One of the most convenient and innovative procedures in cosmetic surgery today involves laser birthmark, scar, and tattoo removal.

Whether you have an unsightly birthmark, a scar, or ink that has long lost its significance, laser removal may be for you.

Compared to procedures in the past, laser removal of birthmarks or tattoos is fast, convenient, and relatively pain free.

Past methods were painful and invasive. For example, if you wanted a tattoo removed, you could either have it sanded off (dermabrasion) or have it surgically excised, with possible need for a skin graft. Fortunately, today laser therapy for removal has been the norm.

Laser therapy fragments the birthmark or the tattoo with pulses of highly concentrated laser light. The laser is designed to only target the treatment area, using only frequencies that will spare the surrounding tissue.

After the laser fragments the targeted birthmark pigment or tattoo, the skin’s immune system will work to remove the fragmented pieces from the skin.

This procedure works best in areas that have good blood circulation. The blood will cause the pieces to be removed more quickly. Hands and feet are more difficult to treat because they have less circulation.

Who Performs Laser Removal Therapy?

Laser therapy for birthmark or tattoo removal should only be performed by an experienced board certified cosmetic surgeon.

Before you have the procedure done, you will have your skin evaluated. The surgeon will determine the area to be treated and let you know how many treatments will be required and the level of success you should expect.

Black tattoos are the easiest to remove, colored tattoos require more treatments to fully remove.

What Can I Expect During the Treatment?

Laser light pulses feel like little rubber bands being snapped against your skin.

It is not painful for some people, but this varies. Many doctors will ask you to pre-treat with an anti-inflammatory and apply a anesthetic cream beforehand.

Your doctor can prescribe a local anesthetic if the therapy is too painful.

Depending on the tattoo or the birthmark, it may take anywhere between one and ten sessions to remove. There are generally four to eight week intervals between the sessions. Each session penetrates deeper, leaving the tattoo or birthmark progressively lighter after each treatment.

What Can I Expect During Recovery?

Your doctor will give you an anti-bacterial ointment to apply to the treatment area and may bandage the skin. You may be given instructions to keep the area elevated to avoid swelling. You will likely be instructed to avoid sun exposure on the treatment area, because it will be extra sensitive to UV rays.

Many people report a slight sunburn sensation after the procedure and localized redness. The area can sometimes scab, but it will reside within two weeks. Usually, treatment with anti inflammatories can minimize pain, but speak with your doctor before taking any medication.

Side effects with laser therapy are rare. Loss of pigment for darker skinned individuals may be a cause for concern, so speak with your doctor.