Potential Risks and Complications of Laser Tattoo Removal

Every medical procedure comes with potential risks and complications. Laser tattoo removal is no exception to this statement. The key to reducing your personal risks with laser tattoo removal is to investigate the medical experience of the person performing the procedure. It is most important to seek the care of a trained medical professional who uses updated and well-maintained equipment for this and any other medical procedure.


The risk of infection is very low, especially if the patient follows the prescribed post-procedure instructions, but can occur. An antibiotic ointment and clean dressing will be applied to the treated area. It should be kept dry between showers and changed as instructed to prevent infection.


The laser pulses heat up the ink particles which, in turn, can break tiny blood vessels around the tattoo. This causes superficial blisters that fill with water and ink to develop. While the blisters can look intimidating and be tender to touch, do not puncture them. It takes 3 to 14 days for the blisters to heal completely. Severe burns can also occur from defective equipment or unskilled operators but is a rare occurrence.


Scabbing usually appears 8 to 72 hours after the area is treated. Scabs collect some of the fragmented ink particles in the skin. When the scab fall off, so does the top layer of ink. It is important not to pick off a scab because doing so can cause scarring. The scabs will subside within 2 weeks, depending upon the size and location of the tattoo.

Loss of skin color

Since the laser pulses are removing pigment from the tattoo, they can also permanently remove some normal skin pigmentation, a condition called hypopigmentation. This would leave a lighter patch of skin where the tattoo once was. Conversely, hyperpigmentation, or too much pigment production, can also occur in certain situations.

Incomplete pigment removal

No every tattoo can be completely removed. Incomplete pigment removal is relatively common. A major influencing factor is that some dye colors resist laser removal. Some ink pigment is embedded too deep in the dermis layer of skin for the current equipment to fully remove it. Most tattoo colors can be eliminated or dramatically lightened. Black ink is the easiest color to remove. Flesh-toned, white, pink and light brown tattoos can undergo permanent ink darkening. Red ink tattoos can turn black.


Scarring is somewhat rare given the medical advances of the past decade. It is important to avoid sun exposure to the treated area because the skin will be extra sensitive to sun damage.

Keloid formation

While it is a rare condition, a raised, thickened scar can appear up to 3 to 6 months after laser tattoo removal. This type scar is called a keloid or hypertrophic scar and is an overgrowth of scar tissue.

These potential risks and complications do not occur with every procedure. Some are out of your control but some can be influenced by insuring that you follow your physician's post-procedure instruction. One other tip: be sure you really want the tattoo in the first place then removal is a non-issue.

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