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Why is my Tattoo Darker After Laser Removal?

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Dr. Hardik Soni

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You might have recently decided that you were tired of a tattoo on your body, and you decided to have it removed. Thankfully, laser tattoo removal is a growing industry, with more advanced lasers being developed to increase treatment effectiveness every year. However, your tattoo seems to be darker after your first few treatments and you want to know why.

Why does your tattoo seem to be getting darker after laser removal treatment? Simply put, your tattoo has become darker because the metals in the ink have become oxidized, leading to a temporary greying or darkening until the tattoo fades. Thankfully, this proves that your treatments are working according to plan, and it is just a matter of time until your tattoo has cleared up.

To properly understand how this happens, it’s first important to review the laser tattoo removal process, and how exactly laser tattoo removal works.

The Laser Tattoo Removal Process

Laser tattoo removal works due to the breakdown of the tattoo pigment by the laser used in the procedure. Similar to the use of a laser in laser hair removal treatments, the laser is pointed at the tattoo and the heat is directly absorbed by the tattoo’s ink due to the pigmentation of the ink, which naturally attracts heat.

When the laser’s heat is absorbed by the tattoo, this causes the ink to breakdown. Once the ink has broken down, the immune system will proceed to flush it away, making the tattoo more faded with every session.

But how exactly does it take several treatments for laser tattoo removal to remove a tattoo completely? The answer is that the tattoo’s ink is inked deep enough in the skin that the skin naturally works overtime to preserve its placement. Even if the cells carrying the ink die, new cells form to actively ensure that the ink pigments remain in place.

These cells are known as macrophages, and they carry the foreign bodies in our system, whether it is tattoo ink pigment or bacteria. When the ink pigment is broken down, the macrophages aren’t completely destroyed, and they still have the ability to pass on the ink pigment to new macrophages that replace them.

Laser tattoo removal takes more than one session because of the efforts of the macrophage cells, requiring up to 10 sessions for a complete removal.

Tattoo Removal Oxidation: Why Does My Tattoo Look Darker?

So what is going on when a tattoo becomes darker after a laser tattoo removal treatment? As discussed above, laser tattoo removal involves breaking down the ink beneath the skin, and letting the immune system flush it out bit by bit.

However, as we break down the ink, we also release the components that make up the ink. In some pigments and inks popularly used in tattoos, some of these components are actually metals.

White ink gets its color from its high amounts of titanium dioxide, which is a white metal oxide that is known for its high reflectiveness (mostly used in sunscreen products). Other metals used for other pigments include chromium, iron oxide, and mercury.

When the laser treatment breaks down the ink and releases these metal components, they oxidize, or undergo a reaction in which they chemically combine with oxygen. This turns the white pigmentation into a darker, gray shade, spreading a darker color over the tattoo.

Does this mean that the laser tattoo removal treatments aren’t working? No; in fact, it means that the treatments are working, because it proves that the ink is being effectively broken down.

You might also notice that while the parts that were previously lighter have now become darker, other areas that were darker are becoming more faded. Just keep attending your laser tattoo removal treatments and your tattoo should be gone in no time.

Other Laser Tattoo Removal FAQ

How long does it take for a tattoo to fade after laser tattoo removal?

Laser tattoo removal is a slow and meticulous process that cannot be rushed, as it needs to follow the natural healing cycles of your skin. The exact timeline for your laser tattoo removal will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The color of your skin: You may experience hyperpigmentation (your skin becoming darker) if you have a darker skin tone
  • The colors of your tattoo: The greater the contrast between your tattoo color and skin color, the easier it is to remove, which explains how black tattoos are generally easy to work with. And colors such as purple, yellow, and green can cause a lot of difficulty to remove
  • The location of your tattoo: The closer your tattoo is to your heart, the more blood circulation there will be around the area, meaning the body will have an easier time flushing out the ink. Tattoos on the ankles, while great for beauty photos, are known for taking the longest to remove

What should I do after laser tattoo removal?

What you should do after your laser tattoo removal mostly depends on what stage of the tattoo removal you are on.

If you just went through your first laser tattoo removal and you’re wondering how you still have your tattoo, remember that you’ve barely begun the tattoo removal process. It can take anywhere from 3-10 sessions spaced 4-8 weeks apart for proper skin rejuvenation and healing, depending on the size and color of your tattoo.

For laser tattoo aftercare, it is important to take care of your treated area, or you risk the possibility of bruising, scabbing, blistering, and swelling, as well as a kind of whitening of the treated spot. For best results, you will want to practice the following tips:

  1. Keep the treated area bandaged for up to 3 days after every laser removal treatment, with ointment applied regularly.
  2. Avoid picking any scabs and try not to worry about any blisters that may form. Itching is normal as well and should be avoided for optimal skin rejuvenation.
  3. If you experience signs of redness, oozing, or dark crusting, there is a possibility your treated skin has become infected. Call your doctor immediately.

What else can I do to maximize my laser removal recovery and results?

It is essential that your body is as healthy as it can be, so the biggest piece of advice we can give you is to be healthy, and avoid unhealthy habits. This means that you should be eating only nutritious and organic food leading up to and between your laser treatments, as well as regularly exercising to keep your body pumped. Maximize your beauty by maximizing your health.

You should also avoid excessive stress, as stress can drastically reduce a body’s ability to properly heal. Smoking is also one way to dramatically lessen the effects of laser tattoo removal, with some patients who regularly smoke experiencing up to 70% less effective tattoo removal during the process.

Get Your Tattoo Lasered Off with Laser Experts Today

Looking to have your tattoo removed by the best laser clinic in New Jersey?

At Ethos Aesthetics + Wellness, we treat patients with unwanted tattoos all the time. Our state-of-the-art laser equipment coupled with our laser expert team makes us one of the best providers of trusted and reliable tattoo laser treatment and various other skin and laser treatments in the New Jersey area.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your tattoo, or any other laser concern you may have. We are more than happy to answer any questions and concerns!

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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