Compared to waxing and shaving, laser hair removal is a long-term solution that doesn’t require a lot of upkeep. Most people go through laser hair removal with no problems, but the process gets more complicated if you have a tattoo.
Is it possible to have laser hair removal on or near tattoos? Not really. Most dermatologists would advise that you look for alternatives for hair removal since lasers and tattoo ink are a volatile and potentially dangerous combination.
Laser hair removal works by firing a specific wavelength of concentrated light at a location on your body. This light targets and weakens the pigment found in your hair follicle, which weakens its structure and removes it from the skin. There are different medical lasers that cosmetic treatments can use, which are tailored to specific types of hair and skin color.
Since most cosmetic lasers remove hair by targeting pigments, they cannot tell apart the pigments found in your skin and the ones used in your tattoo. If a medical laser is applied on a location that has a tattoo, it will remove both the hair and the tattoo, damage the tattoo, or cause serious skin conditions depending on the type of laser used.
Most dermatologists will usually dissuade patients from getting laser hair removal if they have tattoos in the same location. The closest that most cosmetic practices can do is to laser the skin around the tattoo. This can be a problem for people who have tattoos on areas like the arm or leg since these locations often have the most hair on the body.
There are three significant risks of applying a medical laser to a tattooed area:
Since the laser removes pigments, tattoos will most likely fade or even disappear with enough laser treatments. While it is possible to shield the tattooed area during laser treatment, this can reduce the efficacy of the procedure. This usually means more treatments will be required for complete hair removal.
High-intensity lasers can burn the pigment on the skin, which can cause blisters and scar on the affected area. Unlike the natural pigment in the skin, artificial pigments used in tattoos react more violently to laser pulses, even if they’re on the lowest setting.
A rare complication of laser treatments is nerve damage in the affected area. This usually occurs if a commercial laser (the type you can buy online) is used on the area around the tattoo. Because these lasers don’t conform to the same safety standards, they can cause more damage to the skin and the nerves underneath the dermal layer.
People with tattoos aren’t completely locked out of hair removal options: electrolysis, or permanent hair removal, is the best option to remove any hair on a location that also has a tattoo.
Electrolysis works by sending electrical currents straight to the center of your hair follicle, which destroys the growth center via chemical reactions and heat. Since this method doesn’t affect pigments, tattoos won’t fade or blister.
And unlike laser treatments, electrolysis is a more permanent solution for removing hair. It’s the only permanent solution to hair removal that’s recognized by the FDA and the American Medical Association, with a 100% efficacy rate with repeated treatments. Not only does this allow you to keep your tattoos, but it also improves their appearance once the hair is removed.
While it’s a fast, reliable, and accessible solution, laser hair removal should never be used over tattoos. Any laser treatments near tattooed areas should always be cleared with your dermatologist to avoid serious complications. Other cosmetic treatments like electrolysis are a much safer alternative and provide better results.
Our staff Ethos Spa has extensive experience in providing safe and effective hair removal treatments for every patient while reducing any long- and short-term complications. As a leading cosmetic practice in New Jersey, we pride ourselves on excellent customer service, paired with innovative cosmetic tools and products.
Contact us today to learn more about our services.