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By Dr. Alex Eshaghian, MD, PhD
May 24, 2015
Category: Services
Tags: Laser   tattoo removal  

The R20 technique for laser tattoo removal is a method described in the last few years to treat unwanted tattoos more quickly. Tattoo removal has traditionally been very difficult. This is because tattoos are designed to be permanent. Also tattoo particles are very small, making them hard to target with traditional lasers. Newer lasers called Q-switched (or quality switched) have been designed to remove these small particles. The energy shatters the tattoo particle into small pieces that are slowly removed by the body. Even with this design, it can take over ten treatments to completely remove a tattoo. Some newer models with picosecond settings such as Picosure by Cynosure, Picoway by Syneron-Candela, and Enlighten by Cutera modify the settings even further to treat smaller particles, and fewer treatments are needed. But these new technologies are very expensive and may be price-prohibitive for many people who want to remove tattoos. The R20 laser tattoo removal technique uses the traditional Q-switched lasers to treat the tattoo four times in one day. R20 stands for repeat 20, which means that the treatment is repeated every 20 minutes. Since a very large amount of energy is put into the skin, laser tattoo removal can be uncomfortable, so the skin is numbed prior to the treatment. Cold air during the treatment further helps with comfort. Also, during the 20 minutes between each treatment, the area is kept cold with ice. The R20 laser tattoo removal technique has been shown to remove tattoos in as few as 3 treatments.

There are several factors that can affect how easily a tattoo is removed:

  • Ink Color - Colors such as black and red are easier to remove than blue, green, and white.
  • Number of Colors - The more colors there are in a tattoo, the more difficult it is to remove.
  • Type of Ink - Professional tattoos are more difficult to treat than amateur tattoos.
  • Depth of the Ink and Number of Layers - Tattoos that are deeper in the skin are not removed as easily as those closer to the surface, and if there is a tattoo over a another previous one, removal is more difficult.
  • Amount of Ink - Of course the amount of ink that is used will affect the tattoo removal treatment; more ink will require more treatments.
  • Location - Tattoos closer to the heart such as those on the chest are cleared more quickly by the body and require fewer treatments. Tattoos on the ankles and feet take the longest for the body to clear.
  • Skin Color - The person's skin type will affect the tattoo removal process. People with darker skin may have complications such as darkening or lightening of the surrounding skin after the treatment.

With all of these challenges, it is important to understand how difficult it is to remove a tattoo, even with new techniques such as the R20 laser tattoo removal technique and new technologies such as picosecond lasers. So be sure that you really want the tattoo before getting it. Contact us for a free consultation with Dr. Alex.

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