Laser Hair Removal over a Tattoo

Laser Treatments

Laser pulse lights are used to remove tattoos as well as unwanted hair. However, it is essential to note that these treatments use two different lasers. The intensity of the laser beam to remove tattoos is high but the laser used to remove unwanted hair is of a much higher intensity. So then what effect will this have if the laser therapy were to be used to remove hair that has grown over a tattoo and is distorting or hiding the beautiful artwork on the skin?

Dangers and Effects of Removing Hair Growth over a Tattoo 

  1. Despite the progress in laser treatments and removal of hair in general, it is still not advisable to remove hair that is growing over a tattoo, using the laser therapy.
  2. The laser light that beams down is drawn to the pigments in the tattoo, regardless of the color of the ink. Since the tattoo ink is darker than the color of the skin, the ink will easily absorb the laser beams.
  3. When inexperienced technicians operate the laser and there is a misadventure, this will cause burning, fading, blackening and distortion of the tattoo / tattoos.
  4. Since removing hair requires a much stronger laser intensity, and when the laser inadvertently touches the tattoo, it can remove or disfigure the tattoo and it can even burn the skin pretty much severely.
  5. Having a permanently damaged tattoo is not a pretty sight.
  6. If you have a colored tattoo, there is a possibility that the laser will turn the tattoo completely black.
  7. Most often due to carelessness or inadvertent “slipping” of the laser beam over a tattoo, painful blisters form, filled with pus and this leads to infection, almost immediately, which means a visit to the Emergency Room.
  8. After healing of the blisters, the inevitable scaring will be present.
  9. Depending on your body's healing capacity, it may take years before the scars flatten out enough, before you could think of getting a fresh tattoo to replace the disfigured one.
  10. Most artists will not tattoo over fresh scars.
  11. If you have moles on your skin where the hair has to be removed, the laser treatment will produce the same effect that it will on a tattoo.

Precautions to be taken

  1. Ensure that the doctor or esthetician who will be performing the hair removal over your tattoo has had considerable experience and is certified.
  2. If you have sensitive skin, do follow the procedures that you would follow to remove hair from your skin, such as, not be exposed to the sun (getting a sun tan), not shaving or waxing to remove hair, for a period of at least 2 weeks prior to your laser hair removal treatment.
  3. If you are sensitive to pain, take over the counter relief (after having discussed with your doctor or esthetician) like Tylenol or Advil.
  4. Numbing cream can also be applied to the treatment area, if so desired.


  1. Prior to the procedure you will need to inform your doctor or esthetician if you have any tattoo on your skin or close to the area where you desire to remove hair.
  2. The esthetician will then mark off the areas where the tattoos are, or cover it up to protect and to ensure that the laser goes nowhere near the tattoo.

Possible Side Effects

  1. Itching or redness in the treated area; the redness lasting only for 3 days.
  2. Tingling or numbness.
  3. Possible swelling around the follicle for 3 days.
  4. In very rare cases there may be a temporary pigment change.