It is quite common to develop blisters after laser tattoo removal treatments, especially with certain colors. While any color can develop a blister after laser treatment, it is most common to see blisters in reds, yellows, and oranges. Blistering with blues and greens typically occur in about half of the patients treated while black ink does not often develop blisters, though it is a normal reaction.
When blisters do form, the size of the blister is generally related to the size of the area of ink. Expect a red heart to be one big blister after treatment, where little red dots on the other hand will typically be tiny little blisters. When large blisters do form, do not panic. This is very common and very much a normal reaction to the laser tattoo removal process. The after effects of tattoo removal often mimic that of a second degree burn. The difference though is permanent tissue damage does not occur with laser tattoo removal like it does with a true second degree burn.
So what do you do after laser tattoo removal and you have developed large blisters? If a blister is uncomfortably large or you are afraid that the blister will rupture, lance the blister with a sterilized needle by poking a small hole in the bottom of the blister and allow the fluid to drain. This will help to keep the skin intact while the area heals from the inside out. It may be necessary to lance the blister multiple times. This too is quite common. Keep the area covered with a loose dressing. Change the dressing regularly and apply an antibiotic ointment gently as often as you change the bandage. Make sure that before changing the dressing and applying ointment, you have washed your hands thoroughly. All of this is to help prevent secondary infection, the most common risk associated with laser tattoo removal.
Does the skin heal normally even if a large blister forms? Absolutely. Following proper after-care procedure as described above will result in beautifully healed skin in a few weeks or so. Below are a few examples of tattoos that were treated with our Trinity Laser. Typically blisters will appear within 24 hours of the treatment, though some have experienced blistering as many as 72 hours after laser treatment. Each person and each tattoo is different, therefore varying degrees of reactions is normal and expected. In all of the examples below, the skin healed very well despite some large and often ugly blisters. On a positive note, typically when we see blistering after laser tattoo removal treatments we will see better fading from the tattoo.
As always if you have any questions before, during, or after your treatment; do not hesitate to ask. We would much rather answer your questions than to have you worry until your next appointment.
How quickly y0u notice results from laser tattoo removal treatments varies greatly from person to person. Tattoos fade at varying rates due to a number of factors from the color of the ink to the patient's immune system and everything in between.
In most cases, fading can be seen within a few weeks after the first laser treatment. However, especially with black line-work or very dense tattoos, the fading is very minimal and often is not noticed until pictures (before treatment and current) are placed side-by-side. Line-work tends to appear fuzzy around the edges or tips tend to become brownish. Other dense colors tend to have spots here and there that faded whereas the majority of the tattoo appears the same. Other times a tattoo can fade so evenly (like wiping away color with a washcloth) that we forget just how dark the tattoo was before treatment. This is especially true of blues and greens.
Often times, these "slow to fade" tattoos will fade dramatically after a few treatments, and friends and family will start to wonder what you're doing to your tattoo. Remember that every tattoo and every person is different so try not to compare your results to another person's. Whether your tattoo fades quickly or not, progress is being made with each laser tattoo removal session. Also don't hesitate to ask to see your photos. We love sharing your tattoo's progress with you.
Each of the photos below show a tattoo before treatment, about 4 weeks after 1 treatment, and about 4 weeks after a second treatment. Notice that though these two tattoos are both located on fingers and both consist of black line-work, they did not fade the same. As stated before, many factors play a part in how quickly a tattoo fades. Just because the one tattoo did not fade as quickly as the other does not mean that laser tattoo removal treatments did not work. Progress has been made with each laser tattoo removal session.
When it comes to laser tattoo removal, there are a number of misconceptions floating around out there. Vanish Laser Tattoo Removal and Skin Aesthetics would like to set the record straight on some of them.
- Laser Tattoo Removal Leaves a Scar…While scarring is a possibility with laser tattoo removal, it is very unlikely. Unless you have a high history of abnormal scarring (ie: keloids) or you already have scar tissue from the tattoo process, or you are one of many who picks at scabs as a wound heals; it is highly unlikely that you would develop scarring from laser tattoo removal treatments.
- Tattoo Removal Creams Work…Well they certainly are readily available and most can be used in the comfort of your own home, but the fact is that tattoo removal creams just cannot penetrate deep enough into the skin to where the ink resides. Tattoo removal creams can at best speed the “aging process” of your tattoo and fade it, but complete removal will never be possible with a topical cream.
- Black is the Hardest to Remove…It may seem as though darker colors especially black would be hard to remove because they are so dark, but that’s a good thing when it comes to laser tattoo removal. Dark colors and especially black absorb many different wavelengths of light making them easier to target and break up. The downside to dark colors is that they are often applied more densely than their lighter counterparts. Very dense, dark ink can require a few treatments more than a light pink or blue, but still are easier than say lime green or yellow that are very selective with the wavelengths they absorb.
- New Tattoos are Easier to Remove…To an extent this is true, simply because the newer the tattoo, the less time the ink has had to settle into the deeper layers of skin. On the downside, newer inks are much more stable than older inks. Also older tattoos have had time to be broken down by the sun and other natural elements which often make them more vulnerable to laser treatments.
- Laser Tattoo Removal comes with a Lengthy Downtime between Laser Treatments…While treatments are spaced a minimum of 4 to 8 weeks apart, the actual “downtime” of healing is just a few days. Typically active scabbing and blistering dissipates within 5-7 days at most, though each person and each tattoo is different. During this time it is best to keep the area clean and dry. Showering is fine, but soaking in a bathtub or swimming pool should be avoided. Also exposure to the sun should be avoided during this time as well.
