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How ink colour affects laser tattoo removal

Making the decision to get a tattoo removed is arguably as big of a decision as it was to get the tattoo in the first place (except that drunken tattoo you got with your friends the second you turned 18 or the name of a new partner in a fit of passion). While tattoos can be deeply personal, the intent shouldn’t be to consider how easy it would be to remove if you ever change your mind down the road. Having a tattoo removed can bring with it as many questions and considerations as getting one made in the first place, such as:

  • Who do I trust to remove it?
  • Will it be painful?
  • Will it scar?
  • What will it look like after?
  • And will the black and colour ink in my tattoo react differently?

That last question is especially interesting and relevant, as the evolution of tattoo art has become progressively more colourful and intricate. You must understand that before committing ink to skin that in the eyes of the laser, not all colours are created equal.

What is Laser Tattoo Removal?

Before we dive into how your different tattoo colours will react, it’s essential for us to understand. Laser Tattoo Removal first came around in the 1960’s, and the technology and lasers used in these procedures have continued to revolutionise and evolve over time, much like Apple products or our fashion choices! Laser tattoo removal works by laser light and energy being applied to the tattooed area of the skin, which then is attracted and absorbed by the ink. When the ink absorbs the laser light, the ink particles then shatter into microscopic fragments, which the body’s immune system will flush out over time. The removal process isn’t an instant fix, and often requires multiple sessions (depending on various factors) to continue breaking down the ink particles until the colour is removed.

Are black tattoos hard to remove?

Have you ever been told not to wear black clothes in summer because black absorbs more light which then converts into heat? Lasers and black tattoo ink kind of work the same way!

Tattoo pigments have specific light absorption spectra, which means the type of laser used needs to be able to emit enough energy within the spectrum of the pigment to work effectively. Black tattoos are generally the easiest types of tattoo to remove due to being the darkest pigment of colour that you can get. The darker colour pigments absorb all laser wavelengths and attract the most light and energy from the laser, which assists with the breaking up of the ink particles.

How is removing colour tattoos different?

As a general rule of thumb in laser tattoo removal, the greater the contrast between the pigment of the tattoo and the colour of your skin, the easier the removal process will be. And because of that, colourful tattoos can prove to be a little trickier than simple black tattoos to remove.
Further explaining why this is the case;

  • Different colour pigments will require different laser wavelengths
  • Lighter colours don’t absorb light and energy as well as darker colours

This is not to say that colourful tattoos can’t be removed! They will, however, require different laser wavelengths and potentially more sessions. All of these potential factors and considerations will be discussed and planned out with you in your initial consultation with your treatment provider.

What other factors can affect the effectiveness of tattoo removal?

While the colour and type of ink certainly plays a large factor in the effectiveness of removing a tattoo, there are a number of other factors that can also impact how well the laser tattoo removal process works:

  • Where on the body the tattoo is located. Tattoos located closer to the heart have more blood circulation which aids the healing process, as opposed to tattoos located on the hands or fee
  • How large the tattoo is and how many different layers of ink colours are used through it.
  • Whether the patient is a smoker as generally smokers have a poorer circulation than non-smokers, impacting how long the healing process is.
  • The age of the tattoo as older tattoos tend to be less vibrant as the body has absorbed some of the pigment over time.

Even though all tattoo colours and types react differently to the removal process, and some of you thought you were meant to be together forever, there is definitely appropriate laser technology and treatment to free that prime real estate on your body from your ex’s name in cursive and captured in a love heart.

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