I made a huge mistake and tattooed these fish scales on my leg. It should have been way lighter. Can this be removed? (photo)

Doctor Answers 5

Yes, this tattoo can be removed. I would recommend Pico and Q-Switched lasers.

You have lots of colors in this tattoo, so it will require maximum Pico and Q-Swtiched technology to successfully remove these tattoos.  Also lower down on the leg heals more slowly and takes more treatments.  We have the PicoSure, Prima Pico, QX-Max, Ruby, Versapulse and FracTat from Fotona.  It may require all of these lasers to successful remove this colorful professional tattoo. 


Salt Lake City Dermatologic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

​Use the Best Technology Available

Thanks for your questions.  Once the skin is completely healed, almost any tattoo can be removed if your find a facility with a well maintained laser and experienced technicians. 

Q-Switch or nanosecond lasers came out about 20 years ago.  Picosecond laser came out about 3 years ago.  The majority of former Q-Switch patients we see have significant hypopigmentation (ghosting) around and under their tattoo.  The Q-Switch lasers have trouble differentiating between the melanin in your skin and ink.  The technology uses heat to burn the pigment out of your skin.  In addition, we have seen patients with raised scars as if they have been branded.  Both of these condition are irreversible. 

Picosecond lasers (like the PicoWay & PicoSure) fire 1000 times faster, using a pressure wave rather than heat to shear the ink molecules apart.  After using the PicoSure for almost 2 years, we have only seen pinpoint hypopigmentation in a very small number of patients usually of darker skin tones.  We cannot say it is impossible to get burned with a Picosecond laser, but it is highly unlikely.  We tell every PicoSure tattoo patient to expect at least 6 treatments, but don’t be surprised if it takes 10 to 12.  Patience is the key for our patients.  We typically see our tattoo removal patients every 6 to 8 weeks initially.  If they have more time than money, we encourage them to come every 6 months as the tattoos seem to continue to fade while they wait.

We recommend waiting 6 weeks until your tattoo is healed and then finding an experienced physician in your area.  Treatment prices vary by market.  The cost for picosecond treatments will be higher, but you should need less than half the treatments compared to a nanosecond laser.

Laura Riehm, MD
Fort Worth Physician
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Tattoo Mistakes Erased With PicoWay

The PicoWay laser can remove intense colors, such as the blue and green that are evident in your tattoo. It can take up to 6 or 7 sessions or more before the tattoo is fully removed. However, because you seem to be distressed mainly by the intensity of the color, your tattoo may be faded enough after one or two sessions that you would feel happier with the fish scales and decide to keep them. Be sure your tattoo is fully healed (at least two weeks postprocedure) before getting it removed. Please see a board-certified dermatologist with extensive experience in tattoo removal.

Tattoo Removal

I am sorry to hear about your concerns. Pico lasers are the most advanced technology. I utilize the PiQo4 laser which has 4 Pico wavelengths and the Picosure for a total of 5 Pico wavelengths. Certain colors respond best to certain wavelengths. The amount of treatments can vary based on several factors such as the location of your tattoo, your skin tone, how sharp the ink is, and how quickly your body eliminates the ink. Even with advanced lasers and multiple wavelengths complete removal is not always possible. I believe that tattoos are removed faster and safer with Pico lasers and there is less risk of scarring. I think it is important not only to seek the best technology but an experienced laser tattoo removal provider. I would recommend to seek an expert once your tattoo is completely healed. Best wishes. 

Daniel J. Ritacca, MD
Chicago Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Laser tattoo removal with Picosure

Picosure is an excellent laser to treat this type of tattoo.  It is a great laser for removing colors such as blue.  You should see significant improvement after picosure treatments and you may require up to 6 to 8 treatments, but no one can guarantee complete removal.  

Hardik Soni, MD
Summit Emergency Medicine Physician
5.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.