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.