How Laser Tattoo Removal Works for Different Skin Tones

During the removal process, pulses of light/wavelengths are used to attract the ink in order to crystallize and break up the large ink molecules.

To best determine which type of laser tattoo removal treatment to use on different skin shades, Removery clinical team utilizes The Fitzpatrick Scale. This is a numerical scale that measures the amount of melanin in the skin and was developed to determine how different skin types react to ultraviolet light.

Introducing the Fitzpatrick Scale

fitzpatrick scale tattoo removal skin tone chart

The scale details six types of skin, ranging from Type 1 that is very light, always burns, and never tans, to Type 6 that is black, never burns, and tans quickly when exposed to the sun. This scale does not measure skin color. Instead, it measures the skin’s reactivity to UV rays, which is helpful in tattoo removal because skin reacts to heat and lasers in the same manner that it reacts to the sun. By determining how certain skin types will react, our specialists can choose the right laser, settings, and duration to achieve better and safer results.

Laser Treatment Wavelengths Affect Skin Type and Ink Color Differently

To understand how lasers remove tattoo ink from all skin types, it’s vital to be familiar with wavelengths. Different colors of ink and skin reflect varying wavelengths of light differently which if not used properly, could lead to side effects. For instance, a tattoo with primarily red colors will absorb all visible light except red light. To shatter the ink of a red tattoo, you cannot use a red light as it would not absorb the energy.

At Removery, we understand that different colors of ink and skin absorb wavelengths in a variety of ways, which is why we utilize more than one type of laser. While a 1064 nm wavelength is usually ideal for shattering black or very dark ink, a 532 nm wavelength is better for removing red or warm tones such as yellow or brown. Green, blue, and purple inks are typically the most difficult to remove, and we have found that 730 nm and 785 nm wavelengths, such as that used by the PicoWay laser, remove these colors with the fewest number of treatments and minimal damage and reduced scar tissue to surrounding tissues.

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The Challenges of Laser Removal on Dark Skin

The challenge of dark skin tattoo removal is a result of the amount of melanin. The darker the skin, the more melanin is present. Melanin absorbs energy – especially heat – and the more melanin in the skin, the higher amounts of heat will be absorbed from the laser. Because of this, complications from laser removal on darker skin tones are more likely than with lighter skin. If the technician is not experienced enough, he or she may use the laser for too long or on too high of a setting and cause excessive pain and burning of the skin. This can lead to scarring as well as loss of color in the skin known as hypopigmentation.

What Tattoo Removal Laser Works Best on Dark Skin?

Not only do certain colors of ink appear differently on dark skin, but darker skin also absorbs light and heat more rapidly. While those with light skin will absorb the laser energy directly into the tattoo, those with darker skin will often diffuse the energy into the skin surrounding the tattoo as well as into the ink itself.

For this reason, a laser that uses a broad spectrum of light, traditionally a Q-switched laser now some of the 1064 Pico lasers are often the best choice. This type of laser can remove ink effectively without removing melanin or burning the skin.

In addition to using the right laser, our specialists also wait longer between treatments for those with dark skin. While those with lighter skin can typically have treatments every six weeks, those with darker skin should wait eight to ten weeks between treatments to avoid hyperpigmentation, skin fatigue or hypopigmentation.

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