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ArticlesThe History of Tattoo Removal

The History of Tattoo Removal

Did you know that tattoo removal has a long history?  It would seem that man has been attempting to remove unwanted ink for almost as long as he has been applying tattoos – often with drastic techniques! The earliest records of tattoo removal were of the attempts made by a Greek Physician named Aetius, way back in 543 AD.  He used a method known as Sal abrasion. This unpleasant procedure is the oldest method of physical tissue destruction, involving abrading the Superficial Dermis (past the point of bleeding) with coarse granules of common table salt and a moist gauze pad. Imagine rough sandpaper abrading your tattoo off your skin! Other historical and equally undesirable forms of tattoo removal consisted of: Chemical Tissue Destruction – An intradermal injection of tannic acid which can remove the tattoo, but also results in a full-thickness burn that requires skin grafting. Dermabrasion –  A form of mechanical tissue destruction where a rapidly spinning diamond fraise wheel or, wire brush, abrades the skin. This process tends to be bloody and may carry infectious agents into the blood stream. Surgical Excision – The cutting out of the skin containing tattoo pigment, normally leaving unpleasant scarring. Thermal Tissue Destruction/Cautery –  A thermal injury via fire, hot coals, a glowing smoldering iron or an electric spark.  (All equally painful, cruel and rather unpredictable!) Cryotherapy – When liquid nitrogen, at minus 196 degrees Celsius, was used to destroy superficial cutaneous tissue. This usually did not remove the tattoo and led to prolonged healing with unpredictable results. Fortunately, for those wishing to remove an unwanted tattoo today, technology and science have come a long way. We no longer have to use such traumatic treatments to achieve great results in tattoo removal! Current systems do not involve the destruction and/or removal of the outermost layers of skin.  We now use Q-switched lasers that emit short, powerful pulses, causing the tattoo pigment particles to heat up, and fragment into micro small pieces. The body’s natural immune response process then kicks in and removes all the smaller broken up pieces of fragment, much like a bruise healing. This leads to the fading and gradual removal of that tattoo. It’s Science and Nature working hand in hand. Several colors of laser light (measured as wavelengths of laser energy) are used for tattoo removal, from visible light to near-infrared radiation. Different lasers are better for different tattoo colors. Consequently, multi-color tattoo removal almost always requires the use of two or more laser wavelengths. Tattoo removal lasers are usually identified by the lasing medium used to create the wavelength such as: Q-switched Frequency-doubled Nd:YAG: 532 nm. This laser creates a green light which is highly absorbed by red and orange targets. Useful primarily for red and orange tattoo pigments, this wavelength is also highly absorbed by melanin (the chemical which gives skin color or tan) which makes the laser wavelength effective for age spot or sun spot removal. Q-switched Ruby: 694 nm. This laser creates a red light which is highly absorbed by green and dark tattoo pigments. Because it is more highly absorbed by melanin this laser may produce undesirable side effects such as pigmentation changes for patients of all but white skin. Q-switched Alexandrite: 755 nm. Similar to the Ruby laser, the Alexandrite creates a red light which is highly absorbed by green and dark tattoo pigments. However, the alexandrite laser color is slightly less absorbed by melanin, so this laser has a slightly lower incidence of unwanted pigmentation changes than a ruby laser. Q-switched Nd:YAG: 1064 nm. This laser creates a near-infrared light which is poorly absorbed by melanin, making this the only laser suitable for darker skin. This laser wavelength is also absorbed by all dark tattoo pigments and is the safest wavelength to use on the tissue due to its low melanin and hemoglobin absorption. This is the wavelength of choice for tattoo removal on darker skin types. Dye modules are available for some lasers to convert 532 nm to 650 nm or 585 nm light which allows one laser system to safely and effectively treat multi-color tattoo inks. At Electra Laser, we use the Medicam Evolase TT medical-grade laser technology—made in Canada—to remove and/or lighten your tattoos.  It is a dual platform laser containing the Q-switched Nd:YAG  1064 to treat black and dark colours in tattoos, as well as the Q-switched Frequency-doubled Nd:YAG  532 for reds and coloured tattoos.  Both are great for full removal or even just a lightening of your tattoo for an easier cover-up process. All our Consultations and Test Patches are complimentary. We are open for appointments 7 days a week, 9am-9pm, to accommodate your busy schedule. So, if you are thinking of removing your unwanted ink, or if you just want to know what your options are, give us a call now!  We promise that we use only the most up-to-date methods here at Electra Laser!

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