Just as tattoos have been around for thousands of years as expressions of wearable body art and symbolic cultural manifestations, so has the wish to remove the tattoos. Just as the motivation to get a tattoo varies, the motivation to remove one covers many reasonings.

Once upon a time, the history of tattoo removal covered everything from injecting pigment-altering substances like garlic and even pigeon poop to painfully shaving off tiny layer upon layer of inked skin with a scalpel. As tattoo parlors have become more advanced in the art of applying tattoos, the tattoo removal process has also become more modernized in ways to safely and effectively remove tattoos with minimal pain and side effects.

Let’s explore some traditional tattoo removal options in comparison to laser tattoo removal to exhibit why laser is the most useful and successful route for tattoo removal.


1. Surgical excision is a highly invasive tattoo removal process whereby surgical cuts are made into the skin to remove the tattoo. While effective, the side effects can range from dangerous infection to undesirable scarring, and there’s quite a long postoperative recovery period.

2. Another option is in using a chemical agent, usually liquid nitrogen, to freeze the tattooed skin. It’s called cryosurgery. This process chemically destroys the tattooed skin tissue for removal. The most significant risk is in scarring.

3. The third most common traditional tattoo removal process is called salabrasion, which combines a salt water solution and an abrasive tool to literally scrub the tattooed skin away. It involves several days of saline dressings. It’s typically very painful and doesn’t have the best track record for effectiveness.


Here’s a look at how laser stacks up against the other traditional tattoo removal options.

The Process

Laser has been around a few decades now, and it has a solid history as an effective and safe treatment option. Laser tattoo removal uses small, high intensity pulses of laser to break down the tattooed pigments into smaller particles. Once broken down by the laser into manageable-sized particles, the body’s natural immune system is activated to remove what it now recognizes as foreign particles. Lasers leave the surrounding and underlying skin unharmed because the frequency the laser is set at ensures that only the tattooed skin’s depth and circumference are treated.

Is There Pain Involved?

Yes, there may be some mild pain involved for some. It’s a question akin to whether a tattoo is painful or not. For some, yes. For others, no. Topical anesthetics to numb the area are applied before laser treatments. Comfort can further be increased with a cool air wand that blows during the treatment.

Is Laser A One-And-Done Procedure?

Laser tattoo removals are typically completed in sessions. The number of sessions required are dependent upon a number of factors, such as the size, shape, age, color, and location of the tattoo. Of course, the smaller the tattoo and fewer colors, the easier it is to remove. Darker colors are much easier to remove than lighter colors. Older tattoos, which have already dulled, require less treatment effort than newer, sharper tattoos. These are all factors that a laser tattoo removal specialist will discuss in the initial consultation.

Are There Any Laser Tattoo Removal Side Effects?

The most common side effects are localized itching, redness, swelling, and light sensitivity. Light sensitivity can last a couple of days to a couple of weeks, making it important to wear protective clothing and sunscreen as the treated area heals. The other side effects may last a couple of days and can be relieved with an ice pack.

Skin discoloration can occasionally occur. While it usually subsides on its own, it’s always important to alert the doctor immediately.

Are There Any Activity Restrictions Post-Treatment?

It’s always advisable to rest a few days after treatment to provide the skin undisturbed recovery time, but there’s no downtime per se. Patients are generally restricted from water-submerging activities, heavy labor and exercise, and applying makeup over the treated area.

In conclusion, it’s easy to see some very compelling reasons why laser is often the most ideal tattoo removal procedure for the best results with the least toll to the body. It’s effective, minimally invasive, has few side effects, and has few post-procedure restrictions. See your dermatologist or laser tattoo removal specialist today for a consultation.

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