Pretty much everyone knows that tattoos are put in using needles, but whatever the magic that makes them stay put, also makes them quite hard to remove. To understand tattoo removal you also have to understand how a tattoo itself works.
How Does a Tattoo Work?
The skin is made up of 7 layers but it’s only the top two you need to worry about – the epidermis and the dermis. Your epidermis is the layer that peels off when you get sunburned or while your tattoo is healing. The tattoo itself sits inside the dermis layer and is protected above and below by thin layers of skin cells. Tattoo pigment goes in as liquid but the liquid is absorbed by the body leaving behind the powdered pigment between those cell layers. It’s not actually coloring the cells but sits inside them which is what gives them the appearance of being colored and prevents the body from simply washing it out with blood or plasma during the healing process.
For tattoo removal to work that barrier has to be broken.
How Your Tattoo Heals
Your immune system is designed to remove debris and foreign cells like viruses and bacteria, but it also works for dirt and other particles. Your body sees the ink as a foreign cell which is why it initially tries to remove it using white blood cells and plasma. White blood cells are natures little vacuum cleaners and they suck up anything bad and quarantine it. It’s part of the natural healing process for any wound or damage to your skin. White blood cells are actually smaller than ink cells which is why they can’t remove it on their own unless the ink cells are broken down into smaller molecules.
How Laser Tattoo Removal Works
Laser removal works by heating up the ink molecules until they burst which causes them to become a bunch of smaller particles. The smaller particles are then removed by white blood cells and excreted through the body’s own natural processes. Sometimes this takes multiple shots with a laser because not all ink particles are the same size.
If you’ve ever noticed an older tattoo the edges lose their crispness, the reason for this is that those same white blood cells are breaking down any stray particles at the edges and carrying them off.
When the white blood cells have enveloped and isolated an ink particle it then travels through the lymphatic system to the liver where it’s processed and excreted out with other waste. You will quite literally poop your tattoo out.
Before you start looking to see if your poop has turned red/green/blue etc after a session these particles and cells are so tiny that they would be impossible to see without a microscope, just be assured that it’s there.
Technology is getting much more advanced though, and scientists have already developed tattoo ink that breaks down naturally over time as well as other types that take less intensive laser removal. Hopefully in a few years tattoo removal will be less painful, or at least a lot easier to go through if you need to fix a bad decision.
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