Just Google it! Yeah, it’s not always right…

Just Google it! Yeah, it’s not always right…

We’ve all done it, ‘I’ll just google it first’ and before having laser tattoo removal it is important that you do you research and find out as much information as you can about the procedure. However, lately we have been getting strange questions and odd incorrect information from clients which they say they have found online. So I decided to do my own research from a clients point of view. In this blog post I’m going to highlight some of the information I’ve found, both good and bad. All of the information detailed below comes from the 1st page of Google search results when typing in general search terms i.e. what is tattoo removal, laser tattoo removal information, does tattoo removal hurt, can tattoos be removed completely etc.

The first thing I seemed to find was greatly exaggerated pricing. with some stating that prices per session began in the £100s for small tattoos. This is completely untrue, our prices begin at £20 per session for small tattoos. We do not have set pricing, we cater the prices based on the size and complexity of your tattoo as this determines how long your sessions will take and therefore how much of our time is taken up for 1 session. The amount of sessions you will need all together is impossible to tell as it depends entirely on the person and how quickly their body get rid of the ink. If someone tells you it will be gone after 1 session, they’re lying.

Waiting times between sessions also seems to vary depending on where you look. Some say 4 weeks, others 7 or 9 weeks. The time left between treatments is to make sure that your skin is healed completely before your next session. How your skin heals is largely down to how you look after the area. If you keep up with your aftercare, it should heal fine, but if you neglect the area, it will prolong the healing process. We usually leave 5 – 6 weeks between sessions, however if you arrive for your treatment and the area to be treated isn’t completely healed we would reschedule your session to reduce the risk of scarring and further complications.

Anything that mentions going over the area more than once in a session is NOT what we do!! This method is called R20 Tattoo Removal or Accelerated Tattoo Removal and can be very damaging to the skin and will more than likely end in scarring. If you want to find out more about R20 tattoo removal and the dangers of it you can take a look at one of our earlier blog posts here.

Local injected anaesthetics are administered before treatments, now this may be true if the person carrying out the procedure is qualified to administer anaesthetic i.e. a doctor or practitioner (Ask for their credentials if you’re unsure). A standard laser technician has the qualifications to operate the laser competently but this does not make them qualified to give you local injected anaesthetic. If you would like the area to be ‘numb’ before treatments we suggest using a topical numbing cream such as Emla, which you should apply about an hour before your treatment. No needles will be used at all if you have laser treatments with us.

You will be scarred- scarring only occurs in a limited number of cases after laser treatment. Some people are more prone to scarring, however if your laser technician is experienced and follows the correct procedure e.g Fitzpatrick skin typing and risk assessing and gives you aftercare information that is followed, the risk of scarring is greatly reduced. Also, if the tattoo you want removing is already scarred through the tattoo process, the scarring will be more prominent when you have had several laser sessions and the ink has broken down. This scarring is NOT from the laser.

And now onto pain, you will feel it! There’s no denying that, it is likened to an elastic band snapping against the skin but this depends entirely on the person’s pain threshold and where the tattoo is placed (more sensitive areas will hurt more). The pain should not be unbearable and if the laser technician is experienced and has correctly assessed you skin type it will not be. I have found articles that MASSIVELY exaggerate the pain referring to the laser machine as ‘the fire spouting mechanism from hell’ and ‘On a scale of one to a hundred, laser tattoo removal pain is, like, a gazillion’ (I know, super helpful -.-). If you are worried about the pain, as stated in the previous paragraph, you can use a topical numbing cream.

What I’m getting at from this blog post is that not all information you find online is correct. Click bait and fake articles are a massive problem so if you are wanting information and have questions before going ahead with tattoo removal, reputable laser clinics and technicians will be happy to help you.

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The Dangers of R20 Laser Removal

The Dangers of R20 Laser Removal

R20 laser tattoo removal is sometimes referred to as ‘Accelerated Tattoo Removal’. It essentially works the same as standard tattoo removal by shattering the ink in the dermal layer of the skin but has a very different procedure. While standard tattoo removal involves passing over the unwanted tattoo once per session and waiting 5-6 weeks between sessions; R20 removal procedures consist of multiple treatments in 1 day (usually 4) spaced around 20 minutes apart. The patient then has to wait 8 weeks before their next R20 session. The 20 minute wait between treatments is to allow ‘frosting’ that often appears with laser tattoo removal to subside(see pictures below) and ensure the laser pulses are not blocked on the next passing.

frosting
This image is before & after a standard tattoo removal session to illustrate ‘frosting’.

So, why should you avoid R20 removal?

First of all, there is only one published study on the R20 removal procedure which uses a Q-Switched Alexandrite Laser. This type of laser is uncommon and not as powerful as the Q-Switched ND-YAG lasers that are more widely used now. You can take a look at the abstract from the study here. The study itself has quite a few problems:

  • The sample size for the study was very small (12 participants)
  • As stated above, the laser used in the study is very uncommon.
  • The starting intensity of the laser was very aggressive for the first treatment.(5.5J/cm², 755nm, 100-nanosecond pulse duration, 3-mm spot size) . The starting intensity should be tailored to the skin type using the Fitzpatrick scale.
  • No darker skin tones were tested which are the most prone to pigmentary changes.
  • The method was only tested on black and blue inks.

The method has only been tested with one type of laser which is not as powerful as some of the more modern lasers which are more commonplace in practices. The more modern lasers have not been thoroughly tested with the method and so there is an even greater risk of extensive damage.

The R20 method can also cause greater epidermal injury to the treated area and this is stated in the study abstract (link above). There is also an increased risk of texture changes although it also states that none of the participants suffered scarring.

A standard tattoo removal procedure can take around 15 minutes whereas the R20 method can take anything from 80 minutes+ depending on the amount of time that is left between passes. This means that patients will have to take more time out and practices will have to book more time out to accommodate the method.

The method is also way too aggressive for sensitive skin types and would more than likely cause scarring or extensive skin injury. All patients should first be categorised using the Fitzpatrick scale so that the laser intensity is suited to their skin type.

The R20 procedure may fade tattoos quicker than standard methods, it is doing so at what cost? You may have to wait a little longer with standard removal but your skin will thank you for it.

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