Hand tattoo being administered

Is Laser Tattoo Removal Safe?

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Laser tattoo removal has become a safety net for many folks who are unhappy with their finished tattoo. So much so that many clients plan ahead for these procedures while planing a new tattoo! With such easy access, and so many new clinics offering laser tattoo removal, we figured it was time to confront how safe these procedures are.

What Is Laser Tattoo Removal?

Laser tattoo removal is the process of using high energy, focused light (laser), to break up tattoo pigment particles that are deposited in the skin. There are a variety of different laser delivery machines available for the procedure but the most common type of laser used currently is a PICO-laser.

What is a PICO Laser and What Does it Do?

PICO lasers were first approved for use in the US around 2013. Utilizing a variety of light wavelengths, these machines are able to “break down” tattoo pigments into smaller pieces. The theory is that making the particles of pigment smaller they are easier to remove from the body. By bombarding pigments in the skin with high-energy, wavelength equivalent packets of light, lasers heat up pigment particles causing aggregations to break apart.

The process of breaking down the pigment is called “pyrolysis”. Pyrolysis occurs when something is heated up, causing whatever is being heated to break down. Most people know what pyrolysis can do. If you have ever been camping you have seen this process first hand – burning wood in a campfire.

Wood is heated with some external thing (like matches or a lighter) and ignites. As it burns, smoke is emitted, which removes microscopic aspects of the wood. This continues to the raw wood, leaving behind charcoal (or charred wood). This process is pretty much what happens to tattoo pigment that is hit by a laser. Pigment is ignited and changed into products that may be able to leave the body.

How Much Does Laser Tattoo Removal Cost?

10 years ago, the cost per square inch of tattoo removal averaged around $600. Since then, the prices have moved down to around $400 per session. When you compare this to the average tattoo session, priced at $150 per hour, the total costs of removal can be far more expensive than a traditional cover up tattoo.

Is Laser Tattoo Removal Safe?

To be blunt – We don’t know if it’s safe.

Recent studies have shown that the byproduct of pigments being broken down by laser treatments are not good for your body. In fact, there are well known carcinogens that can be released into the body through laser tattoo removal. Long term studies about the safety of laser tattoo removal aren’t available right now but preliminary testing shows that the pigments used in tattooing shouldn’t be removed with laser treatments.

You can read more about this topic by following this like to the EU Health Agency.

Given the ubiquitousness of laser tattoo removal, we have to ask: Should people use these services without knowing if it can hurt them?

Our response is a solid – NO.

What Alternatives Are There To Laser Tattoo Removal?

Yes. Get a cover up tattoo.

We have a bunch of articles that discuss cover up tattoos. Take a peak at them by following this link:

Tattoo Cover Up Articles