Layers of the Skin
To understand how the laser tattoo process work, we will need to discuss the anatomy of the skin. There are three layers of the skin:
· Epidermis: the outermost layer, which is continually growing and healing
· Dermis: the middle layer and the location of the nerve endings, capillaries, and extracellular matrix
· Hypodermis: contains fat stores and blood vessels sometimes referred to as the deep dermis
Damage to the dermis or deeper will likely cause scarring.
Why is Tattoo Ink Permanent?
Tattoo ink is deposited (between the first and second layer of the skin). Then, fibroblasts ( a cell in connective tissue that produces collagen and other fibers) cover the ink particles in the deep layers and become part of the extracellular matrix. The ink gets locked in.
In the first few weeks to months after getting a new tattoo, superficial layers of the ink left behind are ejected. Beyond three months, the appearance of the tattoo will stay relatively stable. After that, however, the body still recognizes the ink as foreign and will slowly chip away at it.
The Objective of Laser Tattoo Removal Treatment
Our objective in a laser tattoo removal session is to kickstart the immune system to do what it already does. The immune system recognizes the ink as foreign matter and wants to remove it. However, the ink particles are too large and stubborn to be removed easily. The ink gets worked into the fibroblasts/connective tissue of the epidermis and dermis.
I laser tattoo removal; we are breaking down the ink into smaller, bite-sized pieces for the macrophages (white blood cells) to remove in an accelerated time.
We match the wavelength of laser light that will be absorbed by the pigment we are trying to treat. The pigment absorbs the energy and breaks it into manageable pieces for the immune system to flush out. Once the ink has been treated, the healing process in the dermis restructures the connective tissue. The ink has become dislodged from its place among the fibroblasts, and the result is skin tissue free of pigment (ink).
Subsequent Laser Tattoo Removal Treatments
The above process is repeated, increasing the energy to reach ink deeper in the epidermis/dermis until all the ink is flushed away by the immune system. By “flushing away,” the macrophages are taken through the lymphatic and endocrine systems, which filter and clear foreign matter from the body. As a result, lymph nodes may be swollen immediately after treatment.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
Many patients want to know precisely how many treatments they’ll require. Unfortunately, the number of treatments needed to remove a tattoo altogether is variable. Removal of the tattoo is dependent on your immune system, the color of the ink, the depth of the ink, scarring of the tattoo, age of the tattoo, and if the tattoo is home-made or professional.
We generally advise our patients that removal can take from 3-12 sessions. However, on average complete removal takes 6-8 sessions.