Does Laser Tattoo Removal Leave Scars? Best Experts Advice

Does laser tattoo removal leave scars? Many people may always ask this question for fear of scarring after undergoing laser tattoo removal. So, what do experts say about laser tattoo removal?

Professor dr Hans-Peter Berlien is a surgeon and laser, medicine specialist. As a chief physician, he heads the laser medicine department at the Evangelische Elisabeth Klinik in Berlin.

He will answer us about the reasons to remove some tattoos, does laser tattoo removal leave scars, and how we ensure that we get the best possible results after tattoo laser removal.

Does Laser Tattoo Removal Leave Scars? Best Experts Advice

Does laser tattoo removal leave scars? 

Lasers burn the skin, but ensuring you won't scar isn't easy. Scars depend on not only the type of skin but also the area. If it is an area where the skin stretches and shrinks a lot with movement, it is easy for scars to appear on your skin.

Additionally, you may already have micro-scars from the tattooing process itself. To check it, slide your fingertips and feel it; if it is flat and there are no differences between normal skin and tattooed skin, it's a good sign. However, if you feel micro-scars, the laser will make them worse.

When you get a tattoo and want to remove it, you have to know that there is always the risk of leaving a scar and as I said, that risk exists, and you decide if you will assume it.

So my advice is before going to a laser tattoo removal specialist, go straight to a dermatologist. The higher the number of sessions, the more the risk of injury or infection increased, and, consequently, scarring, especially since each session might be more aggressive than the previous one.

So you must know removing a tattoo is might much more difficult, complex, and expensive than getting one. I advise you to consult several specialists before making a decision.

Why are people getting their tattoos removed?

We divide the causes into three groups: firstly, a tattoo is always a physical injury, and the resulting wound, which can be compared with sometimes severe abrasion, can lead to complications. There is always a risk of injury. Second, skin reaction to ink will occur and may require tattoo removal. Ink is a foreign substance that has no place in the human body - so with every tattoo, there is a risk of a toxic or allergic contact reaction. Third, there are psycho-social reasons that should not be underestimated.

What does that mean?

Tattoos are subject to fashion trends, which at some point are no longer chic. Many tattooed people then suffer from the motives. Some studies say that about 30 percent of people with a tattoo regret their decision after a year. If the way of life changes, the social environment, the political attitude, or the civil partnership, the psychological strain can be enormous. Then the tattoo artist's customers become patients of laser tattoo removal technicians, and they often say: I can't take it anymore.

How does laser tattoo removal work?

The laser beam is a high-energy beam and is highly focused. It disperses the color particles, which are then transported away via the lymphatic system. Although they remain in the body in the lymph nodes, they are no longer visible on the skin. If that succeeds, lasering is an effective treatment. But as I said, scars remain. And healthy melanocytes in the skin are also damaged by the laser and do not always regenerate 100 percent afterward.

What are the types of laser used for tattoo removal?

There are two main types of lasers used for tattoo removal, the first type is named (Q-switched laser), which is the oldest type in use, and it comes with effective results when used with dark colors, but its results are not the same effect with light colors.

The other type is called (picosecond), which is the latest type, as it began to be used less than five years ago and was developed specifically to deal with light colors of tattoos. Still, there must be a long period between each session, and another that can reach four months.

What are the Advantages of laser tattoo removal?

There are many advantages to this procedure, which make it preferred by many over other methods of tattoo removal, including:
  • As it is a non-surgical procedure, it requires only local anesthesia
  • It causes little pain
  • It does not damage the skin cells adjacent to the tattoo
  • It gives excellent results in the case of dark colors and does not leave traces after the end of the sessions.
As for the disadvantages of laser tattoo removal, we summarize that it does not give the same accuracy of results with light colors.

Can you completely remove a tattoo?

The tattoo is one of the permanent surgeries. But despite the appearance of some techniques capable of partially or wholly removing it, the best way to remove the tattoo is the non-surgical removal of the tattoo pigment using a Q-switched laser.

Are there parts of the body from which you remove tattoos particularly often?

Yes, from the neck, from the forearms, the hands, and the face. Many women come with what I call deer antlers in the rump area. But mostly the visible parts of the body that often have a social background. Let's take a recent example. There is a ruling from the Administrative Court that police officers are not allowed to have tattoos on their arms. Occupational problems can also require tattoo removal.

How to avoid scarring before laser tattoo removal?

