Risks & Complications
During laser treatment, your skin will turn a frosty white color that goes away in a matter of minutes. This is caused by the carbon dioxide being released as a result of laser penetration of surfaces on the upper layer of the skin.
During the removal process, tiny blood vessels around the tattoo are vulnerable to injury. As a result, superficial blisters containing water and ink may appear. They might be unsightly and could be tender to touch, but blisters should take between 3-14 days to heal up completely, providing you don’t burst them!
Scabs usually appear 8 to 72 hours after the area has been treated. When the scab falls off, the top layer of ink will come with it. Picking at or peeling off scabs can increase the risk of scarring. A lot will depend on the size and location of your tattoo, but most scabs will disappear within two weeks.
Mild to moderate swelling may accompany laser tattoo removal and usually subsides in a few days.
While a lot will depend on your personal pain threshold, it is fair to say that the majority of people will experience discomfort. The level of discomfort also depends a lot on where the tattoo is located; tattoos on more fleshy areas of the body will hurt less as the flesh acts as a cushion, whereas tattoos on areas such as the wrist, feet, face and fingers could make you wince a little more than if your tattoo was on your thigh!
This should be seen as a good sign, as your immune system is kicking in and starting to heal the affected area. An itching sensation is common, but just like any other type of skin irritation, you must try your hardest not to scratch the area. Scratching could impact on the effectiveness of removal. You may also break the skin and create a wound, which will lead to additional scarring or risk infection. Generally, you should not apply creams or lotions to the area, but if the itching is unbearable, contact our office for advice.
Given the technological and medical advances in laser tattoo removal, permanent scarring is rare and occurs in less than two percent of cases. In order to minimize the chance of scarring after treatment, drink plenty of water and avoid direct exposure to the sun, as ultraviolet radiation can harm your skin’s pigmentation and increase the risk of scarring due to greater sensitivity. Keloid scars, which are raised, thickened areas of skin can appear up to 3 to 6 months after treatment, but these are very rare.
During laser removal, pulses of different light wavelengths are used to remove the tattoo ink. However, it can also affect your skin’s natural pigment or melanin. A consequence of this is known as hyperpigmentation, which are essentially patches of darkened skin. This condition is typically seen on people with darker skin and active tans and will usually resolve itself.
Conversely, hypopigmentation is where your skin’s normal pigmentation has been removed. As a result, lighter patches of skin will be visible where the tattoo once was. It can sometimes take months or even years for your skin’s pigment to appear normal again. For some people, it may never be the same. However, both hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation are bound to be more tolerable than the actual tattoo.
The risk of infection is increased if you burst blisters or pick at scabs, so avoid both of these. In the event of infection, contact the office.
The Bottom Line
If you become concerned and need professional advice, call the office during normal business hours and a member of our clinical staff will be there to assist you.