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Have you heard of removing a tattoo by tattooing over it? No, we’re not talking about using “flesh-toned” ink to cover up the tattoo. That is an option, albeit not a very good one as skin is somewhat transparent and ink is not. Plus matching your precise skin-tone can prove quite difficult if not impossible.

No. What we’re talking about is actual tattoo removal that uses a tattoo machine to apply a saline-type solution over the existing tattoo. The idea is that the saline solution will bond to the tattoo ink and force the immune system to push it all out through the now open wound caused by that tattoo machine.

Does it work? To an extent, it does. A good portion of ink does bubble up and out of the skin causing some pretty rough looking scabs; at least that’s what our patients who have tried this procedure tell us.

Wait…They’re now patients at Vanish? Seeking laser tattoo removal? Why? Well, it seems that this “re-tattooing” tattoo removal is only effective for a few treatments. There comes a point where the patients no longer see results. On top of that, the time required for each treatment is rather lengthy. Remember the amount of time that it took to put the tattoo there in the first place? It’s that same amount of time for each of these treatments. Couple that with the increased risk of scaring that comes with “re-tattooing” over and over again, and these saline solution tattoo removal treatments just don’t sound like a good idea.

Laser tattoo removal treatments are much more effective. Each treatment is very quick in relation to the time necessary to apply a tattoo. Also the risk of scaring is extremely rare when a properly calibrated tattoo removal laser is used by a properly trained technician. At Vanish, we use the Astanza Trinity Laser that was designed specifically for tattoo removal. We are seeing excellent results on a wide variety of colors and on a variety of skin-tones. Also, each member of our staff is a certified laser specialist/technician with specific training in tattoo removal and on our specific laser. You can be certain that Vanish is the right place with the right equipment for your tattoo removal treatments.


Below is a photo progression of a tattoo that had 12 months of treatments via the "saline/tattoo machine" method prior to coming to Vanish.  The top picture is after the tattoo machine removal treatments but before laser treatments.  Each following picture was taken about 6 weeks after a laser treatment.  This patient said the tattoo faded so much better from just one laser treatment than it had in the entire previous year of tattoo machine treatments.


12mos of injection txs followed by 3 laser txsPhoto property of Vanish Laser Tattoo Removal

Multicolored ink drop by posterizePhoto courtesy of by posterize

Considering a tattoo? Some laser tattoo removal clients have shared some reasons they are seeking removal with us. We’d like to share their reasons in the form of some advice. Now before we start getting ugly comments about how you shouldn’t care what other people think about your ink, or if a job won’t let you have one then you don’t need that job, or whatever; we know there are many people out there who are extremely confident in who they are and despite changes in their lives or too many questions being asked about their tattoo(s) they would NEVER consider removal. We know that not everyone needs or wants this advice and that’s awesome! Be proud of your art! For some of us though who are perhaps a bit more reserved, this just might be something we need to prepare us to take the leap toward our first tattoo and perhaps will prevent someone from saying “I love my tattoo, but…”

One client of ours recommended getting the tattoo all drawn out exactly as you want it, colors and all, then go home and hang it on the refrigerator door or bathroom mirror where it can be seen daily. He said after 6 months if you still love it, go for the tattoo. Not everyone wants to wait 6 months or more, but remember a tattoo is meant to last a lifetime. What’s a couple of months? Well maybe if you’re 80 and ready to get your first tattoo (like Mercedes Erwin who just got her 5th tattoo at 91[video here… ]), you might not want to wait 6 months more, but at that point you’ve probably been thinking about what you like for a while now anyway.

Placement seems to be a big reason people remove tattoos. Wrists, hands, ankles, and necks are some of the most commonly “regretted” positions for tattoos. With the military’s stricter tattoo policy that prohibits tattoos above the shirt collar or below the elbows for new recruits, many people are forced to seek removal before enlisting. Other jobs can also be strict on visible tattoos. Many companies are loosening their restrictions, but in today’s current economy, competition for jobs is high and a first impression can be key when qualifications of one applicant are very similar to another. Other clients complain that when they extend their hand for a welcoming handshake the other person immediately breaks eye-contact to look at a wrist or hand tattoo. For some, this can be more than they wish to tolerate so tattoo removal becomes an option. That reason though is a very personal one. If you want to experiment with tattoo placement, there are “design your own” temporary tattoo websites like this one that can be great for experimenting. These temporary tattoos are custom made and can last for a few months. It can definitely help you decide if this placement works for you.

Make it meaningful. All too often it’s the cute little Pac-man or random butterfly that tends to be the victim of laser tattoo removal. If it has significance in your life, it is far more likely to stand the test of time. We’re not knocking Pac-man here either. If Pac-man has significance in your life, he’s probably going to be around for a while, but if you tattoo Pac-man on your arm just because he’s cute or cool, you just might decide one day that he’s not as cool as he used to be.

Double and triple check the spelling of any quotes you want tattooed on your body. Spelling is a HUGE reason people have all or at least part of a tattoo removed. Perhaps it’s meant to be misspelled, that’s ok, but be prepared to explain why…a lot! People are nosey and don’t have any problem making comments about things they think are wrong or silly. Make sure you’re prepared for people’s questions, comments, and occasional rudeness.

If you’re going to get a foreign language tattoo, make sure you know for certain that it says what you think it says. Don’t point to some flash on a tattoo shop wall and say “I want that.” If you don’t read that language, find someone who does. Find several people who do, or use a reputable translation company. Make sure you are getting what you want and not some entre from a Chinese menu, unless you want Kung Pao Chicken on your shoulder.

