You Asked, We Answer: Laser Tattoo Removal

A. Foley on 15 Oct 2012 at 11:00am

Did a summer vacation lead to an unwanted tattoo? Or are you simply regretting an inking decision made in your younger years? If so, you're not alone. One of the most viewed questions in our Q&A forum is, "When getting the laser removal for tattoos, does it leave a scar and will it get rid of the tattoo completely?"

We've pulled a few responses from RealSelf doctors to help you discover how to diminish the markings of body art. Though the $725 procedure has an 80% Worth It Rating, doctors do warn patients to have realistic expectations. Skin will be improved, but it will not be "good as new."

  • Dr. George Beraka had three points to share: "1)  Tattoo removal is often not complete. 2)  The lasered skin can look bleached. 3) If the tattoo color is deep, and the laser is done very deeply trying to remove all the color, then you can get unsightly scarring."
  • "Tattoo removal can be done in a number of different ways including surgical removal, dermabrasion (basically sanding out the tattoo pigments) or laser. By far the most common way to removal tattoos is by using laser. Lasers treat tattoos by using laser energy to destroy tattoo pigments." - Dr. Edward E. Dickerson
  • "Superficial black tattoos are the easiest to remove and give the best results. Multicolored professional tattoos with ink placed deep in the skin may be incompletely removed by Laser Tattoo removal. Laser tattoo removal is most hazardous in pigmented skin, where normal skin pigment may also be removed in the Laser Tattoo removal treatments." - Dr. Mark Taylor
  • "The proper tattoo laser can often remove the tattoo with very little scarring. We use the Spectra pulsed dye Yag laser from Lutronic. Unfortunately, this laser is more expensive than some other lasers that are in use and some unscrupulous providers use these lasers or even use modalities such as dermabrasion which will definitely leave a scar. As a patient you need to do your homework, look at before and after pictures and don't choose only based on price - you might be sorry if you are left with a scar worse than the tattoo  P.S. It can take several treatments, we tell patients that with our laser, they should expect 50% improvement in the tatoo with each treatment." - Dr. W Tracy Hankins


Often with just a few treatments, doctors are able to lighten the tattoo enough to get a replacement one on top - if it's merely that specific image or tribute that is bothersome. But, if you're looking for a complete erase, you may need to hold out for developing technologies.


Did you find these responses helpful? If there's a question that wasn't addressed, give us a shout in the comments below!


photo credit: dr. mark taylor