Everyone has regrets, but an unwanted tattoo can be a nagging and seemingly permanent reminder of the past. Fortunately, laser tattoo removal can help you rid your mind of those memories, and with old tattoos, it’s easier than ever, especially when you get your tattoo removed by our experts at Metro Dermatology in Elmhurst, NY.
Are Old Tattoos Easier To Remove?
No matter when you got your tattoo, laser treatment can remove it. However, older ink is easier to remove than new ink, so you’ll probably require fewer treatments if you’re having an old tattoo removed than you will with a newer one. Additionally, if your old tattoo is black and white, you’ll need fewer treatments than if you have either an old or new tattoo with many colors. There are several reasons why older tattoos are easier to remove.
Despite the fact that society has become more accepting of tattoos, your body still doesn’t like anything foreign being put into it, and this includes ink. Your body’s immune response system will attack the ink as soon as it’s injected until it’s completely gone. Of course, your body is not efficient enough to remove a tattoo entirely by itself or tattoos wouldn’t be considered permanent. However, your body does break down the ink over time, causing the color to fade.
You will notice that your once vibrant tattoos become faded as you age, which reflects your body’s ability to carry away small ink particles from your tattoo. Laser treatment helps this natural process by breaking down your tattoo into tiny particles that your body is more able to process. However, because your body has already been working to remove your tattoo on its own, the laser doesn’t have as difficult of a job to do to remove it completely.
In addition to your body working to remove tattoo ink from the inside, sun exposure works to remove it from the outside. The sun’s UV rays degrade the ink in your skin over time. Again, this process does not happen quickly, so the sun isn’t going to ever remove your tattoo completely; however, the more sun your tattoo gets, the more quickly it will fade, and the less ink a laser will have to remove during your sessions.
There’s a reason why you’re told to always cover your tattoo in sunscreen if it’s going to be exposed to the sun. It’s because the sun does more damage to tattoo ink than anything else. If you’re looking to get a tattoo removed, though, this is a good thing. If your tattoo has been exposed to the sun for years, it’s already partially removed from your skin. The laser will simply work to finish the job to remove it entirely.
Older Black and White vs Color Tattoos
If your older tattoos are in black and white instead of color, you’re also going to have an easier time removing them. This is because dark colors absorb light more readily, so the laser will be more effective on black, dark blue, dark brown, and gray colors. If those colors are already partially degraded from sun exposure and body rejection, they’re going to require even fewer sessions than full color tattoos, even those that are older.
Moreover, if your tattoo is a single color, regardless of what that color is, it’ll probably be easier to remove than if you have many colors involved in the tattoo. The reason for this is that single colors require just one specific wavelength to target the ink rather than multiple wavelengths, which have to be administered over multiple sessions. For example, during one session, the reds will be targeted and in the next session, it will be the blues.
Factors That Make Tattoos More Difficult to Remove
As mentioned previously, laser tattoo removal works on all tattoos, whether they’re old or new, but there are some factors that make a tattoo more difficult to remove and these will require more sessions to fade your tattoo to the point where it’s unnoticeable. You’ll want to consider these factors before undergoing laser treatment so you understand how many sessions you’ll need to reach your goals. Of course, we’ll discuss these factors with you before beginning your treatment.
We’ve already discussed age as a factor that can affect the difficulty in removing a tattoo. A newer tattoo won’t have the benefit of being exposed to as much sun, and your body won’t have had as much time to work on carrying the ink particles away. This doesn’t mean you have to live with a tattoo you hate, or wait until it’s aged more before getting it removed. It just means the laser removal process will take longer.
Layers of Ink
The more layers of ink have been applied to your tattoo, the longer it’s going to take to remove it. So, even if you have an older tattoo, if your artist applied two or more layers of ink, you’re going to have to undergo more tattoo removal sessions than for one layer of ink. As such, tattoos done by professionals are typically harder to remove than those done by amateurs, since professionals usually use several layers or ink.
In addition to layering, shading can also impact how long it takes for a tattoo to be removed. Some parts of your tattoo may have more layers of ink than others because of the shading techniques used by your artist. So, don’t be shocked if some parts of your tattoo fade more quickly than others based on how the ink was applied. It may cause your tattoo to look strange for a while, but eventually, all parts will fade entirely.
We’ve already discussed how full color tattoos are harder to remove than black and white tattoos, primarily because you’ll have to undergo laser sessions that use different wavelengths to target the various colors in your tattoo. For instance, reds and oranges require longer wavelengths to remove, whereas purples, and blues respond to shorter wavelengths. You’ll have to undergo some sessions to remove certain colors, and some sessions to remove others. More than one session will be required for each color.
Since larger tattoos have more ink, it will take longer to remove large tattoos than small ones. In some cases, the entire tattoo won’t be targeted by the laser during each session, since time is always a factor. However, you may be able to space your laser sessions more closely if you’re removing a large tattoo because we can work on one part of the tattoo during one session and another part at the next appointment.
This might be a surprise, but the location of your tattoo can affect its removal difficulty level. Tattoos that are further away from your heart are more difficult to remove because there is less circulation in those areas. A tattoo that is close to your heart will trigger a stronger immune response and have better circulation to carry the ink particles out of your body. Therefore, tattoos on your feet, ankles, and hands will take longer to remove.
How Long Does Tattoo Removal Take?
The amount of time it will take to fully remove your unwanted tattoo depends on all of the above-mentioned factors and how your skin responds to the laser treatments. No two patients are alike, so it’s not possible to predict how your body is going to react to laser treatment. Some people will respond quickly and only need four or five treatment sessions, while others may need as many as fifteen sessions over a couple of years.
Laser sessions for tattoo removal are spaced six to eight weeks apart, depending on how your skin responds to the laser. Some people will need more time to heal than others, so your session intervals will be determined once we see how your skin reacts to the laser. If your sessions are eight weeks apart, you’ll have six sessions in a year’s time, which is often enough to reach a patient’s tattoo removal goals, but not always.
How Does Laser Removal Work?
Essentially, ink particles are too large for your body to process and eliminate on its own. Special cells called macrophages are able to absorb the ink and even eliminate a very small portion of it from your body. This is why your in eventually fades over time. However, for the most part, the macrophages just hold onto the ink forever. This is why tattoos are considered permanent and why your body can’t entirely get rid of a tattoo by itself.
Laser treatment uses various wavelengths of light to break up the ink into small enough particles that can be eliminated by the macrophages. This elimination process takes time, which is why it’s necessary to space your treatments apart by at least six weeks. Additionally, the wavelengths necessary to break up different colors have to be administered during different sessions so the macrophages are only carrying certain colors away after each laser treatment session.
Benefits of Laser Tattoo Removal
If you have a tattoo you no longer want, then there are very few drawbacks to the laser removal process. Maybe your tattoo no longer matches your personality, or perhaps you want to be free from what your tattoo represents (i.e. relationships, religion, or group affiliations). Whatever your reason for getting a tattoo removed, you will benefit from the process of getting it removed. You’ll no longer have the memories or reputation associated with your tattoo.
To begin the process of removing your tattoo, simply contact us and schedule a consultation. We’ll examine the tattoo, check out your skin, and develop a treatment plan to get your tattoo removed as quickly and safely as possible. Contact our expert laser technicians at Metro Dermatology in Elmhurst, NY to book your appointment today.