Advertisement

How do lasers remove tattoos?

Lasers produce short pulses of intense light that pass harmlessly through top layers of skin and are selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment. The laser energy causes the tattoo pigment (or ink) to fragment into smaller particles that will be removed by the body's immune system. Doctors know which wavelengths of light to use and which method to use so the laser will deliver the best output to remove tattoo ink. In case you are wondering whether the laser might also remove normal skin pigment, you shouldn't worry. The laser selectively targets the tattoo's pigment without damaging the surrounding skin.

Arthur W. Perry, MD
Plastic Surgery
When tattoo artists force pigment into the skin, it gets picked up by cells. In laser tattoo removal, the laser heats the pigment and explodes the cells, killing them and dispersing the pigment. A heat injury with blistering occurs. Nearby cells pick up the released pigment. A month after the first treatment, the tattoo merely looks a little blurred. Monthly treatments repeat the process. After many treatments, the tattoo is significantly decreased in intensity. I didn't say gone.

If there are many colors in the tattoo, multiple lasers are needed. Several companies manufacture boxes containing several different lasers. I have seen as many as four different colors in a single machine. If your tattoo has one of the chosen colors, you're in luck! If not, your tattoo will not be removed as efficiently. It will take longer to remove and may not be completely erased. Until a laser is created that can measure the actual color of your tattoo and dial a particular wavelength (color), the tattoo removal process is doomed to be inefficient at best.
Straight Talk about Cosmetic Surgery (Yale University Press Health & Wellness)

More About this Book

Straight Talk about Cosmetic Surgery (Yale University Press Health & Wellness)

The public’s recent exuberance toward cosmetic surgery has spurred an unprecedented demand for appearance-changing procedures. But how can an average consumer discern the hype from solid truth? ...

Continue Learning about Tattoos

Immune System Reactions to Tattoos Are Potentially Debilitating
Immune System Reactions to Tattoos Are Potentially Debilitating
The Missouri Compromise, signed into law in 1820 by President James Monroe, allowed Maine into the union as a free state and Missouri in as a slave st...
Read More
Can a tattoo affect my social life?
Susan EvansSusan Evans
In addition to possible skin damage and infections, tattoos can impact your daily life on a soci...
More Answers
How do I care for a new tattoo?
Discovery HealthDiscovery Health
Taking proper care of a new tattoo can help prevent health problems and protect the quality of the a...
More Answers
7 Stunning Tattoos With the Power to Heal
7 Stunning Tattoos With the Power to Heal7 Stunning Tattoos With the Power to Heal7 Stunning Tattoos With the Power to Heal7 Stunning Tattoos With the Power to Heal
Tattoos can help transform and reclaim areas that illness has touched.
Start Slideshow

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.