Let us face it, tattoos are in. You no longer need to belong to a motorcycle or street gang to have a tattoo, and people from all walks of life are embracing this exploding art form which seems to get more and more popular each year. Artists, technologies, and pigments are becoming more sophisticated making tattoos more breathtaking, and imaginative, and timeless than ever. Still, as common place as they may become, the decision to get a tattoo is a major one that should not be overlooked or taken lightly. Because tattoos are permanent… or are they?
If you are having “REGERTS” about your tattoo or wish to remove or replace it for personal or religious reasons, read on.
For the sake of this webpage, we will refer to tattoos intended for body modification purposes. Of course, traumatic tattoos can occur after motor vehicle accidents, battle, cancer treatment, and surgery. However, let us focus on the type of tattoos everybody who is reading this is thinking of: the ones where a man or woman uses a special machine to inject pigment into your skin. The concept has not changed for thousands of years: tattoo inks, dyes or other pigments are injected into the dermal layer of the skin and tend to stay put.
The ink that is used today is fine enough to be injected through a tiny needle and to allow for exquisite artistic detail, but bulky enough to evade the bodies defense mechanisms that cannot gobble up these larger particles to make the tattoo go away. In other words, think of tattoo ink as a fluid consisting of tiny stones that are big enough that they cannot get swept up by your body’s built-in janitorial service. These particles become implants, in a sense, and are intended to remain in the dermis indefinitely.
Gone are the days of cutting out tattoos with knives (although this is still a viable option). Laser tattoo removal uses a concentrated beam of light that is aimed at your tattoo pigments. The tattoo pigment absorbs the light, which breaks down or pulverizes the ink granules into smaller fragments. Depending on the quality of tattoo, the depth and composition of the ink, and the color of the dye and person, it will take several-to-many sessions to break down the pigment into small enough particles that the body can start to reabsorb it. Once the tattoo is gone, it will not come back.
Surgical excision may be an effective tattoo removal option that requires only 1 treatment. For everyone else, there are lasers.
At the Jonathan Zelken, MD in Newport Beach, CA, we use the state-of-the-art Discovery Pico laser, which can be configured for treating tattoos and skin of all types and colors. It is manufactured by Quanta System SpA (Samarate VA, Italy) and marketed by Deka and Cartessa.
The Discovery Pico Series is a second-generation picosecond Nd:YAG laser that targets different colors through various handpieces and emission settings. Unlike continuous-wave lasers of yesteryear, the Discovery Pico laser is designed to spare surrounding skin and maximize tattoo removal.
The Discovery Pico laser allows us to more effectively remove unwanted tattoos and pigmented lesions and offer patients one of the most precise and powerful aesthetic tools for targeting skin concerns like wrinkles and scarring. What sets the Discovery Pico laser apart is the industry leading power, three true laser wavelengths and the ability to fire in pico-second and nano-second pulses. The device can therefore breakdown pigment of any size and depth and remove even the most difficult to treat tattoo colors like blue and green. Patients experience better tattoo and benign pigmented lesion clearance and get to their desired end point in fewer sessions.
Dr. Zelken and Miki Omori, R.N., encourage you to find out how a Discovery Pico treatment can help you regain your confidence with this innovative technology. Patients can now schedule their Discovery Pico treatment with the team at the Our clinic, by calling 949.432.4730.
Like the people who get them, tattoos come in all different colors, shapes, languages (Dr. Zelken’s favorite is a tattoo that said “right foot” in Chinese on an American woman’s right foot) and sizes. Our tattoo removal laser uses different wavelengths to target different colors:
While these are the most common colors we encounter at the Jonathan Zelken, MD, there are few limits to what we can treat with our tattoo removal system. We have been treating many patients lately looking to remove tattooed eyebrows, for example.
You should always discuss your goals and desires with Dr. Zelken or Nurse Miki Omori before undergoing any minimally invasive treatment. In certain cases, we will recommend pretreatment with a special medication to reduce the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. We may even take into consideration how your body responds to friction, in areas like the armpit or groin, to gauge the treatment settings we use or the need for pretreatment. The darkest tattoos can be safely treated in all skin types, but colored tattoos are treated with care in ethnic Asians, South Americans, and Native Americans and typically warrant pretreatment and a test patch. Colored tattoos may not be treatable in dark-skinned ethnic Indians and black patients due to risk of pigmentary change and inefficacy.
It is also beneficial to limit sun exposure for 2-4 weeks before your appointment. Herpes prophylaxis may be considered in certain cases.
Your laser tattoo removal procedure will take place in one of our modern and comfortable treatment rooms. You and your provider will both wear protective eyewear during the procedure. Photos are typically taken before each treatment, and the area will be treated with a topical anesthetic (numbing) agent for 30 minutes or longer. After cleansing the treatment area, your provider will place the Discovery Pico handpiece against your skin and deliver the light pulses until the full treatment area has been covered. Multiple passes and multiple settings may occur in response to your unique tattoo and anatomy. In many cases, a comforting device called the Zimmer Cool Wave may be used to blow a chilly jet of air over the treatment site, making the experience even more pleasant.
