Understanding the Science Behind Laser Tattoo Removal in Ottawa
If you’re a former customer of Ottawa tattoo shops and are now considering getting rid of an old tattoo, laser tattoo removal might be your best bet. This popular treatment gets a lot of attention, and for good reason – it gets results. All the same, understanding the science behind this treatment ensures you’re informed and knowledgeable about the process.
As you’d expect, getting rid of a tattoo is a bit more complicated than getting one in the first place. But don’t worry! We’re here to help you make sense of the technology and process.
In addition to this guide to laser technology and tattoo removal, we’ve also got a helpful article that dispels some of the most common myths about laser tattoo removal. Check it out and put your mind to rest!
Ready? Let’s get started:
How the Body Responds to Tattoo Ink
Tattoo ink is commonly made from a variety of heavy metal-derived compounds, including iron oxides, titanium dioxide, and even lead. Ash and other ingredients aren’t out of the ordinary, either.
When the tattoo needle deposits ink particles in your skin, the body’s immune system responds. It wants to remove the ink particles. White blood cells attack the ink, engulfing the particles and bringing them to the liver. The liver then flushes the ink out of the body. That’s why tattoos tend to fade over time.
To counteract this fading, tattoo ink particles are typically larger than white blood cells – much larger. That’s why the cells can’t absorb and remove ink entirely.
The only way to completely remove a tattoo is to break up the ink particles so they are small enough for the white blood cells to engulf and remove them. That’s where lasers come in.
How Lasers Work
The term “laser” is actually an acronym (LASER) for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. In practice, this means that lasers emit monochromatic light (single colours, wavelengths) in a narrow beam or a series of pulses. This process is called stimulated emission.
The process uses a bright, fast-flashing light called a flashlamp. The flashlamp excites atoms in a crystal Nd:YAG laser rod. As the atoms receive energy from the flashlamp, they emit photons that travel at the specified wavelength.
Optics and mechanisms such as reflective mirrors and output couplers focus the photons into a laser beam. In the case of laser tattoo removal, this laser beam carries energy to the skin, which the tattoo ink particles then absorb.
Using Lasers to Remove Tattoo Ink
During laser tattoo removal, laser light targets tattooed skin. The tattooed ink particles absorb the light and heat energy, leaving the surrounding skin and chromophores intact.
Before we continue, don’t worry – despite the heat and frequency used by lasers, they work so quickly that the skin is left intact and unharmed.
Tattoo removal requires lasers that operate in a narrow frequency, and they typically have higher heat output. These are necessary to break up ink particles. Lasers for tattoo removal are fast, hot, and precise enough to heat up and expand half of a targeted ink particle, leaving the other half cool.
Because of the difference in temperature in the particle, it breaks apart in a process known as photothermolysis. Laser hair removal treatments also make use of this process.
Over the course of several treatments, the ink particles break up and become small enough for your white blood cells to remove them. The liver flushes the ink out, and one day you may even forget you had a tattoo.