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If you are looking into tattoo removal, here’s what you need to know before undergoing laser tattoo removal treatment. There are many reasons why people consider tattoo removal –  whether it’s because you’re tired of the design, the color has faded or changed, or you simple just want a fresh start. Sun exposure can fade, blur, or otherwise change a tattoo’s quality. Skin laxity may affect the appearance of a tattoo over time, and fine line work can spread and become fuzzy in appearance. Regardless of the reason why you may be interested in removing a tattoo, here’s a guide to laser tattoo removal!


What are the benefits of laser treatment for tattoo removal?


Laser treatment is one of a few treatment methods for removing a tattoo. Surgical removal is possible, but is very invasive and may only be suitable for small areas. With new Pico laser technology, laser tattoo removal comes with less downtime and requires less treatment sessions than treatment with Nano lasers. Pico lasers also make it possible to treat more tattoo ink colors that were previously notoriously difficult to treat, such as blue or green pigments.


DSC Before and After Discovery Pico Laser Tattoo Removal Treatment Blog Graphic showing colorful back tattoo on left before laser tattoo removal treatment with Discovery Pico laser and back with no tattoo after laser tattoo removal treatment on the right with DSC logo in the middle and the text before and after on left and right top respectively


Why should you look into laser tattoo removal treatment with a Pico laser?


A Pico laser is powerful enough to shatter tattoo pigment without as much thermal damage as a traditional nanosecond laser. A picosecond’s duration is 1×10^-12 of a second, while a nanosecond is longer, at 1×10^-9 of a second. This means that a picosecond is one thousandth the duration of a nanosecond. The ultrafast change in temperature when a Pico laser contacts tissue allows for a photoacoustic or photomechanical effect that is different from a Nano laser, which primarily works via photothermolysis.

Essentially, the Pico laser generates an acoustic shockwave that fractures cells in the area where the energy is delivered.  This photoacoustic effect allows for stronger treatment of target areas without as much thermal damage to surrounding tissue. This is why a Pico laser has many uses when it comes to treatments of the skin, e.g. treatment of dyspigmentation, enlarged pores, and scarring, and is appropriate for wider skin types without as much risk of hyperpigmentation post-treatment. When it comes to tattoo removal, a Pico laser shatters tattoo pigment more effectively than a Nano laser. Furthermore, treatment with a Pico laser will help resolve tattoos in fewer treatments than with a Nano laser.


DSC Discovery Pico Laser vs Nano Laser for Tattoo Removal Blog Graphic depicting pigmentation under skin, shattering of pigmentation after treatment with nanolaser and then shattering of pigmentation after treatment with pico laser


How many treatments are necessary?


While it is possible to get a complete tattoo in one session, laser tattoo removal requires more than one treatment in order to get satisfactory results. Because tattoo ink is deposited deep in the dermis and is technically meant to be permanent, laser treatment must work by selectively targeting the cells that contain the tattoo pigment. LIOB, or light-induced optical breakdown, induces shattering of the tattoo pigmentation. This triggers the body’s immune response to kick in and collect and dispose of the tattoo ink.

The size of the tattoo, tattoo quality, ink color, age of the tattoo, and your immune health will determine the number of treatments necessary to treat a tattoo to satisfaction. In certain cases, it may not be possible to 100% remove a tattoo, e.g. if the ink was placed poorly at different depths or if the skin has scarred. Because different ink pigments absorb different wavelengths of light, different tattoo colors will respond better to treatment by different laser wavelengths. Colorful inks like blues and greens and reds will require more sessions than black ink tattoos. Certain colors of ink, such as white or, UV reactive, or flesh-colored, may not be possible to treat. Ink quality/makeup can also cause treatment results to vary.


How often should treatments be done?


Repeat treatments are usually spaced several weeks apart to allow the skin to heal and for ink to fade. A minimum of 4 weeks between repeat treatments to the same area is a good rule of thumb.


What areas can be treated?


Tattoos on the body and face can be treated. Permanent makeup on the face like tattooed eyeliner or eyebrows can also be treated.


How to prepare for treatment


Make sure the treatment area is not exposed to the sun for at least 2 weeks before treatment. This means covering the area with clothing or daily use of adequate sunscreen. This will ensure the laser treatment results in the best outcome. Discontinue use of exfoliating or active skincare topicals on the treatment area for a few days before treatment and to wait until skin is fully healed with no scabbing before resuming use. Reschedule your appointment if illness, vaccinations, or antibiotic usage fall within two weeks of treatment. Cold sores are contraindicated for treatment, even if the treatment area is not over the affected sore. This is because laser treatments create openings in the skin which can allow spread sores to other areas of the skin.

If the tattoo requiring treatment is very large, it may not be possible to treat the entire area all at once in order to accommodate for healing and depending on individual pain tolerance. In this case, treatments will can be undertaken section by section in manageable sizes.


What is a laser tattoo removal treatment like?


Topical numbing cream will be applied to the treatment area. Depending on the area being treated, localized anesthetic may be injected to make treatment more comfortable. Eye protection will be provided because laser light can be damaging to eyesight. If the eye area is being treated, an eye shield (like an opaque contact lens) will be inserted to protect the eye. After treatment, an ice pack will be applied to the treatment area to cool skin and relieve any discomfort. Immediately post-treatment, a treated tattoo may have a frosted, white/gray appearance. There may be some bleeding or oozing post-treatment. Treatment over areas with hair (such as the eyebrows) may “bleach” the hair because the laser targets pigmentation. This is a temporary effect that lasts until the hair grows in again.


What to look out for post-treatment


For the first few days post-treatment, the treatment area may bleed and ooze, then scab. This is because the cells contain tattoo pigment are being broken open during treatment in order to induce uptake and removal by the body. Once the skin has healed over the course of several days, ink pigment will slowly fade over days and weeks. During the course of treatment, tattoo ink may change color or become lighter/patchy, depending on each person’s individual response to the treatment. Take care to apply sunscreen to the treatment area every day. Harsh topical skincare should not be applied to treatment areas until skin is healed. Avoid hot water, steam, or the sauna for at least 24 hours post-treatment. Keep treatment areas clean and dry.

A minimum of 4 weeks between treatments to the same area is required, although results may continue to improve beyond 4 weeks.


If you are looking into laser tattoo removal in Los Angeles, give DSC a call! We have a dedicated team who can answer any questions you may have about Pico laser tattoo treatments or even other types of Pico laser treatments.


DSC Laser & Skin Care Center

889 S. San Gabriel Blvd. San Gabriel, CA 91776