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Laser Tattoo Removal Scars: Does It Work?

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Dr. Hardik Soni

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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. 

Does Laser Tattoo Removal Lead To Scarring? 

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. 

How Laser Tattoo Removal Works 

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. 

Causes of Scarring

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:

1) The wrong laser 

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. 

2) Improper aftercare

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.

3) High levels of melanin 

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. 

Tips for Preventing Tattoo Removal Scars 

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: 

  1. Find a reputable laser tattoo removal provider: Trained professionals who have the experience and the right equipment would know how to prevent any complications from happening.
  2. Keep the treatment area clean: For the first few days after treatment, keep the removal site clan, dry, and covered. Gently cleanse the area with mild soap and water twice a day to avoid infections before changing the bandages. If possible, wear clothes or shoes which won’t rub against the tattoo removal area.
  3. Support your immune system: A strong and healthy immune system can help skin regenerate quickly. Drink plenty of water and vitamins daily to flush out toxins.

Ethos Spa: Excellent Laser Tattoo Removal 

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 

Read more: Laser Tattoo Removal While Pregnant

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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