According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, laser tattoo removal is the most common method for removing any type of facial tattoo. However, alternative treatments include Intense Pulsed Light, which is more expensive, and take-home treatments, such as creams and lotions, which do not completely remove the tattoo but cause it to fade. Any other methods, such as surgical excision and dermabrasion, leave a scar or pale area.
Before starting laser treatment, the clinic runs tests to discover the type of pigment and ink used for the tattoo. This in-person consultation typically lasts for about an hour, has a cost associated with it and can only be done with those 18 years of age and above. If the tattoo is deemed removable, the patient and clinic schedule several sessions of laser treatment. The number of sessions depends on the size, color and age of the tattoo, and each session lasts about 30 minutes.
The most common method used by modern clinics employs Q-switched lasers, which apply a beam of light to the skin. Normal side effects include redness, blistering and crusting for one to two weeks after each session. The patient is usually provided with a take-home kit, including ointment and bandages, and instructions to keep the area clean, dry and out of the sun. After the appropriate amount of sessions, the tattoo loses 80 to 100 percent of visibility.