There are several types of tattoo removal but without a doubt the most popular and effective in Australia is Laser Tattoo Removal. In this process lasers are used to break down the ink particles in the tattoo. The broken-down ink is then absorbed by the patient’s own body, in much the same way as it would fade over time or with exposure to the sun – but of course at a much, much faster rate!
All tattoo pigments have specific light absorption properties, and the laser being used must be able to emit sufficient energy within the required spectrum to be effective. Certain colours such as yellows, greens and fluorescent inks are harder to remove than darker colours such as black and blue, and similarly, pastel coloured inks can also be harder to remove due to their reflective properties.
Q-Switched vs Picosure vs IPL Lasers
Q-Switched lasers are considered by many as the most effective means of removing tattoos, with the lowest chance of scarring. Q-switched lasers emit extremely high energy, short pulses of light that shatter the ink particles so they can be absorbed by the body. Some Q-switched lasers can provide multiple wavelengths from a single unit and can be used to treat a broader range of colours, while other clinics prefer to have multiple Q-switched lasers on-site that specialise in targeting specific colour ranges
PicoSure lasers are newer to the market than Q-Switched lasers and advocates believe they provide a superior service because they:
- deliver energy bursts in pico-seconds rather than nano-seconds
- Use photomechanical/pressure waves rather than photothermal/heat
- Break down the ink into smaller particles, making it easier to absorb back into the body
All of which should result in less pain, less number of required treatments and more efficacy in removing harder colours.
IPL Lasers are multi-purpose lasers (used for other processes such as hair removal) and are not generally recommended for tattoo removal. IPL lasers function in milliseconds rather than nano or pico-seconds and the wavelength is too broad for effective treatment. As a result they can – in the worst instances – cause distorting (rather than removal) of the tattoo and burning and scarring.
Other Removal Methods – Disappearing creams
The effectiveness or otherwise of Disappearing creams is debatable, although a tempting alternative considering the cost and time commitment of laser treatment. In most cases it would be more accurate to describe these as ‘tattoo-fading’ treatments, as all they can aim to do is to lighten the tattoo after continued application. Unfortunately the more effective a cream is at fading a tattoo, the more damaging it can be too your skin at the same time. Some products use acids such as trichloracetic acid to fade tattoos which can in turn burn and inflame the skin and possibly even pose cancer risks.