Lasers break down pigments in tattoo removal

Dr Elias Tham of EHA Clinic, preparing the laser before firing it on former Singapore Idol finalist, Maia Lee’s right arm.
PHOTO: Lasers break down pigments in tattoo removal

SINGAPORE - Dr Elias Tham, a general practitioner with a special interest in aesthetic medicine for 16 years, told TNP that tattoo removal is a straightforward procedure.

The process involves laser treatment, which works by producing short pulses of high-intensity light beams that targets the ink molecules on the top layer of the skin.

The laser fragments the coloured pigments into tiny pieces and the body's immune system will remove the particles, causing the ink to fade gradually.

Dr Tham, 45, of EHA Clinic,said: "Before we start the treatment, the first step is to apply numbing cream (to minimise the pain) and place safety goggles on the patient to protect the eyes.

"We then place the tattooed area on the device and activate the laser light."

After the treatment, patients are instructed to apply antibiotic cream and a protective patch.

Treatment will depend on the size and type of tattoo.

A palm-size black tattoo will take between six and 15 sessions while multi-coloured ink tattoos will take a longer time to remove.

He said: "Colours like yellow and pink have different colour pigments and a different laser - a diode laser is required. Thus, it is more tedious to remove tattoos with different coloured pigments.

"However, white tattoos can't be removed by normal lasers. You have to ablate the skin."

Dr Tham said each session has to be separated by a six- to eight-week interval to give the immune system sufficient time to remove the pigments from the body.

Dr Joshua Lim, 55, at Aesthetic Medical Clinic, another general practitioner with a special interest in aesthetic medicine, said he would always recommend laser treatment for his patients.

He said: "In the past, tattoos could be removed by a variety of methods such as ablating of the skin. This will leave scars that are more unsightly than the tattoo itself.

"Laser treatment is non-invasive, non-surgical and it will leave minimal scarring. The laser is designed to remove only the coloured pigments in tattoos and the top layer of the skin is not damaged."

This article was first published on September 1, 2014.
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