And lastly, know exactly what you want: size, shape, design, even the colors. Plan it out down to the very last detail unless you wholeheartedly trust your artist. This kind of brings us back to our first piece of advice. Too many times we hear “I wanted…, but my artist said … would look better” or “I wanted a tiny little thing, but I was told it had to be bigger to look good.” To an extent the artist does or at least should know what will hold up and what wont. They should know what colors stand the test of time and which ones have a tendency to fade. They know that tiny tattoos with lots of intricate designs will eventually look like a blob of ink. All that being said, if you want something little, find an artist who is confident and comfortable with tiny details. Don’t get talked into something bigger. We have seen several who thought “just a little bigger” would be fine, but instead of the quarter size they wanted, or the business card size they thought they were agreeing to end up with a softball size tattoo that just doesn’t represent them or what they wanted. Other times we hear that an artist or a friend insists that neon pink will look so much better than the muted pink that was desired. They give in, and from the moment that neon color touches their skin, they hate it. Not saying everyone hates neon pink, just don’t let someone else hijack your appointment. If you know what you want, stand your ground. Don’t let other people’s desires overshadow your own. A skilled artist can give advice on what will last and what may not, but all in all, you are the boss. Don’t be afraid to say “I understand what you’re saying, but I really want this.”

laser tattoo removal in process

There’s been a lot of hype lately with regards to the newest FDA approved tattoo removal laser, Picosure. Its’ been seen on news publications across the country; states are happy to announce its arrival to one of their cities; and a quick Google search for “laser tattoo removal” will likely result in numerous listings devoted to the Picosure laser. So what’s all the fuss? Is it in fact the biggest breakthrough in laser tattoo removal in decades? Perhaps in some regards, but not to the extent the media hype would lead you to believe.

The biggest difference between the Picosure laser and the more widely used Q-switched lasers like our Astanza Trinity is the pulse-width (the amount of time the laser’s energy is applied with each pulse). A Q-switched laser has a pulse-width of 1 nanosecond. As its name would suggest, the Picosure has a pulse-width of 1 picosecond, one thousand times smaller than a nanosecond.

What does a shortened pulse-width mean for laser tattoo removal? In theory, a shorter pulse-width would mean less pain during treatment and less temporary tissue damage therefore a shorter healing time. After performing a Google search for “Picosure reviews” we found There are some very detailed accounts including pictures chronicling patients’ journey through picosure treatments. Most of the pictures and descriptions of the healing process as well as many testimonials of the discomfort felt during treatment seem very closely related to what can be expected with treatment from our Astanza Trinity Laser.

Picosure’s creators’ accounts of how effective their laser is at removing tattoos, leads many to believe that it can remove a tattoo in as few as one treatment and if not just one, certainly far less than a Q-switched laser. Further review of patients’ accounts of their treatments showed that multiple treatments were needed in many cases and unless the tattoo is full of blue, green, or purple inks, the Picosure is not the only laser used to treat the tattoo. Reds and yellows are especially resistant to the Picosure. This is because the Picosure laser only has one wavelength, 755nm (Alexandrite). Sadly not all colors will respond to the same wavelength. Black responds to most wavelengths so the Picosure does a pretty good job of fading black inks, but it is most effective against blues, greens, and purples. We'll be upfront here: according to pictures posted by actual patients, blues, greens, and purples seem to respond to the Picosure better than our Q-switched 694nm (Ruby) wavelength as far as speed of color loss. If a patient has reds, yellows, and oranges in their tattoo the Picosure is not the right laser for them though. Another laser will need to be used to effectively fade those colors, and what will the proponents of the Picosure use instead? Yep, you guessed it, they’ll be forced to go right back to a Q-switched laser like the Astanza Trinity we use here at Vanish because for reds, yellows, and oranges you need a 532nm wavelength.

Here's the clincher: with the cost of Picosure laser treatments nearly double the price of Q-switched laser treatments, is it really worth it to go with the Picosure? That is totally up to the consumer, however if given a choice, I'd lean towards going somewhere that could use one laser to deal with ALL the colors that need to come out. That just makes more sense. Upon looking at the long track record of efficacy and documented safety and results from the Q-switched Astanza laser, well...why re-invent the wheel? Go with what has been proven to work.

Anytime there is physical trauma to the skin, there is a potential for scarring, however, with the right laser the risk of scarring is extremely minimal. Some lasers are very effective in removing ink from the skin, but are not designed to do so. By using a laser for tattoo removal that was not designed for that task is a very risky move. Hair removal lasers, IPL, and CO2 treatments can cause major scarring if used to treat tattoos. In addition, improperly calibrated tattoo removal lasers can have an adverse effect on the skin as well which could lead to scarring.

There is also a heightened risk of scarring when you have a high history of abnormal scarring (think keloids), or you are a “bad patient,” like one of our laser specialists, and pick at your scabs. Following proper aftercare techniques; such as keeping the area clean, dry, and covered for the first few days; changing the bandage regularly; and allowing the tattoo ample time to heal between treatments, can reduce the already limited risk of scarring from laser tattoo removal treatments.

For a detailed list of proper aftercare procedures, click here… When there is pre-existing scar tissue in the tattoo, be it from the tattoo process itself or some other trauma, it is likely that the scar tissue will be visible after the tattoo has been removed. The photo below shows a tattoo that was treated before coming to Vanish. There is significant scar tissue present in the "before" photo (top left) most likely from a laser not designed for tattoo removal or from an improperly calibrated laser.  We were able to continue to lighten the ink with our Astanza Trinity Laser, however the pre-existing scar tissue remained virtually unchanged.

Scar tissue progression

As always, don’t hesitate to talk to our laser specialists if you have any questions or concerns. It is our goal that you are not only pleased with your treatments, but are confident in the care you are receiving and that your tattoo is progressing properly.