It is widely understood that tattoo removal costs more, hurts more, and requires more treatments than getting the tattoo in the first place. While there is truth to this, the experience does not have to be unpleasant. At the Jonathan Zelken, MD for Aesthetic Medicine, our protocols and cutting-edge laser technologies are designed to make the tattoo removal experience tolerable, if not enjoyable (if Dr. Zelken can handle it, anyone can). Laser tattoo removal is a well-tolerated procedure that does not require oral sedation or pain medication. Most topically anesthetized clients report that the treatment feels like pinpricks or a rubber band snapping against their skin.
Some clients experience more discomfort in sensitive areas like the ribcage or underarms. Before these treatments, we may recommend taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or Tylenol to ensure your comfort and help alleviate any redness in the treated area.
Clients who have previously undergone tattoo removal elsewhere have told us our treatment is less painful than prior treatments done elsewhere. Additionally, if you undergo multiple treatments over time, you may find that any discomfort associated with the procedure lessens with each session.
Depending on the treatment area or areas you choose, your appointment could last a few minutes or a few hours. Small areas and simpler, monochromatic “line art” may require less time, while larger areas with more colors, patterns, and fill will require additional time. Your appointment may also be longer if you choose to treat more than one area in a single session.
During your initial consultation, Nurse Miki or Dr. Zelken will estimate how long your treatment will last and customize a treatment plan for you. Your technician will also estimate how many treatments may be necessary to accomplish your desired results.
Not really. One of the reasons our clients love laser tattoo removal is that it generally does not require any real downtime. Most people return to their regular activities straightaway, but we discourage hot showers, spas, saunas, and soaking for 3 days after the treatment. Moisturizer and avoidance of sun exposure is also recommended until the localized swelling, redness, and in some cases, scabbing, subsides.
Early laser tattoo removal technologies were very sensitive to the amount of contrast between the patient’s skin and tattoo color. Because the light energy is attracted to concentrated pigment in the inks and dyes, it was especially difficult for the laser to differentiate between tattoo and skin pigmentation in clients with darker skin tones and lighter tattoo colors. This resulted in a substantial difference in the treatment efficacy for some people.
LASERS DISCRIMINATE, WE DON’T: Tattoo removal of a thick, bold Chinese character on the small of a Korean-American woman’s back demonstrates modest improvement after 6 sessions. Because of her type IV skin and a higher risk profile, more conservative settings are chosen in Asian patients; the bold strokes of this Chinese character will require more treatments than finer strokes.
Although our laser is the most advanced tattoo removal laser in its class, and is designed to treat all skin types, we do not always recommend laser tattoo removal in persons with dark skin. We tend to be more conservative in those with Fitzpatrick or Lancer skin types IV, V and VI. If you do not know your skin type, we can help you determine it with a quick examination and some basic questions. Another important consideration is that dark skin contains more pigment than fair skin. Some laser tattoo removal devices should not be used with caution, pretreatment, a test patch, or not at all, on pigment-rich, dark skin because the heat energy could transfer onto the skin cells and cause unintended pigmentation or damage.
|FITZPATRICK SKIN TYPE||LANCER ETHNICITY SCALE|
|Type I: Very Fair- always burns, never tans||Type I: Celtic, Nordic|
|Type II: Fair- usually burns, difficult to tan||Type II: Northern, Central, Eastern European|
|Type III: Light golden- sometimes burns, can hold a tan||Type III: European|
|Type IV: Olive- rarely burns, easy to tan||Type IV: Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, Polynesian, South American, Native American|
|Type V: Brown- very rarely burns, easy to tan||Type V: India|
|Type VI: Black- never burns, very easy to tan||Type VI: African American, Ethiopian|
Fortunately, patients of all skin types and colors are candidates for laser removal of dark tattoos! More recent advancements in laser tattoo removal technology have reduced historic shortcomings of tattoo removal lasers, allowing clients of all skin types and colors to achieve thorough, safe, and long-lasting effects after fewer laser tattoo removal treatments. A pre-treatment consultation is essential to ensure you are a suitable candidate for laser tattoo removal at the Jonathan Zelken, MD, though many patients can be treated on the same day. Our team takes all precautions to provide tolerable, safe, and effective tattoo removal.
Laser tattoo removal can be beneficial for nearly anyone who is self-conscious about their tattoo or regret it for social, personal, or religious reasons. Dr. Zelken discusses his own journey in this YouTube video. Years ago, Dr. Zelken trusted a local nurse to remove his right shoulder tattoo, but the nurse was inexperienced and the laser she used was NOT designed for tattoo removal. None the wiser, Dr. Zelken’s own laser tattoo removal treatment botched his right shoulder, leading to permanent scars that will never go away.
BUYER BEWARE: Dr. Zelken suffered a botched tattoo removal experience. This is not how you should look after treatment and the visible scars will forever remain.
Sensitized to the risks of ineffective and harmful laser tattoo removal treatment, Dr. Zelken waited until his own tattoo was 80% gone after 6 treatments with Nurse Miki Omori before openly offering it to his patients.
