In America, 36% of 18-29 year-olds have at least one tattoo. While many people love turning their skin into a canvas, an estimated 17% of tattoo owners regret having them done.

Whether your tattoo reminds you of a past relationship, you’ve matured since you got it, or you just no longer want the design, there’s no reason to be stuck with art that you dislike. You deserve to feel beautiful in your skin, and getting rid of an old tattoo can be a great way to boost your self-esteem.

Ready to take the plunge? To learn all about your options for tattoo removal and how the process works, keep reading!

How Do Tattoos Work?

For many years, we believed that tattoos worked because our bodies’ immune systems weren’t able to attack large ink molecules. Thanks to recent research, though, it looks like that theory wasn’t quite accurate.

When you get a tattoo the artist uses a needle to inject ink deep into your skin. A physics principle called capillary action pulls the ink into the second layer known as the dermis. This is where the ink stays long-term and why it doesn’t rub off when the top layers of your skin die and shed.

However, the ink molecules don’t just sit there uninterrupted. As it does with any foreign substance, your immune system immediately moves to attack. That’s part of why your skin swells and may even scab over until your tattoo heals.

Scientists believe that white blood cells called macrophages eat the ink molecules, but because the pigment is so dark and the cells are translucent, your tattoo is still visible from the top layer of skin. Macrophages aren’t able to completely digest the ink, so they keep it safe and contained in roughly the same spot.

Like skin cells, macrophages don’t live forever. They eventually die and leave the remaining ink molecules for new white blood cells to snack on. This process is the reason old tattoos eventually fade and lose their crispness, and it also informs how we remove them altogether.

How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?

In short, laser tattoo removal works by heating the trapped ink until it explodes. That may sound dangerous at first, but the process is well-tested and safe. Let’s take a closer look at the process to help you understand why.

It all begins as a technician moves a laser slowly over the area of tattooed skin. If you’ve ever seen a normal laser pointer, you’ll notice right away that this laser is quite different. Instead of shooting one continuous light beam, a tattoo removal laser shoots tons of small light pulses every second.

These high-energy light beams penetrate deep into your skin until they hit the ink molecules stored inside your macrophages. The molecules heat up and the influx of energy causes them to break apart into smaller pieces. Some of the pieces will still be large enough for new macrophages to attack, but others will now be small enough for your lymph system to wash away and filter out.

The laser pulses may irritate your skin a bit, but they won’t do enough damage to kill all the skin cells they touch. The majority of any post-treatment reaction you experience is due to your immune system attacking the newly-released ink particles again.

Over time and with multiple treatment sessions, the laser will eventually break down the last of the ink particles into tiny fragments. You’ll be left with clear skin and a fresh start.

What to Expect From a Tattoo Removal Procedure

During your laser tattoo removal appointment, the technician will begin by helping you get comfortable either sitting or lying down (depending on the location of your tattoo). They’ll apply a numbing cream to the area to help relieve discomfort. They’ll then “zap” the tattoo repeatedly with the laser until they’ve covered the entire area.

The laser isn’t completely painless, but many clients describe the sensation as no worse than getting snapped with a rubber band. Most appointments will only take 45 minutes to an hour from start to end.

After the appointment, your skin will need time to heal again. You may experience some discomfort, bleeding, and scabbing for the first week or two, but this will go away on its own. Applying healing moisturizers like Aquaphor and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may help.

Avoid wearing tight clothes, shoes, or accessories that will rub against the sensitive area until it heals. You’ll also need to wait before shaving, sugaring, or waxing your skin around the tattoo.

Tattoo removal can be a long process with most laser sessions being at least eight weeks apart. A small tattoo with only black ink will take fewer sessions to remove than a large and colorful one. Your skin tone and the type of ink your artist used may also make a difference.

The laser tattoo removal cost will vary depending on the size of your tattoo and how many sessions are needed to get rid of it completely. If you don’t want your tattoo erased and want it lightened enough to get covered by a new design, you may only need 3-5 laser sessions total. Large and colorful or stubborn tattoos may take a dozen sessions or more to entirely disappear.

Need a Tattoo Removed? Search for a “Medspa Near Me”

Even though our bodies are great at keeping ink molecules in place for years, removing an unwanted tattoo is possible thanks to laser technology.

Before you type “tattoo removal near me” into Google, look into Solara Skin and Laser Services. We’re a comprehensive medspa in Anchorage, AK that offers laser tattoo removal along with a wide selection of other cosmetic services to help you feel more empowered and confident in your skin. Contact us online today to schedule your first consultation, free of charge!