Who can benefit from laser tattoo removal?

Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine how best to remove your tattoo. In the past, tattoos could be removed by several methods, but many of them left scars. Some people felt that the scar was more unattractive than the tattoo itself.

If you have a tattoo that has been treated with other methods, you may benefit from laser therapy. These treated tattoos may respond well to laser therapy as long as there is not a large amount of scarring.

People who have had laser tattoo removal cite these benefits:

  • The procedure can be done on an outpatient basis, with no overnight stay.
  • It reduces the risk of scarring and infection.
  • It’s generally safer than other options.

What are the possible side effects?

If you go to a reputable professional referred by your doctor, there are minimal side effects to laser tattoo removal. However, you should consider the following factors in your decision:

  • The tattoo removal site can become infected.
  • There is a slight chance that the treatment can leave a permanent scar. In some cases, they have been known to develop three to six months after the procedure.
  • Some degree of skin discoloration is possible. The treated skin may either be paler than the surrounding skin (++hypopigmentation++) or darker than the surrounding skin (hyperpigmentation).
  • Cosmetic tattoos, such as lip liner, eyeliner and eyebrows may get darker after initial laser treatments. You might have to have additional treatment to achieve fading.

You should never try to remove your tattoo yourself or use any form of home remedy for removing tattoos. At best, they will be ineffective. At worst, they could be dangerous to your health.

Tattoo removal at a tattoo parlor or spa, while perhaps safer than home remedies, still carries some risks. A trained dermatologist can better consider your overall health and more responsibly guide you on the safest treatment plan.

Is laser tattoo removal safe?

Thanks to newer technology, treatment of tattoos with laser systems has become much more effective, with very little risk of scarring (again, assuming you use a reputable provider). Laser treatment is often safer than many methods used previously, such as excision or dermabrasion. Laser treatment works on the pigments. Excision cuts out the tattoos using a surgical knife (a scalpel). Dermabrasion uses tools to sand off the upper layers of skin.

Just remember, that this advice is general, and should not replace your doctor’s guidance. For details about your specific case, please arrange a meeting with a healthcare provider who is experienced in the use of tattoo lasers.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/25/2020.

References

  • American Academy of Dermatology. Tattoo Removal: Lasers outshine other methods. Accessed 9/25/2020.
  • American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Laser Therapy for Unwanted Tattoos. Accessed 9/25/2020.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Tattoo Removal: Options and Results. Accessed 9/25/2020.
  • Adatto M. Laser Tattoo Removal: Benefits and Caveats. Medical Laser Application 2004; 19(4): 175-185.
  • Bernstein, EF. Laser treatment of tattoos. Clinics in Dermatology 2006; 24(1):43-55.
  • Laumann A. Body art. In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, Katz SI et al, editors. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 7th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Medical; 2008:Chap 100.

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