GOLD STANDARD: Dr. Zelken’s shoulder after 6 treatments by Nurse Miki Omori using the Discovery Pico tattoo removal laser at the Our clinic.
To find out how well our Newport Beach tattoo tattoo removal treatments might work for you, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Nurse Miki at the Our clinic. We will devise a treatment plan that addresses your concerns and meets the needs of your skin and tattoo type.
Most patients will require more than one treatment session to achieve maximum pigment reduction. As a rule of thumb, we ask patients to expect anywhere from 6-12 sessions, although we have observed significant improvement after as few as 4 sessions. Treatments are spaced six to eight weeks apart initially to allow the body to heal and digest the pigment particles.
LASER TATTOO REMOVAL WORKS: A year ago, Dr. Zelken noticed that his patient’s breast tattoo “mysteriously” disappeared. The patient, who was treated elsewhere, said it only took 4 treatment sessions. It was she who restored hope to Dr. Zelken that tattoo removal lasers really work; his negative tattoo removal experience was the result of an unscrupulous and inexperienced nurse – not imperfect technology.
The good news is that laser tattoo removal results are expected to improve over time as the residual pigment continues to be absorbed and digested by the immune system. Dr. Zelken and Nurse Miki will guide your expectations about the anticipated effectiveness of laser tattoo removal and the number of treatments you will require during your consultation. Because every person has unique characteristics, it’s critical that we structure a treatment plan around your individual needs and goals.
Laser tattoo removal is a powerful minimally invasive treatment for permanently reducing and removing unwanted tattoos. Although individual results may vary, the Our clinic offers the most advanced technology for tattoo removal. If you would like to learn more about laser tattoo removal or find out whether the procedure is right for you, contact the Our clinic for Aesthetic Medicine in Newport Beach at 949-432-4730 and schedule your consultation.
DOES LASER TATTOO REMOVAL WORK ON ALL SKIN COLORS?
Laser tattoo removal sends pulses of light energy into your skin, where they are absorbed by the pigment in your tattoo. Since the treatment relies on targeting this pigment to be fully effective, it stands to reason that the treatment is most effective in lighter skinned patients with darker tattoos. Dark blue, black, and brown pigments can be treated in all skin colors and types.
WHY DO PEOPLE SAY WINTER IS THE BEST TIME FOR LASER TATTOO REMOVAL?
There are a few reasons people refer to winter as ‘laser season’. First, most laser procedures require you to minimize sun exposure before and after treatment because lasers increase your skin’s sensitivity to sun damage. This makes winter, when the days are shortest and the sun's UV rays are lowest, an ideal time of year for laser appointments. Second, by completing your laser tattoo removal sessions in the winter, your results are more likely to be ready in time for the transition into more skin-baring outfits. You may not even need touch-up appointments as the seasons change.
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF LASER TATTOO REMOVAL?
The most common undesired outcome is incomplete tattoo removal; many sessions may be needed to achieve a desired result. The most common side effects of laser tattoo reduction are discomfort, swelling and redness. These side effects are usually minor and do not last more than a few days. Other possible side effects include blistering, scarring and changes in skin color. You can greatly reduce the risk of side effects with pretreatment (if indicated) and by having your treatment performed by an experienced laser technician like Nurse Miki or Dr. Zelken with in-depth knowledge of the skin, using the most advanced lasers like the Discovery Pico.
CAN JEWS GET TATTOOS?
Yes. Dr. Zelken was raised Jewish and got a tattoo in 2010. Although it is true that the Torah explicitly prohibits tattooing, and tattoos may even trigger nightmares of Holocaust markings, Jews can and do get tattooed. Dr. Zelken’s decision to remove his tattoo was not religiously motivated- it was culturally and personally motivated.
CAN TATTOOED JEWS BE BURIED AT A JEWISH CEMETERY?
If a tree falls in a forest, and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? It is true that Jews are forbidden from tattooing their bodies (Leviticus 19:28). Of course, each Jewish Burial Society is entitled to establish criteria for burial, and many cemeteries do allow burial of Jews who voluntarily tattooed themselves. There is nothing in Jewish law that prohibits (voluntarily) tattooed persons from being interred in Jewish cemeteries. Because laser tattoo removal has the potential to remove visible evidence of a person’s violation of the teachings of the Torah but does not reverse the act itself, the answer depends on the cemetery and how much personal history is volunteered.
WHAT IS LASER TATTOO REMOVAL AFTERCARE LIKE?
There are minimal restrictions or instructions after laser tattoo removal. The most important thing is to protect your skin from the sun. Stay away from pools, spas, and saunas for a few days and moisturize the inflamed areas. Wear sunscreen daily (and reapply throughout the day) and do your best to avoid direct sunlight from hitting the treated area. You should also avoid using a sun lamp, tanning bed or any other indoor tanning equipment.
ARE LASER TATTOO REMOVAL RESULTS PERMANENT?
Results are unique to the patient and the number of treatment sessions varies widely. Results are permanent.