Detailed Overview


Tattoos are meant to be permanent, so removing them is difficult. Few guarantee complete removal, but there are several methods that have proven effective. The degree of remaining color variations or blemishes depends upon tattoo size, location, the patient’s ability to heal, and how/ when the tattoo was applied. For example, a tattoo applied by a more experienced artist may be easier to remove since the pigment was evenly injected in the same level of the skin. On the other hand professionally applied tattoos may be harder to remove due to more concentrated inks. New tattoos may also be more difficult to remove than old ones because tattoos tend to gradually fade naturally over time. Accurate laser treatment plans can only be devised once a patient undergoes a cosmetic laser consultation.

How does laser tattoo removal work?

Tattoos are permanent because an insoluble ink is injected into the dermis, or middle layer of the skin. This is why they remain visible as the particles of ink are too large to be absorbed by the body. Laser tattoo removal uses different wavelengths of light energy targeted toward the specific pigments in each tattoo’s ink. The energy breaks the ink into tiny particles that the body can absorb. From there, the tiny particles are removed through the body’s natural healing responses.

What types of tattoos can be removed?

All Types of Tattoos

• Names and words – written in cursive and block letters
• Rings – symbols, words, bands worn under rings or jewelry
• Designs – hearts, characters, animals, flowers, tribal art, barbed wire, ….thousands more
• Sleeves / large artwork
• Portions of tattoos – we can remove just a small part of a larger tattoo (read more here)

How many treatments are necessary to remove my tattoo?

As noted below, there are multiple factors that go into laser tattoo removal including the patient’s skin type, the location of the tattoo, the pigments in the tattoo, the size of the body art, if there is any scarring or tissue change, and if the tattoo is layered over another. These factors are all elements in the Kirby-Desai Tattoo Removal Scale. This scale was developed to assist the patient and provider with a method to reasonably estimate the number of treatments required to remove a tattoo.

• Age - Older tattoos can be removed with fewer treatments than newer tattoos. A black ink tattoo that is 10 years old may take one or two treatments less than a 1 year old black tattoo. A 20 year old tattoo may take two to three treatments less than a 1 year old tattoo.
• Color - Certain colors are more easily removed than others. Black and red tattoos are the easiest to remove. Orange, yellow, pink, purple, brown, and other shades are slightly more difficult to remove. The most difficult colors to remove are light green, light blue, and teal/turquoise. During the free consultation we’ll discuss the number of treatments you’ll need to remove certain colors, but expect that you’ll need a few more if you have a difficult color.
• Location - Because tattoo removal depends on the body to flush away the shattered ink particles, areas of the body with less circulation often take more time to show results. The toes, fingers, ears, and nose are areas that may show slower results.
• Ink Density - Shading in a tattoo is easily removed. Some tattoos with letters use shading to fill in the outlines of the letters. Some tattoos with certain designs use shading for clouds or other visual effect. Shading will be removed in only a few sessions in most cases.

Who is a candidate for laser tattoo removal?

Ideal candidates are individuals who are in generally good health with realistic expectations regarding the procedure’s outcomes. Although all skin tones and types can be treated at Changes Laser, those with fair skin and darker tattoos usually have the best results. Nonetheless, the majority of patients with tattoos benefit from laser tattoo removal.

What are the risks and side effects?

Laser tattoo removal is the safest and easiest way to remove an unwanted tattoo. With today’s technology, we are able to precisely target the ink in your tattoo with minimal side effects. The laser energy gently passes through the outermost layer of skin until it reach your tattoo’s pigment and leaves the lower layers untouched. The skin is very rarely broken, although some swelling and sensitivity is common. For your comfort, we use a high-tech cooling system during the procedure to numb the skin prior to the tattoo removal procedure.

With any laser procedure there is a rare chance of hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin pigment) or hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin pigment) if pre- and post-treatment care instructions are not followed properly. Other occasional procedure risks include blistering, infection, or scabbing. Individuals taking certain medications like Ibuprofen may experience bruising. Side effects are infrequent and often improve over time.

Many patients are familiar with laser hair removal – tattoo removal lasers do not need to penetrate as deeply into the skin and procedures are less painful and much shorter in duration.

Contra-indications for Tattoo Removal

Patients that should NOT be treated:

• Pregnancy, or a patient trying to become pregnant. There is an unknown but possible risk of transfer of ink to fetus. Additional slight risk of miscarriage due to stress of procedure.
• Breast feeding, again because of unknown but possible risk of transfer of ink to baby.
• Chemotherapy within last 6 months because of sensitivity to light and compromised status of immune system.
• Accutane within last 6 months.
• Sunburned skin in area of tattoo

Patients who should exercise extra precautions:

• Allergic reaction to ink, primarily red tattoo ink, may lead to increased chance of anaphylaxis. Either should not be treated or patient should take Claritin or Benadryl prior to treatment and for at least 3 days while they are healing.
• Skin types IV or above because of increased chance of hypo or hyperpigmentation and scarring.
• History of keloid scarring because of increased chance of further keloid scars.
• History of hyper or hypopigmentation
• Antibiotic use may cause an increase sensitivity to light.
• Chronic disease (ex. Diabetes- because of delay in healing). These patients may need longer between treatments to heal fully.
• Older clients may also take longer to heal.
• Immuno-comprised patients (ex. HIV, AIDS, Arthritis, Allergies) may take longer to heal or not flush out ink as well as other patients.