Mistakes are an ordinary part of life, but a tattoo you no longer like is a mistake that lives on your skin forever. Fortunately, modern technological advances have made it possible to partially or fully remove unwanted body art. The problem with laser tattoo removal, however, is that some patients experience undesired effects like blisters, scabs, or changes in skin texture. Thus, patients with sensitive skin often ask if scarring occurs as well.
So can laser tattoo removal cause scars? Scarring is an unusual side-effect for laser tattoo removal procedure, but it may happen. Depending on the technician’s expertise and the technology used, the laser may damage skin tissues on the treatment site. In many cases, scarring can be prevented by proper aftercare during the healing process.
Around ten years ago, scarring was a major concern for tattoo removal. Lasers were far less advanced than they are now. With the development of PicoSure and Q-switched lasers, complications are far less likely to emerge. The laser pulses are much faster at targeting the ink itself, rather than surrounding skin, and don’t go too deep into the target areas. Patients won’t experience severe burns and other major, undesired effects.
Contrary to popular belief, laser tattoo removal doesn’t “burn” the tattoo off your skin, although the procedure itself can be painful. A tattoo removal technician directs pulses of the laser towards your skin. Each pulse contains a wavelength of light energy to treat the pigments in your tattoo; the wavelength depends on the ability of the ink color to absorb it. When the tattoo ink particles absorb this energy, the ink shatters into tiny fragments. Over time, your immune system naturally flushes the ink particles out of the body and the tattoo gradually lightens in appearance.
This technology is called Q-switching or “giant pulse formation” and it has been in use since the 1960s. With modern advancements, each laser session can safely break down the ink until it is no longer visible. Depending on your tattoo’s size, age, colors, and other factors, a patient would require 3 - 12 rounds of laser tattoo removal, with 1 - 2 months of healing time in between until the tattoo completely disappears.
Patients naturally experience side effects such as bruising, swelling, blisters, redness, tenderness, and discomfort after laser tattoo removal, but these subside over time. Scarring after laser tattoo removal is rare but it happens. Here’s how:
If a technician attempts to utilize an IPL laser, a hair removal laser, or a CO2 laser for tattoo removal, scarring is likely to occur. In fact, even lasers designed specifically for tattoo removal must be correctly calibrated to avoid any issues. Different lasers have different amounts of energy which must be controlled for each unique patient; too much power or intensity can increase the risk of scarring, burning, and other complications.
Patients must follow their provider or dermatologist’s instructions to the letter. Otherwise, they could develop skin issues. Blisters and scabs are common side effects which are important in the healing process. However, picking at the scabs or not keeping blisters clean may lead to permanent scars.
Scarring tends to be more common for darker-skinned patients, as the melanin pigment in their skin absorbs the laser energy. Hyperpigmentation, or darkening of the skin, is a more common issue that occurs due to high levels of melanin. Patients who also have a medical history towards keloids (raised scars) may also be more predisposed to scarring, so testing should be done on patients prior to treatment.
Patients experience redness, swelling, minor wounds, or blisters after laser removal treatment. With proper aftercare, they can prevent these ordinary side effects from becoming permanent scars. Some tips to follow are:
Let Ethos Spa treat your unwanted tattoos. With our world-class staff and facility, we can help you say goodbye to regrettable body art. Call us today to schedule a consultation
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