- Each Treatment Takes a Long Time…When many people think about laser tattoo removal, they think each treatment is going to be like getting the tattoo in the first place. This simply is not the case. The laser works very quickly through the tattoo. Most treatments require just a handful of minutes. Even a larger tattoo can take as little as 15-20 minutes.
- Partial Removal is not possible…Because lasers are very accurate, if you would like just a part of your tattoo removed, we can do that. We have a 2 millimeter spot size to target some of the most intricate details. Need a name removed from a banner, or a few swirls removed from around a flower? It can be done. Keep in mind, however, if an area you want removed shares a line with an area you want to keep, that line may need some touching up once the unwanted area is removed. Be sure to talk to your artist to know exactly what he or she is capable of in that situation.
- You Cannot Get Your Tattoo Wet After Laser Treatment…While you do want to keep the treated area clean and dry during the healing process, showers and hand washing are not going to cause problems for a healing tattoo. You do not want to soak your tattoo during the first few days to a week after laser tattoo removal treatments as this can increase the potential for infection and keeping an area too moist can hinder the healing process.
- Absolutely No Sun Exposure to a Tattoo after Laser Tattoo Removal Treatments…Immediately after laser tattoo removal treatments and for the first few days to a week after this is true, but beyond that minimal to light sun exposure is acceptable and even encouraged. You do want to use sunscreen and avoid allowing the area to burn, but sun exposure after laser treatments (once the area has healed) can be beneficial in correcting any hyper pigmentation (darkening of the skin) or hypo pigmentation (lightening of the skin). The sun can also help to continue to break down ink in your skin, of course this is a much slower breakdown than that of laser treatment, but every little bit helps.
- You Should Not Touch Your Tattoo after having Laser Tattoo Removal Treatments…This is far from the truth. You do want to make sure that when you do touch the treated area that you do so with clean hands and a gentle touch, but you need to clean the area daily and moisturize with a gentle moisturizer. Also once the tattoo is no longer tender to the touch; give it a good, deep massage with a mild moisturizer. Not only will this help with any itching associated with the healing process, it will also help to increase blood flow to the area which in turn will increase the immune system response and flush out more of the shattered ink.
As always, if you have any questions about your treatment or the healing process of your tattoo, do not hesitate to ask one of our certified laser specialists. We want to make sure you are seeing the best results possible with each treatment and want you to be fully informed and comfortable with the process.
Laser tattoo removal is definitely not comfortable, but it is tolerable. The treatments are quite fast especially in comparison to getting the tattoo in the first place. Most patients describe the treatment to feel like a hot rubber band being snapped repeatedly on the wrist…not comfortable, but it can be tolerated.
At Vanish we use a cryo unit to blow extremely cold air on the treatment area. This helps to cool and numb the skin. Also you, the patient, are completely in control of how fast or slow we progress through the tattoo. If you need a breather, just let us know. As long as you are breathing and appear to be calm, we will continue treatment without stopping. Many prefer to “just get it done,” but others do need to treat a small section of the tattoo and take a big deep breath before continuing.
In addition to our treatment techniques, there are some things that you can do to help manage the pain/discomfort associated with laser tattoo removal treatments. Do keep in mind that each person is different and what may be painful to one may not be to another. Also what techniques relieve pain for one may not work at all for another.
Relaxation Techniques: Imagine yourself on a beach or mountain top. Mind over matter is a great way to push through discomfort. Deep breathing or meditation can also help to transport your mind away from the discomfort.
Squeeze a Stress Ball: Squeezing a stress ball can keep your focus off of the tattoo and on another task. Distraction can help to ease the discomfort of laser tattoo removal treatments.
Listening to Music: Jamming out to some tunes on your ipod or mp3 player while your laser specialist zaps away your ink can help to keep your mind preoccupied thereby reducing the amount of noticeable discomfort. Some say that hearing the snap, snap, snap as the laser reacts with ink in the skin can cause more pain than the actual laser reacting with the ink in your skin.
Essential Oils: Essential oils are great for relaxation and calming. Chamomile, benzoin, bergamot, cedarwood, clary sage, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, lavender, neroli, patchouli, rose, sandalwood and ylang ylang are great for relaxation. You can combine a few for aroma therapy or simply bring one to sniff just prior to treatment.
Birch and wintergreen are great for pain relief. Both contain methyl salicylate which is found in asprin. Also wintergreen has a cortisone-like effect on the skin. In addition to these oils peppermint essential oil can block the channels that transmit pain signals. Be sure to study how to properly use essential oils for pain relief before applying to the skin. Too much of an essential oil can cause severe reactions.
Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Motrin) seem to be the best option for medicinal pain relievers available to our patients. Some have taken prescription strength pain relievers only to find the over-the-counter options are more effective. More than anything it will help with the after-effects of laser treatment, but taken 30+ minutes prior to treatment can calm nerve endings so that the actual treatment may not be as uncomfortable.
Topical Analgesics: over-the-counter lidocaine creams and such can help to numb the surface nerve endings, but the reaction between tattoo ink and laser energy occurs much deeper in the skin. Also keep in mind that the topical cream must be applied 30-45 minutes prior to laser treatment and will be wiped off immediately before treatment. Also there is a small chance that any residual cream could reflect some of the laser’s energy making laser treatment slightly less effective, but where pain is a concern, this form of pain management can be beneficial.
photo courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net by David Castillo Dominici