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Laser tattoo removal involves the use of a Q-switched laser which is pulsed onto the tattoo, fragmenting the ink particles into small enough sizes to be gathered up and removed by the body’s own immune cells. This causes an initial inflammatory reaction in the tattoo and then gradual fading over the course of a few weeks or months after the treatment. When the fading has stabilised then a further treatment is indicated.
The Q-switched laser is most effective on blue/black inks but will have some effect on other colours. As with all laser and IPL treatments there is a small risk of pigmentation changes and scarring. The treatment can be quite painful and generally a local anaesthetic is applied to numb the area before the laser is applied. Each treatment takes a few minutes and involves rapidly repeating laser pulses moving across the tattoo. The whole tattoo can be treated in one go, unless it is a very large one. Often an ice pack is applied as the treatment is proceeding to reduce any pain and swelling. It can be difficult to predict how many laser treatments will be required to fade a tattoo, but in general 8 – 10 sessions, each one a minimum of 8 weeks apart, would be a reasonable estimate.