Laser Tattoo Removal

Today you have it, tomorrow it’s gone!

Before and after photos of laser tattoo removal patients

First comes the romance… then the mystery… then the body art… and then come the dreams, empowered by the feelings of destiny unfolding… 

Watch the video : What is laser tattoo removal?

We get it… Using your body as a canvass to express your purpose in life is a magical process and a powerful experience. For some it connects you to cultures all around the world and throughout history who found similar meaning in carrying the power and magic of art, as a part of your body… even if no one sees it but you.

But then, for whatever reason, the time arrives… and you want to clear the canvas. It’s time to get the tattoo removed.

How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?

The laser targets the pigment in the ink

The laser targets the pigment in the ink

Laser tattoo removal works by targeting pigments that are found in tattoo ink. Each color will absorb a specific wave frequency of laser energy/light. Therefore, if your tattoo has many colors, you will need specific lasers with different frequencies of energy/light that will be absorbed by each color ink.

When the tattoo ink absorbs the correct frequency of laser light, the ink molecules are either vaporized or shattered depending on the “speed / length” of the laser pulse. Either way, once the ink has been disrupted, your body’s immune system will absorb the ink fragments and dissolve them away.

The most common type of lasers used for removing tattoos are:

The Q-switch: It produces energy pulses that are measured in thousands of a second

The PICO: It produces energy pulses in billionth of a second.

The energy from the laser fragments the tattoo ink

The energy from the laser fragments the tattoo ink

Colors that Respond Best

Black and blue tattoos have the best results

Black and blue tattoos have the best results

Black and blue respond the best while red, purple or orange present more of a challenge.

Historically, yellow and green are the most difficult to “erase”. However, with the invention of the PICO laser, these colors are also being successfully treated, even though they may require 2-3 extra sessions to remove a residual shadow that may appear.

Amateur Vs Professional Tattoos

Amateur or poorly applied tattoos may not respond as well as professional tattoos.

A number of factors influence this difficultly, such as poor-quality ink, or ink that is inserted too deep in the skin where lasers cannot effectively penetrate.

Watch the video : An in-depth look at laser tattoo removal

The Laser Tattoo Removal Treatment

Tattoo Removal with the PICO laser

Tattoo removal with the PICO laser

Just a few years ago there were lasers that could clear most of the ink… though it took many painful treatments and often left a shadow of certain colors that were hard to clear.

And Now…. There is the newly invented PICO laser, which can give you the best results ever, with fewer and less painful laser tattoo removal treatments.

Even better… if you want, the treatments can be entirely painless, by having our physicians anesthetize your skin during the procedure.

How Many Treatments Will I Need?

The number of treatments depends on your tattoo’s age, size, type, depth of ink, quality of the ink, quantity of the ink and location of the tattoo.

Will I Bleed?

You may see slight bleeding, redness, swelling, and blistering for several hours up to 3 days following treatment.

What to Expect After Treatment

Immediately after laser tattoo removal

Immediately after laser tattoo removal

Immediately after the procedure, the treated area will have a whitish / grey or red discoloration with pinpoint bleeding. There may also be some blistering or slight oozing. Localized swelling it typical and may last 3-5 days.

Most practices will provide the patient with topical antibiotic ointment and a soothing moisturizer that keeps the area from drying out. Icing may also speed up recovery, and over the counter pain medications such as Tylenol can help “take the edge off”.

The most important recovery protocol is to use common sense. Don’t aggravate the treated skin. Keep it clean. Protect it from contamination. Protect it from drying out. Keep it out of the sun. DON’T PICK AT IT!!!

The Healing Process

For 2-3 weeks following your treatment to remove your tattoo, you may see, peeling, and/or scabbing and/or flaking of the treated area. Be gentle. NO scrubbing! While the treatment site is healing, avoid sun. Keep the area clean and well moisturized with a cream that allows your skin to breath! (Not Vaseline or other petroleum jellies)  

When the site is completely healed, you are ready for another laser treatment.

