Tattoo removal has been accomplished with a variety of tools since tattoos have been applied. Most of these techniques used physical, abrasive methods to remove the ink, which often resulted in scarring, an undersireable side effect.
Prior to the use of laser technology, common techniques included dermabrasion, salrabrasion, excision, cryosurgery, and acids. Of these, excision (cutting out of the tattoo, is still used for larger tattoos along with skin grafts.
Laser-based tattoo removal became commercially available in the early 1990’s. Today, laser tattoo removal commonly refers to the use of q-switched lasers. With these lasers, darker colored inks are removed more completely. Lighter colored inks are more difficult to remove since they are on the edge of the light spectra used by these lasers.
Tattoos are made up of thousands of ink pigment particles that are suspended in the skin. Lasers work by breaking up these particles into pieces small enough to be carried away by the body’s normal processes.
Removal of a tattoo by laser typically requires several sessions, usually spaced several weeks apart. Treatments that are performed too soon, increases risk of side effects, including scarring. The number of sessions needed for removal depends on several factors, most notably, the location of the tattoo and the color of the skin.
Important to note, is that tattoo removal can be painful. Some patients have said that the removal is more painful than getting the tattoo in the first place. Local anesthesia is often used.
Tattoo removal – Wikipedia