FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What kinds of tattoos and pigmented lesions can be treated?A tattoo’s color, depth, and the chemical composition of the ink all affect how if responds to laser light.  Black, red, dark orange, and dark blue tattoos will usually respond relatively quickly to treatments with the Palomar Q-Yag 5ä System.  However, green, purple, brown, light orange, and light blue colors may respond more slowly.  In general, most tattoos can be successfully treated, given a sufficient number of treatments.

How does it work?The Palomar Q-Yag 5ä emits a highly focused beam of intense laser light.  This light passes harmlessly through the outer layer of the skin and is absorbed primarily by the tattoo ink or the excess pigment within the lesion.  As the light is absorbed, it is converted to heat.  This all happens within a tiny fraction of a second, and the sudden rise in temperature within the treatment target fractures the ink or pigment into tiny particles.  White blood cells then carry away these particles to be naturally eliminated by the body.

​Does it hurt?No.  Since the laser light selectively targets the undesired ink or pigment, other tissues remain largely unaffected, and therefore most patients report little discomfort.  A common way that people describe the sensation of the pulses entering the skin is by comparing them to snaps of a rubber band.

​What happens after treatment?Immediately after laser exposure, the treated areas may become whitish-colored and swell slightly.  This whiteness and swelling tend to go away in about 30 minutes.  Over the next several days, some mild crusting may appear over the treated area.  As this crusting resolves, the tattoo or pigmented lesion will fade.  The tattoo or lesion will typically continue to fade for many weeks thereafter.

​How long does it take?Depending on the size and location of the tattoo or lesion, each treatment usually takes about 10 to 30 minutes.  Some faint tattoos and pigmented lesions will fade completely after only one treatment, though most require five treatments or more.  Treatments should be spaced six to eight weeks apart give your body sufficient time to fully eliminate loosened particles of ink or pigment.

​Are they any side effects?Because the laser beam does not penetrate beyond the skin, side effects are rare.  When side effects do occur, they are usually mild and confined to the treatment target.

Pain – the snapping and burning sensation of each laser pulse may produce a minimal to moderate amount of discomfort.
Bruising – immediately following the laser treatment, the area will appear gray or blue-black.  The discoloration will decrease during the next 7-10 days.
Swelling – areas most likely to swell are the eyes, hands, and feet, which will subside within 3-5 days with regular ice applications.
Blisters or scabs – these usually develop within the first 2 days of treatments and resolve in 1 or 2 weeks.
Infection – Very rare. Swelling, crusting, pain, and fever could indicate an infection despite the use of good local wound care.  Topical or oral antibiotics may then be necessary.
Skin darkening (hyperpigmentation) – “tanning” of the skin can occur in the treated areas and should fade within 2-6 months.  This reaction is more common in patients with olive or dark toned skin and can worsen if the Laser-treated area is exposed to sun.
Skin lightening (hypopigmentation) – light spots can occur in all areas of the skin that has already received several treatments.  The pale areas usually darken or repigment in 3-6 months but can be permanent in rare cases.
Allergic reaction – rarely, an allergic reaction to the release of tattoo pigment in the skin after Laser treatment can occur.  An allergic reaction to a topical antibiotic ointment or sunscreen is also possible.
Scarring – this is extremely rare but may occur on disruption of the skin’s surface.  Strict adherence to all advised post treatment instructions reduces the possibility of this occurrence.
Tattoo persistence or worsening – some tattoos may not go away completely, or may worsen despite best efforts made.  Tattoos that have white or flesh-toned (tan, brown, or peach) inks can darken after Laser irradiation, especially cosmetic tattoos such as eyeliner.
Hair Loss – It is not uncommon to see hair loss in the treatment area.  Normally the hair grows back in 1 to 3 months.  However, in some cases the reduction of hair can be permanent.
What are the alternative treatments? The alternatives for pigmented lesion removal vary, depending on the nature of the lesion.  In the case of tattoo removal, however, laser treatment is the only effective method that is unlikely to cause any scarring.  The alternatives to laser tattoo removal include surgical excision, salabrasion (using salt to burn away layers of skin).  These methods not only cause scars but can also be painful.  Laser treatment with the Palomar Q-Yag 5ä is a state-of-the-art treatment that yields excellent results without the perils and disadvantages of other procedures.