Tattoos have been a part of human culture for over 5,000 years, used in ritual ceremonies and as benchmarks for beauty standards. For a custom that’s been around for so long, you’d think we would have figured out the best way to remove them by now.

There are many reasons why someone would consider tattoo removal: religious reasons, job requirements, or maybe they just changed their mind. Whatever the reason, there are many methods available to safely remove their ink, one of the most popular being laser tattoo removal. But how does laser tattoo removal work? And how do you know if it’s the right option for you?

How does laser tattoo removal work on backs
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So how does laser tattoo removal work?

Laser tattoo removal is an out-patient, minimally invasive tattoo removal method. Intense pulses of light are directed at the unwanted tattoo, which breaks down the ink particles beneath the skin until they are small enough to be cleared away by the body’s immune system, through the bloodstream and lymphatic system.

It requires multiple sessions to remove a tattoo completely using laser tattoo removal. The number of sessions depends on the size and colour of the tattoo.

How long does it take to remove a tattoo?

This depends on a number of factors, including the size of the tattoo and the colours that were used.

The good news is that by using laser tattoo removal technology, once you’ve completed your sessions and the ink is gone, it’s gone for good. Even if you opted for only a partial removal, the results would still be permanent, so no need to worry about that bad decision coming back to haunt you.

How much does it cost?

Again this depends on a number of factors, including the size of the tattoo, how many sessions it will take to fully remove it, and who is providing the service. However, it is likely that the entire process will cost you three or four figures.

Laser tattoo removal on finger
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Are there other ways to remove a tattoo?

Two other popular methods of tattoo removal are dermabrasion and surgical removal:

Dermabrasion tattoo removal works by removing the outer layers of skin with a rotating machine that sands down the layers of skin where the tattoo sits, removing it entirely. This method is carried out by a trained professional in a medical office and requires anaesthetic. However, dermabrasion isn’t an option for everyone and should be discussed with a medical professional beforehand.

Surgical removal is the most invasive form of tattoo removal. The skin that contains the tattoo is completely removed, and the gap left behind is then stitched up, replacing the ink with a scar. Larger tattoos may require a skin graft or serial excision, where the tattooed skin is removed piece-by-piece over time.

Does tattoo removal cream work?

The short answer is: no.

A tattoo forms when ink is injected into the dermis by a needle, sitting below the epidermis and the dermal layer. Tattoo removal creams are only surface-level treatments, so they can’t get close enough to the ink to break it down. The most a tattoo removal cream could do is fade or distort a tattoo, which could then lead to permanent scarring and other negative side effects.

How do I look after my skin post laser tattoo removal?

Understand the healing process

Knowing what to expect during the healing process is the best way to look after your skin and tell if something is wrong. After laser tattoo removal, your skin will be sensitive and maybe a little irritated. If that’s the case, keep the area cool with an ice pack and do not scratch it – these common symptoms should disappear within 48 hours. But if your skin becomes redder, swells or begins to hurt or ooze pus, contact your GP immediately, as these are the signs of infection.

Keep hydrated

Besides keeping your skin glowing and plump, hydration is an important step in the tattoo removal aftercare process. Most of your lymphatic system is comprised of water, so it’s important to keep your hydration levels up, and because your lymphatic system plays such a large part in the laser tattoo removal process, you want it working at full capacity.

Also, keep your skin hydrated on the surface with additional moisturiser to soothe irritation and redness.

Woman drinking water
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Stay loose

Loose, soft clothing is your best friend in the days following a tattoo removal session. Natural fabrics like linen, cotton or silk are better options than manufactured fabrics like polyester and jersey as they can reduce the risk of irritation while also keeping your skin cool.

Be sun safe

After a tattoo removal session, it’s important to take extra care of your treated skin when it comes to sun exposure.

Leading tattoo removal studio Naama recommends using a high SPF sunscreen with additional moisturiser throughout your whole tattoo removal journey and keeping treated areas covered with loose clothing. Exposing your treated skin to strong, direct sunlight can cause pigmentation issues and skin damage that may make your tattoo removal more difficult.

Get moving

Other than keeping your heart and lungs healthy, doing regular exercise during your tattoo removal journey can also help with the healing process. Regularly moving your body helps the fluid in your lymphatic system move more freely, making your healing journey a smoother one.

No smoking, no alcohol

Both smoking and alcohol release toxins into your body, which can impact your tattoo removal process. Alcohol puts stress on the liver and kidneys, while smoking reduces blood circulation under the skin, with both making it difficult for the body to remove broken-down ink particles.

Eat the right stuff

Stock your kitchen with nutrient-rich foods like dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, dark chocolate and whole grains to give your immune system a boost.

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