Laser tattoo removal is a common procedure for removing tattoos. When a tattoo is done, the artist injects colored ink into the medium layer of the skin. The light used in laser tattoo removal procedures breaks down the ink pigments and the body filters the pigment debris. The laser beam only affects the tattoo ink, without harming the surrounding skin. The laser device needs to be calibrated differently depending on what color is removed. The tattoo removal procedure is done by removing different colors, not entire areas of the tattoo at the same time. Generally tattoos can be removed without severe side effects. There are, however, tattoos which cannot be completely removed due to the technique of the artist and the ink he used.

Crusting and Blisters

Crusts and blisters are common side effects of laser therapy for tattoo removal. If crusts and blisters form after a laser tattoo removal session, they should not be removed. Removing blisters and crusts early can cause permanent scars, especially in patients with a predisposition for hypertrophic scars. Crusting should heal within 2 weeks. In some cases, laser therapy can lead to the formation of a large bulla which covers the treated area. This can be prevented by carefully respecting the aftercare recommendations.

Bleeding

Very rarely, the action of the laser can result in rupture of the blood vessels and bleeding. Bleeding should stop in time.

Scarring

Scarring is a potential side-effect of the laser tattoo removal procedure. Scars can be the result of the procedure itself or can result if blisters are removed early and the skin does not have the time to heal completely.

Swelling

After a treatment session, the specialist recommends placing ice on the treated area to minimize swelling. However, swelling might still occur because the treated area suffered a trauma. Generally swelling goes away within a few days or weeks.

Hyperpigmentation and Hypopigmentation

Pigmentation irregularities, either excess or lack of pigmentation, are a common side-effect of the laser tattoo removal procedure. In some cases, textural changes can also appear. The incidence of hyperpigmentation depends on the patient’s skin type. Patients with lighter skin colors are more exposed to hyperpigmentation after laser treatments, regardless of the laser wavelengths used in the treatment. In most cases, the skin’s color returns to normal in 6 to 12 months after the treatment. The disappearance of pigmentation irregularities can be stimulated by applying hydroquinoes and sunscreen on the treated area.

Infection

Infection is a possible side-effect of the laser’s action on the skin. The skin is more vulnerable to bacteria, fungi and other infectious agents. After the treatment the area is generally treated with an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection. If an infection occurs, it should be treated with prescription medication.

Changes in Tattoo Color

In some cases, the pigments in the tattoo might change color and the removal of the tattoo is more difficult. The pigments may not respond to the treatment as it is supposed to. Generally, unresponsive pigments turn green.