To prevent laser tattoo removal scarring before your visit, you have to follow these instructions:
  • Find a reputable doctor to ensure you get the best treatment and care. 
  • Consult a doctor about the method and the number of treatments needed, given the tattoo's age, color, and size.
  • Do not attempt to remove tattoos yourself. All home creams and other home remedies are ineffective and can cause skin irritation or leave Scars.
  • The color of your skin and how deep the tattoo pigment is, affect the proper laser removal technique.
  • If lasers are used, intense pulses of light pass through the top layers of your skin, which will be absorbed only by the tattoo pigment.
  • Smaller tattoos will require fewer sessions while larger tattoos will require more sessions.
  • The technician will test your skin's reaction to the laser to determine the most effective energy for the treatment.
  • Tattoo removal is a little painful and uncomfortable, may you want to apply a topical numbing cream beforehand.
  • It may help to use an ice pack to soothe the laser-treated area, as well as an antibiotic cream or ointment and a bandage to protect it.

How to prevent scarring after laser tattoo removal?

Follow these instructions for at least two weeks after the procedure:
  • Keep the treated area clean and dry.
  • Regularly use cold compresses on the tattoo area to reduce pain
  • Use the soothing cream recommended by the doctor to avoid any inflammation that may occur
  • Do not use perfume, soap, or cosmetics on laser-treated skin for at least two days
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing.
  • No direct sun exposure
  • Follow your doctor's instructions and recommendations carefully to avoid scarring in the treated area.

Can laser remove all types of tattoos?

Laser medicine is very advanced. However, it cannot remove all types of tattoos. In some cases, only cutting is possible. If the tattoo was a certain size, then a skin graft must be done. These are serious operations that involve risks. That is only justifiable if nothing else is possible.

When does laser tattoo removal fail?

That depends on many factors. For example, laser tattoo removal might not work with patients who have had an allergic reaction to tattoo ink. The laser could stimulate allergic reactions again, and we should avoid that.

Is there a way to remove tattoos without a laser?

Besides laser, many other surgical methods can be used to remove tattoos such as surgical removal, dermabrasion, and chemical peeling. However, most experts consider the laser the most successful and effective way to remove tattoos. Currently, most tattoos are removed using a Q-switched laser, which sends energy in one powerful pulse that heats and melts the ink in the skin. The other less common tattoo removal methods are more invasive and risky to leave scars than laser tattoo removal.

Are there any removal techniques you caution against that are more likely to leave scars?

I consider acid treatments and skin dermabrasion to be a crime. These procedures can cause serious complications. But no matter how a tattoo is removed, scars always remain, even with lasers. Then the scars are already caused by the original injury - namely by the tattoo. That's why my definition of a tattoo is: A lifelong change in the skin.

What color ink is the hardest to remove?

Each color reacts differently to laser beams. Therefore, colored tattoos are more difficult to remove than black tattoos. For professional tattoos of different colors, we have to use other lasers and techniques. In the past, tissue samples were taken for this purpose, but this is no longer the case today. We examine the skin with optical tomography, which is a non-invasive method. This imaging procedure allows examination of the skin in the micrometer range. In this way, the color and scarring can be well analyzed before treatment and the right laser can be found. In general, I would say that some colors almost always remain visible.

What are the easiest tattoos to remove?

Tattoos of multiple colors are more difficult to remove and may require treatment with lasers and different wavelengths to be effective. Also, older tattoos tend to fade with laser treatment compared to newer, harder-to-remove tattoos.

How many sessions of laser tattoo removal a patient needed? and how much does it cost?

That is not predictable, neither the cost nor the number of sessions. It depends on how big and how difficult the tattoo is to treat. The only rule is: There are no rules. The patients bear the costs for tattoo removal themselves, this is not covered by health insurance. According to the official fee schedule, flat fees are prohibited. We first perform a few sessions for each body part to be treated then we set temporary dates. After a break, we conduct further sessions and discuss with the patient how much pressure the tattoo still has. Sometimes a long break can be helpful, as the skin can regenerate completely and slowly get used to the light and sun again. That means any remaining pigment residues become invisible and no longer bother the patient.

Is laser tattoo removal painful?

Laser tattoo removal is a non-surgical procedure that requires only local anesthesia, pain caused by the laser beam is often bearable, and scars on the skin may occur due to exposure to laser energy. The patient needs to pay attention to the area where the tattoo was removed by laser to reduce the risk of bacteria and infection. It is normal to have redness on the skin at the place of the tattoo after each laser session. After the sessions, the skin color in the affected area may not return to the same as the rest of the body. It may be lighter or darker than the surrounding skin, depending on the ink color that was used to make the tattoo.

Read also: How to Get Rid of a Stick and Poke Tattoos Permanently 


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