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Tattoo Removal


Article by Tracy Miller

Photography by Tracy Miller

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There are many “Removal” methods for permanent makeup removal or tattoo lightening. I say “lightening” because nothing is guaranteed 100%.Most commonly thought of when it comes to removal, is LASER. Besides being costly, painful, and potentially scarring, lasers cannot often remove some inks in tattoos. Unfortunately, lasers work by “seeing” the pigment in the skin, “shattering” it where it lies and often pushing it deeper when shattering it, and relying on the body’s lymphatic system to “remove” the pigment fragments over time. The first criteria in the process is to “see” the pigment. Lasers cannot see white. And the lighter the pigment is, the more difficult it is for the laser to remove it. That is one reason why tattoos often cannot be “completely” removed by laser. Laser removal usually takes many many sessions. With each session, the tattoo lightens until it is too light for the laser to “see” it. Then, that is what you are left with.

Lasers work pretty good at lightening carbon black inks, but not usually completely. Lasers are not great with some ink types, in fact, lasers often “change” the color of the original pigment leaving an unsuspecting patient with unsightly neon green or pumpkin orange eyebrows instead.

SO WHAT CAN I DO if I have old permanent makeup that has color shifted to something I don’t want, got an unexpected result when I went and got new brows, or just want to get rid of an old tattoo?!!!

For OLD carbon black that has faded to grey or blue, I would sometimes still send you to have laser done first, but for almost ALL permanent makeup on the face, it is BETTER to have a manual removal.

I offer tattoo removal with less potential for scarring. This is not simply a “Saline” removal system. I use a 3-step process that allows for a more effective yet safe method of lifting pigment, and has the potential to lighten even past what a laser can do. I also offer emergency removal. The sooner ink is removed (less than 48 hours is best), the easier it is to remove, and the more complete the possibilities.

Manual removal is still often a multi-step process requiring several sessions if the pigment is dark and/or old. Deciding on removal is a commitment whether with a laser or a manual method. Often times, the old pigment does not need to be completely removed in order to color correct over it, but think of the pigment in your skin as liquid color in a bucket rather than dried color on a page. Color on a page can be “covered” by another color. Color in a bucket will mix with new color added. This is why removal of old pigment is often necessary before new pigment can be applied to the skin for optimum results. Mixing colors in the skin may not result in even color throughout.


What can I expect during the procedure? (for those interested in the physiology)

During the removal process, you will be numbed. The process will feel very similar to when you had the pigment initially applied. A beneficial acid mixture of lactic acid and glycolic acid are applied into the skin at the level the pigment resides. I say “beneficial” because the word “acid” is scary. These two acids are widely used in the cosmetic industry to aid in the health of the skin and are “beneficial” components of skin care products. Their effects in the skin are healthy and productive in the concentrations I use. In tattoo removal, these acids break up the cells (macrophages) holding the pigment molecules in the skin.

I then neutralize the acids so their work in the skin is halted.

The third step is to “pull” the pigment molecules out of the skin. A salt solution is used to “pull” the pigment up and to the surface of the skin with a process called “osmosis” (for you chemistry buffs). With the pigment molecules now free and unencumbered, much of the pigment will rise and sluff off during the healing process Some of the deeper pigment that is liberated will filter out through the lymphatic system.

Here it is important to understand that because we are liberating often deeply placed pigment that then rises closer to the surface of the skin, your tattoo may appear even “darker” at first. As the healing process continues and pigment molecules are sluffed off or carried away by the lymphatic system, the tattoo begins to lighten. With each subsequent session, the pigment is further broken up and lifted out.

Many tattoo removal systems rely on only saline to attempt to lift the pigment out of the skin, but without the initial acid step to break up the macrophages trapping the pigment molecules, there can only be limited success in most cases.


What can I expect after a procedure session?

Initially as mentioned before, your tattoo may appear even “darker” at first. As the healing process progresses, your tattoo should lighten more and more with each session. Some people only need 2-3 sessions to lighten enough to then successfully cover with new pigment. Others need additional sessions. Each case is different and depends on numerous factors such as the desired end result, depth and darkness of initial pigment, color of initial pigment with relation to desired ending pigment, general skin and body health, nutrition, medications, sun exposure, etc. etc. If you wish to see if tattoo lightening is for you, schedule a free consultation to go over your options.

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