Watch the video : The new PICO Laser for tattoo removal

Pros and Cons of Tattoo Removal

There’s a reason that laser removal is considered to be the gold-standard. What are some of the benefits of choosing laser treatment to remove your unwanted tattoo?


  • Most effective: Laser treatment is considered to be the most effective way to completely remove tattoos. By choosing this option, you have the greatest likelihood of living your life without the slightest trace of your regretted tattoo.
  • Least invasive: Since there is no actual cutting into the skin, laser removal carries the least risk of infection and scarring.
  • Outpatient procedure: This treatment can be done on an outpatient basis, meaning it takes less time from your schedule.


  • Expensive: Laser treatment can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. This is dependent on the size of the tattoo. 
  • Time intensive: This treatment requires multiple sessions.
  • Pain: Many patients describe this procedure as being more painful than getting the tattoo in the first place. However, if the patient is particularly sensitive, or the tattoo is in a particularly “sensitive spot”, we can also administer something called “tumescent anesthesia”, where the anesthetic solution, such as lidocaine, is injected under the skin. In this case the patient typically feels no pain at all. Obviously, this requires more time and resources, and incrementally increases the cost of the procedure.

Laser Tattoo Removal FAQs

A. When the laser energy is absorbed by the tattoo ink the ink is actually vaporized and explodes very similar to a little steam explosion. This little steam explosion causes a sore by disrupting the surrounding tissue. The swelling that you see is part of the normal inflammatory process of healing. Therefore, as the skin heals, the bumps will go away.

A. Good question… Absolutely not! The energy that medical lasers emit is NOT the kind of laser energy that can cause cancer.

A. When done correctly by an experienced professional, with the proper devices, removing a tattoo can be very effective and leave no scarring. The treatments can also be completely painless with the use of an anesthetic.

A. For the majority of people the tattoo hurt going in and it will hurt coming out. However, it doesn’t have to hurt coming out. It is completely dependent on the patient whether we may or may not need to use an anesthetic. Their skins condition, where the tattoo is located on their body, the amount of ink that was used, the depth, size and age of the tattoo.

If anesthetic is appropriate, or the patient simply wants us to take the edge off, there are a number of options. A topical numbing cream along with an over-the-counter pain killer such as Tylenol is usually enough to reduce the sensation to a tolerable level.

For a patient who is particularly sensitive or who has a tattoo in a particularly sensitive spot we can administer something called tumescent anesthesia. This typically results in the patient feeling no pain at all as an anesthetic solution (lidocaine) is injected directly under the skin where the tattoo is located. This form of anesthetic will increase the cost of removing the tattoo as more time and resources are required.

A. It is bad news to have mercury anywhere in your physiology. It is best to get rid of it as it is the mother of all inflammatory heavy-metal toxins.

Regarding mercury that is in tattoo ink, fortunately, from what I am able to find, tattoo ink today does not contain mercury. If your tattoo does contain mercury, it is a very good idea to get it out of your skin. The only way of doing this that I know works is with laser treatment. Be sure to alert your practitioner that your tattoo may contain mercury. They will need to protect themselves, and you, from inhaling the mercury that the tattoo removal laser is vaporizing.

A. For complete tattoo removal, most individuals choose one of three surgeries: dermabrasion, surgical excision, and laser tattoo removal.

Dermabrasion is typically the cheapest option and essentially involves sanding off the tattoo.

Surgical excision is the most suited for smaller tattoos, but it is the most invasive.

The gold standard of tattoo removal is laser tattoo removal. It is the best procedure for completely removing tattoos. It also carries the lowest risk of scarring and other negative side effects.

A. Cost depends on the size of the tattoo and the type of pigments used. Darker inks, for example, are easier to treat than pastels. 

On average, the cost is $150 for the first square inch plus $50 per additional square inch. This is per treatment.  

Typically, 5 to 10 treatments are needed to completely remove a tattoo. 

Authored by Dr. Asher Milgrom | Reviewed by Dr. Alice Pien | Last updated: