Can IPL Be Used to Remove a Tattoo?

I have heard that the best treatment for removing a tattoo is a Q-Switched YAG laser. However, when I do a search online, there are a huge number of references to using an IPL device to remove a tattoo. I have seen some tattoos that were accidentally "treated" during IPL treatment for permanent hair reduction, and indeed the portion of the tattoo that was "treated" in this way seems much lighter. Can IPL be safely used to try to remove a Tattoo?

Doctor Answers 2

Tattoo Removal with IPL

I would not recommend using an IPL to remove tattoos.  The tattoo will absorb the energy, but not effectively enough to remove the tattoo, and there is a high risk of a burn.  The q-switched lasers are definitely the way to treat.  

Frisco Dermatologist
4.8 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

Q-Switched Lasers standard for Tattoo Removal

Unfortunately some laser centers use what they have available to do more procedures and make more money. 

IPL is not the standard technology to use for breaking up tattoo ink.  It has a high chance to burn and scar.  IPL is created and used primarily to break up melanin and remove some redness from broken capillaries.  It is not for tattoo ink.  Hair removal lasers are designed to heat up the hair to prevent the follicle from growing more hairs.  It can also burn and scar the skin if used over a tattoo.  I have seen photos of a person that needed a skin graft surgery after an accidental hair removal exposure to it. 

Q-Switched lasers are very expensive to purchase, so there are very few laser clinics that are able to offer this procedure.  However, if a center has a VersaPulse C or a ConBio laser, that is the place to go.

My advice is to stay away from clinics that use machines that are not designed for certain procedures.  It's a red flag.

Jory Kaplan, MD
Redding Facial Plastic Surgeon

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.