Tattoo removal may be a straightforward procedure, but it is not a quick process. While the treatments themselves are brief, typically lasting under 10 minutes, it can take many treatments to produce good results. Tattoos vary widely in the number of treatments needed to provide satisfactory fading, but most require at least 4 -10 treatments, spaced 6 – 8 weeks apart, with some tattoos requiring many more sessions than this. This can result in the removal process taking over a year for complex and colorful designs. This timeline is pretty inflexible, and in general, tattoo removal takes as long as it takes. However, there is an option for undergoing treatment a bit faster, with a method known as R-20.
How Removal Works
Tattoo removal uses a laser to make the body react to the tattoo ink gradually over time and dispose of it in a safe and effective way. A special laser is used on the tattoo in different wavelengths (depending on the colors involved) to heat the skin and break up the tattoo ink so the body can dispose of it in the weeks following treatment. Each procedure is brief but can be uncomfortable, feeling like a series of snaps from a rubber band. Topical anesthesia is used to help alleviate this discomfort. The area will feel burned and may blister, with the skin healing gradually and improvement visible 4-6 weeks after treatment. The treated area will need to be protected from the sun to avoid hyperpigmentation (skin darkening).
What Is R-20?
While treatments generally must be spaced quite far apart, R-20 is a method that allows for a tattoo to be treated more than once in a day. After the first treatment, the tattoo will take on a whitish appearance for about 20 minutes. Once this clears, the tattoo can sometimes be treated again, allowing for more effective destruction of the tattoo pigment, as the laser will continue to do its job. The tattoo may be treated several times in a day, however R-20 is more expensive than the basic removal method, and does not always reduce the number of treatments needed.
Is It Right for Everyone?
The R-20 method is unfortunately not appropriate for every patient, and depends on a number of factors. In short, it is the surgeon’s call on whether or not the R-20 method is safe and likely to be effective in any given case. Sometimes, this method is not a good idea for certain skin types, pigment concentration, or tattoos in certain locations. Remember, your provider knows best, and while it might be frustrating if you need to use the more traditional treatment plan, rest assured that the decision was made with your best interests at heart.
Factors in Tattoo Removal
While not all tattoos can be removed completely, most designs can have significant fading given enough treatments and time. Here are some factors that can affect how effective the process can be:
- Tattoo size and complexity
- Ink type
- Number of treatments
- Skin color
- Provider’s skill
Finding a Specialist
Unfortunately, laser tattoo removal is considered less specialized than other cosmetic treatments, and is often performed by people who do not have sufficient training to produce good results and avoid problems like scarring. It is important to choose a highly experienced and skilled provider to perform your treatments, such as a board certified plastic surgeon. Do not skimp on the quality of your treatment—it could affect how well your tattoo fades. Do your research and choose an expert, like Dr. Stuart Bentkover of New England Tattoo Removal. Dr. Bentkover has the knowledge and experience to help fade most tattoos, and he is standing by to help you plan your treatment series. To schedule your consultation, call Bentkover Facial Plastic Surgery in Worcester (508-363-6500), or Stoneham (617-247-0033), Massachusetts.