Behind the Scenes: Laser Tattoo Removal Treatments

 tattoo being removed on patient at siti med spa in san diego 

Paw prints on your boob?  A long-gone, ex-girlfriend’s name someplace you’d rather not mention? Don’t worry. At Siti Med Spa, we’ve seen it all. More importantly, we’ve helped countless people erase it all with laser tattoo removal. Below, we give you the scoop for what to expect from your first phone call to inquire about tattoo removal treatment to that glorious moment when you can finally say goodbye to the past forever.

Q: What’s the very first thing that happens if I call for information on laser tattoo removal?

A: The first thing we do is set up a consultation because it’s impossible to give an estimate of cost or the number of sessions required over the phone. Tattoos come in all shapes and sizes, and your treatment plan will depend on the size of your tattoo, the quality of the ink, the quality of the artist, and the age of your tattoo. So we have to take a look at the actual tattoo to give you a better estimate of how much it’s going to cost and how many sessions you might need.

Q: How do you determine the treatment plan during the consultation?

A: When we look at the tattoo, it if looks like you’ve had it for 20-plus years or it just wasn’t done professionally, we’ll estimate that it’s going to take a lot fewer treatments than a new tattoo because your body has already broken down as much as it can by itself.

We look at the color, too. If it’s full of color, it’s going to take more sessions to get rid of it. But if it’s a simple black ink tattoo that’s fairly old, it’ll go away pretty quickly.

We recently had a guy come in with a brand new tattoo, probably like a month or two old. It was brand new and full of color. That tattoo, even with our Enlighten laser, which is the most powerful laser out there, was going to take as many as 15-plus sessions. The poor guy had two full sessions, and then just gave up.

Q: What can I expect when I come in for my first session?

A: As soon as you walk in, we’ll greet you, and if you’re a new patient, we’ll give you all the necessary paperwork. We are a medical clinic, so we’ll need your basic history to make sure you’re healthy enough to do this type of treatment. As soon as you finish filling it out, we’ll get you settled in one of the exam rooms and take a ‘Before’ picture of your tattoo.

We’ll then prep you up for your laser tattoo removal treatment by cleaning your skin and applying numbing cream to the treatment area. We’ll let that sit for about 15 minutes, and we’ll provide you with an ice pack that you can use to help numb the area as well. Then, we’ll get started with your treatment.

Q: Let’s get real about the pain.

A: Everyone’s pain level is different. We have a couple of patients who come in here and just knock it out, get it done without numbing or anything. They can tolerate the stinging sensation. Other people say the pain is even worse than when they got the tattoo. We prefer to give everybody at least a little bit of numbing cream to make them as comfortable as possible.

Q: How long is a laser tattoo removal session?

A: A session is as long as you can handle it. We can block out an entire two hours, as long as you can comfortably handle it. If you’re having a large tattoo removed, we’ll grid the area and numb one section at a time. Most people will just come and do one area real quick and then come back next time to do another.

We just stick with one pass over the treatment area in a single session.  A kind of crust forms after we’ve passed over, and we don’t want to hit that again. If we do, there’s a chance of damaging the skin. We try to minimize the side effects, and when you go over an area more than once, you risk hypopigmentation, which means you actually take the color out of a person’s skin. It’s always a risk with tattoo removal, so we try to stay conservative to minimize the risk as much as we can.

After your session, we’ll apply some antibiotic ointment to protect the skin that became a little raw from the treatment, and we’ll cover it with non-stick gauze. We recommend that you keep it covered for a couple of days.

Q: What kind of results can I expect?

A: When you remove the protective gauze a couple of days after your treatment, your tattoo will still be there because your body needs time to process and flush away everything that the laser broke down. The tattoo will begin to fade over time.  That’s one reason we space sessions out between 6 to 10 weeks, so the body can process the ink. That way, once we hit it again, we’re getting at a new layer of ink rather than hitting the same ink over again.  

Different parts of the body may process the ink faster or slower than other parts. For example, your face is more vascular, so you have more blood circulation there. The face regenerates skin faster than any other part of your body, so we can probably hit it more often than, say, your foot or your back or your chest.

It’s not going to hurt if you wait longer between sessions, but if you don’t wait long enough, and the body hasn’t had a chance to get rid of the particles from the last session, we’ll just be hitting the same ink again.

Q: How does laser tattoo removal work for darker skin?

A: The darker the skin, the less we can hit it aggressively. We want to protect pigmentation, so the darker the skin the lower the energy setting on the laser.

Q: Does laser tattoo removal completely erase every tattoo?

A: It really depends on the tattoo. The more professional it is, the better ink that they use, it’s going to take more sessions to get rid of the ink. If there is a little shadow left behind, it’s a lot less than with the old tattoo removal technology. And even then, it’s something you’d only be able to see if you’re super close. But if you’re an arm’s length away, you won’t be able to see that shadow.

Q: What would you say is the biggest surprise for most patients when it comes to laser tattoo removal?

A: Well, in general, some people are surprised that it hurts more than they expect. But the worst surprise is when they think it’s going to be done in fewer sessions than it actually is. That’s why we tend to estimate a higher number of sessions. Then, if it’s done in fewer, they’re happy. Better than the other way around.

Q: Does tattoo removal help with cover-up tattoos?

A: Absolutely. If you’re looking to have an old tattoo covered with a new tattoo, laser tattoo removal can make a big difference in the success of the cover-up. When a tattoo artist is trying to cover up a dark tattoo, they’re limited in what they can do.  We’ll do a couple of sessions with the Enlighten laser, and it will lighten your old tattoo enough to make their job much easier.

Q: Do you offer package deals for laser tattoo removal?

A: Yes, we offer package deals that bring down the per-session price for laser tattoo removal. It just depends on how many sessions you’re willing to pay up for up front. You can save between 10% and 20%, depending on the package. See more info on laser tattoo removal here. 

Give us a call at Siti Med Spa in San Diego to schedule your consultation today.