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Ways to Manage Through the Pain and Discomfort of Laser Tattoo Removal

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Dr. Hardik Soni

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Laser tattoo removal is an effective way to remove unwanted tattoos. The procedure involves the release of heated lasers to the skin to break the tattoo particles into smaller pieces.  Although effective, laser tattoo removal can cause some discomfort, depending on your pain tolerance. The good news is that there are ways to keep your pain to a minimum. 

So what pain relief options do you have for tattoo removal?  The best pain relief options include over-the-counter and home remedies including ice packs, cold-air machines, number creams, and lidocaine injections. Taking Tylenol or other non-aspirin pain medications before and after the procedure will also help ease the discomfort.

Pain Relief for Tattoo Removal

Tattoo removal works by delivering quick pulses of light and heat, which is essentially what the treatment requires to effectively break down the tattoo particles. To some patients, the heat sensation on their skin can be a little uncomfortable. Luckily, there are a few ways to relieve discomfort brought by laser tattoo removal:

Ice Packs

Cold packs might be an old way of numbing pain but it is surely effective. Pressing an ice pack against the skin for 5 to 10 minutes before the procedure should help numb the treatment area. 

If you don’t have a cold pack at home, prepare an alternative by wrapping ice cubes with a towel. Plastic bags filled with frozen vegetables like peas can also serve as a good substitute for ice packs.

Cold-Air Machines

Some clinics have cold air machines that can help minimize thermal injury and discomfort during treatments such as tattoo removal.  It works in the same way as ice packs by numbing the skin through intense cooling. Ask your clinic if they have a device such as the Cryo 6.  

The Zimmer cryo machines can be utilized during the procedure, as well as after the laser tattoo removal treatment. It helps reduce the redness and swelling in the treatment area. 

Numbing Creams

Numbing creams are commonly used in operations that can cause palpable pain to the patient. This topical anesthesia works by blocking the nerve endings that send pain signals to the brain. While the numbing cream is still effective, you still feel dull sensations on the treated area instead of sharp pain.

Numbing creams can also be administered once the surgery is finished; just buy them from the nearest drugstore. But also keep in mind the following precautions as it is applied to the skin:

  • Do not apply the numbing cream to irritated or broken skin
  • Wipe it off the skin after an hour
  • If the patient was recently diagnosed with a liver or heart disease, consult the doctor first before applying the numbing cream
  • Pregnant or lactating mothers should consult with a doctor first before applying the numbing cream to the treated area
  • Stop applying the cream if the patient is found to be allergic to lidocaine and other substances in the label

Lidocaine Injections

Lidocaine is the most effective topical anesthesia available on the market. This chemical also comes in the form of topical ointments and creams but is also available as an injectable. Lidocaine is usually injected when the tattoo to be removed is large.

Lidocaine is not for sale in the local market because it is only for medical professional use. It is also not recommended for regular use because overdose in lidocaine can result in poisoning and other emergencies.

How Painful is Tattoo Removal?

The pain during a tattoo removal session may vary depending on the individual. Some say it feels a lot like getting tattooed but others find the removal process more painful. However, it is described by countless people as “rubber snapped against the skin.” Ultimately, it depends on your individual pain tolerance.

What makes tattoo removal uncomfortable is the quick pulses of heat to break up the ink particles. Another factor that might affect the pain during a session of tattoo removal is the tattoo’s location. Some areas are more sensitive than others because they have more receptor cells that pick up pain signals.

The hands and feet are very sensitive because they have more nerve endings. Places close to a bone are also bound to be painful when pierced with a tattoo needle or shot with hot laser beams. If the tattoo is in a sensitive area, expect that the tattoo removal will probably feel more uncomfortable.

Numbing the Skin Before, During, and After Tattoo Removal

If you have low pain tolerance, it’s better to perform pain relief procedures before, during, and after the laser tattoo removal treatments.

  • Before

Numb the treatment area with a cold compress against the skin for five to ten minutes before the treatment starts. It is also safe to ingest non-aspirin pain medicine like Tylenol because it doesn’t cause bruising around the treatment area – unlike ibuprofen does.

You can also ask the doctor for topical anesthesia to help ease the discomfort. If they have one, cold air machines are also a great way to prep the skin before the procedure.

  • During

While the treatment is ongoing, you can only feel a dull pain in the area thanks to the numbing cream. Cold-air machines can also be utilized during the procedure to prevent thermal injuries.

  • After

You are still allowed to take Tylenol after the treatment and numbing creams is usually available in the nearest pharmacy. Ask the doctor which are the best brands or what ingredients should be in the label. Pressing a cold compress against the treatment area every now and then can also help ease the pain.

Experience Less Painful Laser Tattoo Removal Treatments at Ethos Spa

Here at Ethos Spa, we want to make sure that you are comfortable as you undergo laser tattoo removal.

We aim to provide the best care, so don’t hesitate to ask our doctors for numbing options to make the process bearable. Contact us now so we can discuss options to choose from as you undergo laser tattoo removal.

Learn more: What is the Hardest Color Tattoo to Remove?

Dr. Hardik Soni

MD, Founder/Lead Physician

About Dr. Hardik Soni

Dr. Hardik Soni is the founder and Medical Director of Ethos Aesthetics + Wellness. His primary focus is on minimally invasive and non-invasive cosmetic procedures including botulinum injection (Botox and Dysport), dermal fillers (Juvederm, Restylane, Radiesse), laser hair removal, chemical peels, and laser skin rejuvenation. Dr. Soni believes in a more conservative approach and his first goal is education. Clients are able to determine the ideal treatments after discussion with Dr. Soni regarding the expected outcomes, cost, as well as risks.

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