm wavelength for black, green and blue ink colors
- Q-switched ND: YAG laser – between 532 nm and 1064 nm wavelength for black, dark brown, dark violet, red and dark yellow ink colors
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So which ink colors are the easiest and hardest to remove?
Easiest ink colors to remove
- Black and gray ink colors or tattoos are easiest to remove using the laser removal method. Because the black and gray colors directly absorb infrared light and heat up quickly, the ink completely dissipated between 5 and 10 sessions. For the laser to remove a black/gray tattoo, it must be at the wavelength of 1064nm, which also effectively removes ink colors such as dark brown, dark purple, and dark blue.
- Red and dark yellow tattoos are the second easiest to remove. Ink colors such as red, orange, purple, dark yellows and browns are not as easy to remove as black or gray ink, but they generally require no more than 10 sessions (depending on the size and location of the tattoo, of course). For these ink colors to be removed, the laser must be at the wavelength of 532 nm. Keep in mind that the lighter the yolk, the harder it is to remove.
Dark inks and warm-toned colors respond quite well to laser light and the heating effect. For example, during the summer it is not recommended to wear black or dark colored clothes during the day as these colors absorb heat and make you feel much warmer than you normally would. A similar thing happens with laser and warm dark ink colors.
And which ink colors are the hardest to remove?
- Blue (light blue is the hardest to remove)
- Green (darker green shades are easier to remove than lighter shades)
- Purple (light to medium purple is quite difficult to remove)
- lime green
- Fluorescent color inks
These require laser light between 694 nm and 755 nm, which are the wavelengths of barely visible red light. These wavelengths most effectively target the aforementioned colors, but with much less power than would be needed for black ink, for example. The same goes for brighter or fluorescent colors.
Seems like the white ink is the hardest to remove. It does not absorb any infrared light. There have been cases where white ink tattoos have turned dark after a laser removal procedure.
If laser removal fails, then what?
With lighter tattoos, chances are you will have difficulty with the removal itself or want to get proper results. In such cases, it is fair to say that laser tattoo removal may fail. So what then?
Now, even though laser tattoo removal is considered to be the safest and most effective method of tattoo removal, there are other tattoo removal methods you can also consider;
Sometimes a tattoo itself or the condition of its skin is not a suitable candidate for laser tattoo removal. In this case, you would be recommended to undergo surgical removal, also known as surgical excision. This includes cutting out your tattooed skin.
As a result, you end up with a scar (which heals and becomes barely visible) where the tattoo was. This method is recommended for small tattoos. However, it is considered a cosmetic procedure, so it is not covered by insurance.
- Dermabrasion or tattoo sanding
If laser removal and surgical tattoo removal don’t sound appealing to you, maybe you should try dermabrasion. It is a sanding method, where, via a sanding device, layers of skin are removed until the sand reaches the ink. Regardless of the color of the ink, the sand ensures that the ink simply leaves the skin since there is no skin left to hold it in place.
Now, we think that’s quite a drastic measure and we certainly don’t recommend it. It can also be quite damaging to the skin, and in the long run it may not even be as effective as to justify the risk.
The best tattoo attachment/removal method (alongside laser removal)
If you want a good way to replace a bad tattoo without having risky surgery or procedures, or completely remove it with a laser, you should just consider covering it up.
Now, the effectiveness of tattoo concealment can vary, as it depends on the current tattoo size, design, and color scheme. This can be a good option for people who want to get rid of their lighter tattoos, as a camouflage tattoo will turn out slightly darker than the original design.
However, covering up a tattoo with a new design may not be the best solution for people who want to get rid of the tattoo completely. But for those who just want a bigger and better design, they should surely consider this method.
To see if your current size and ink color is suitable for good tattoo coverage, be sure to speak to a professional tattoo artist who specializes in tattoo coverage. Always go for professionals and tattoo artists with experience in tattooing rather than an existing tattoo.
Let’s quickly talk about picosecond and nanosecond laser technology
To wrap up this topic, we decided to mention a few words regarding picosecond and nanosecond laser technology as it relates to laser tattoo removal. You may have heard of these technologies and are now wondering if they work better with different pigments than regular lasers.
Pico laser technology is the latest development in the world of laser tattoo removal. The hype around this so-called Picosure laser technology is huge. Claims are that it works fast, completely, and manages to get rid of all tattoo pigment. But is it?
During our research, we came across a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Laser and Health Academy. The study addresses the possibility of a Picoruse laser replacing the nanosecond laser. What the study concludes is the following;
Picosecond laser technology is no better than standard laser technology used for tattoo removal. The gold standard for laser tattoo removal is still the Q-switched laser (which belongs to the family of nanosecond lasers).
So in case someone tries to sell you the idea of better tattoo removal with a picosecond laser, try to politely decline it. Go for standard laser removal and always choose reliable experts and professionals to do this job.
We would be lying if we said that laser tattoo removal will be 100% effective against all kinds of ink colors and pigments. The truth is, it will work better on darker tattoos and worse on lighter tattoos. It’s just the physics of infrared, laser light. However, when done by a professional, and after a number of sessions, you may notice the tattoo disappearing, successfully.
For more information on ink colors and laser removal, be sure to speak to a laser removal expert. They will review your tattoo, color scheme and let you know immediately what to expect from the treatment/procedure.
Also Read: Colored Tattoos Vs. Black & Gray Tattoos: Which Tattoo Style Is Best For Your Next Ink?
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