There’s a common misconception about how long it actually can take to remove a tattoo with laser technology. It’s been implied that if you’re using a laser, the tattoo will be gone quickly. At least, that’s what it looks like in the social media videos. Often many of these clips are of a first-time removal session where it looks like the ink is going away. But it’s not actually removed.
You may see changes after only one session, but be assured, you will need multiple treatments. The reality is that tattoo removal with laser (even the most state of the art, high-powered lasers) could take 12 to 24 months, or longer.
So, why does it take so long to remove ink with a laser?
When estimating your tattoo removal treatment plan, many factors are considered. From the color, size, location on the body, density of the ink, whether it was done by an amateur or professional tattooist, to how long you’ve had the tattoo. Although, the ultimate consideration in how long it will take to remove your tattoo is your body’s natural ability to eliminate ink.
The first thing to remember is the laser doesn’t remove the ink. What??? That’s right. The ink isn’t destroyed by the laser’s light energy (traveling at one trillionth of a second - a PICO second) or by the photo chemical reaction created by the laser’s interaction with the ink. The laser fractures the large ink particles into smaller fragments that breaks off into microscopic bits which are naturally expelled from the body along with other toxins through the lymphatic system.
How does the body hold the ink?
Regardless of where your tattoo is located on your body, once implanted into the skin, the tattoo ink remains a liquid. The body sees it as a wound and kicks your immune system into action activating the white blood cells called macrophages to converge on the wound to isolate the ink and hold it in place; preventing the toxins from going any further into your body. As with all cells over time, these macrophage cells die, and the pigment is released only to be grabbed by the next generation of macrophages. They keep the ink intact. This process continues perpetually; that’s why tattoos are permanent.
If you want to learn more about macrophages and how the body holds onto ink, this summary of a recent study in this article from Cosmos Magazine is a good read.
Why is the Lymphatic System so important to tattoo removal?
The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, metabolic waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. It’s often called upon to do a lot of work to fight off bad things (bacteria, infections, immune deficiencies).
With the addition of the shattered ink to its already busy network, the removal process makes the lymphatic system work even harder. Giving the body a chance to rebound after a laser removal session is what takes the most time. A period of up to 10 weeks between sessions allows the already-busy lymphatic system to process the additional toxins. During this phase the ink fades.
Changes in ink right after and between sessions
With each successive session, the ink particles get smaller and smaller; the ink gets lighter and eventually disappears. It’s important to note that some ghosting may remain as not all tattoos can be completely removed.
Healthy and supported lymphatics are key to speeding up the clearing process of tattoo removal.
To see the best results from your laser tattoo removal treatments, a few minor changes to your lifestyle will make a significant difference. Things like drinking lots of water, not smoking, exercising regularly, lowering your stress, limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake and getting restful sleep can result in more effective treatments.
What are some of the best lymph boosters?
Here are ten tips to maximize the removal results with lymph boosting strategies you can incorporate into your lifestyle to help maintain or gain health and move ink.
Actively Reduce Stress
The following techniques may improve the flow of lymph fluid through your body by limiting both mental and physical stress on your lymphatic system. Good posture, stretching regularly, deep breathing exercises, yoga and Pilates are excellent strategies to relieve anxiety and support immune function, such practices relieve congestion and stimulate the removal of pathogens from your body.
The lymph system has a network of vessel, capillaries, a rhythm and pulse – but no central pump like the heart for blood circulation. It requires muscle movement to work effectively. Exercise may be one of the most effective and easiest ways for you to improve your lymphatic system function. Exercising increases the oxygen supply to tissues and cells and stimulates blood circulation.
Detoxifying Herbs and Oils
Herbs are a great source which we can utilize to detoxify the lymphatic system and remove toxins. Some herbal treatments to help the lymphatic system heal include:
Milk Thistle is a strong detoxification agent known to cleanse the gastrointestinal tract, liver, and kidneys, and to promote a healthy thyroid. Milk thistle also helps to fight inflammation
Essential Oils have been used to help the body heal for centuries. Essential oils detoxify and strengthen the immune system. Popular oil include the citrus family including sweet orange, lemon, mandarin, tangerine and grapefruit.
Ingredients for Immune Health
Supporting your body’s immune system is beneficial, not only to stay and feel well. Here are a few immune boosting ingredients you can incorporate into your diet to help maintain or gain health and move ink. Vitamin C, ginger, turmeric, organic garlic, probiotics, protein and honey.
Perspiration is one way the human body eliminates toxins. Although exercise can promote perspiration, infrared saunas offer a method to circulate toxins out of organs and muscle for the removal through our pores.
Dry brushing aids the removal of toxins that have built up on our skin. Dry brushing involves using a coarse brush to gently be moved along the skin in the direction of the heart. This technique boosts lymph flow by stimulating sweat glands and supporting circulation below the skin.
The lymph fluid is primarily composed of water and must be hydrated to function at the highest level. Drinking purified and mineralized water and water with antioxidant extracts such as lemon water is an excellent detoxification strategy to push toxins from the body.
Massage therapy improves immune function and can relieve symptoms of chronic fatigue and pain. Massage techniques such as connective tissue massage promote the flow and drainage of lymph through the body.
Consuming a healthy diet rich in antioxidants and full of healthy fats is critical to support a healthy immune system, especially as we age. Pathogenic agents cannot thrive in alkaline environments which makes eating fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy cell-supporting fats absolutely necessary. Red foods are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods you can consume such as cranberries, raspberries, and cherries and beets.
Speeding up the flow of toxins out of your body has been shown to make a big difference in tattoo removal results. Lymphatic drainage therapy can boost your immune system, detoxify your body and aid in relaxation and stress relief. It can be a great last step in your tattoo removal process to get our any remaining bits of ink.
Laser tattoo removal takes the commitment of time, yet once you begin to see changes in the color, and density of the ink, you’ll want to keep going. Each successive treatment continues to break down the ink and your lymphatic system continues to naturally remove it. Bolstering your immune system to will enable your body to work more efficiently and move more ink.
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