Laser Tattoo Removal Side Effects

99% of laser tattoo removal procedures are completed without long-term complications. However, before considering any cosmetic medical procedure, it is essential to understand the possible risks and adverse side effects. Most complications are avoided by selecting a quality clinic and following recommended aftercare processes. However, some unavoidable tattoo removal side effects include redness, swelling, and blistering. Preparing for these will improve your overall experience, ease treatment anxiety, and improve overall results.

Understanding Laser Tattoo Removal


Laser tattoo removal is highly effective and the only permanent solution for tattoo removal. Lasers emit light pulses to target ink molecules in the second layer of skin. The beams reduce ink to digestible particles that are later flushed through the body’s immune system. Most tattoos visibly fade within 3-5 treatments. However, total removal takes an average of 8-12 sessions over at least a year or more. Several factors can impact laser tattoo removal results, including the tattoo’s size, color, and placement. 

Laser tattoo removal is the only procedure that will completely erase tattoo ink from the skin, but it requires up to 18 months of consistent treatments. As a result, this removal option is an excellent solution for people who:

  • Ultimately regret a tattoo and wish to be ink-free
  • Have tattoos that violate employment dress code policies
  • Are you looking for a fresh start and want to remove prison or gang-associated ink
  • Do not have a strict timeline for removal (i.e., upcoming wedding)


As with any cosmetic medical procedure, several side effects are associated with laser tattoo removal. Most are temporary and easily managed with diligent aftercare. However, it is crucial to understand the potential side effects and outcomes of laser tattoo removal before beginning your treatment journey. 


Your Laser Tattoo Removal Provider Impacts Risk and Danger


Choosing a clinic with experienced laser technicians and state-of-the-art equipment minimizes laser tattoo removal risks. However, the skin is the largest organ in the body, and its response to laser treatments is unique to each individual. Potential long-term consequences of undergoing laser tattoo removal are:

  • Permanent darkening or lightening of the skin at and around the treatment area
  • Irreversible skin textural changes, including scarring
  • Allergic reactions of varying severity
  • “Ghost” images of the original tattoo or visible residual ink that does not respond to laser treatments
  • Infection

Serious complications are rare. Adverse side effects of laser tattoo removal are usually a consequence of inexperience and can be avoided by consulting a qualified professional. Before beginning laser tattoo removal, diligently research the clinic and their equipment. Schedule a consultation with a treatment specialist to review your goals and learn what to expect. For example, certain skin tones are more susceptible to discoloration, and the potential for damage is exacerbated on tanned or sunburned skin. The clinician will evaluate your risk level and inform you of any concerns. A dermatology consult is advised for anyone with existing skin conditions or dyspigmentation. 

What Are The Potential Side Effects of Laser Tattoo Removal?

There are several potential side effects of laser tattoo removal that don’t have long-term consequences, such as discomfort, blistering, and frosting. Learn how to determine what a normal response to laser tattoo removal is and what complications warrant more concern. 

Pain and Discomfort

Pain can be minimized during laser tattoo removal through ice and cooling machines. However, everyone’s pain tolerance is different. Like when getting a tattoo, certain areas of the body are more sensitive to laser treatments than others. Laser tattoo removal is generally compared to the feeling of an elastic band snapping against the skin. For most people, it is manageable and less painful than getting a tattoo. Fortunately, most treatments last less than 15 minutes, so while you may feel some discomfort, the procedure is over quickly.

In addition, it is expected to experience tenderness after the procedure. This feeling usually subsides within a few days, but wearing loose-fitting and soft clothing will help mitigate irritation. Over-the-counter pain relief like acetaminophen or ibuprofen will also help manage residual discomfort following a laser tattoo removal treatment.



Blistering is a common but temporary side effect of laser tattoo removal treatments. It is a natural response to your body’s immune system filtering degraded ink particles. As a result, blistering is a positive reaction and leads to more favorable results. Treatment areas tend to blister more during the first few sessions when the tattoo ink is denser. As you progress in your laser tattoo removal journey, blistering will occur less often or not all. 

There are no permanent consequences of blisters if you allow them to heal on their own. However, popping blisters can cause scarring. If a blister develops larger than a dime, contact the laser removal clinic. It may need to be medically lanced to heal correctly.

Hyperpigmentation & Hypopigmentation


Hyperpigmentation before and after from tattoo removal. On the left side you can see the tattoo before, and on the right side has hyperpigmentation. This can be treated but requires additional steps.

It is called hyperpigmentation when treated skin becomes darker than the non-treated areas. This side effect is usually temporary and fades over time. There are several reasons why hyperpigmentation can occur, including skin tone, skin health, and lack of proper aftercare. During the initial treatment consultation, professional laser tattoo removal technicians should advise whether you are at higher risk for hyperpigmentation. Generally, hyperpigmentation is gone within 6-12 months, thanks to the body’s immune system. However, in extremely rare cases, hyperpigmentation can be permanent.

Hypopigmentation is the lightening of skin at or around treatment areas. Permanent hypopigmentation is incredibly rare. Most cases are a consequence of poor aftercare, like sun exposure. Mild tattoo removal hypopigmentation is usually treatable, but it is best to avoid this complication by following the aftercare instructions provided by the laser tattoo removal specialist.



Scarring from tattoo removal is completely avoidable. Popping blisters, picking off scabs, and applying cosmetics or lotions too soon after treatment will cause permanent texture changes to the skin. 

In addition, it is common for tattoo artists to cause scarring while tattooing, especially in areas of heavily saturated ink. These scars are hidden by ink pigments and are only noticeable when the tattoo is removed. However, experienced laser tattoo removal experts will diagnose tattoo scarring during consultations and warn you of this possible complication before starting treatment.



During laser tattoo removal treatments, the skin may become white. This is called frosting. Frosting is a natural and expected response to laser tattoo removal and dissipates quickly. There are no long-term consequences of frosting.

Can Laser Tattoo Removal Cause Infection Or An Allergic Reaction?

While undesirable, scarring, hyperpigmentation, and hypopigmentation could be cosmetic side effects of laser tattoo removal, there is also a risk of more severe reactions, including infection and allergic reactions. These types of side effects are based on individual health behaviors, immune system health, diet, and other important health factors. Learn more about our tattoo removal aftercare.


Laser tattoo removal causes wounds in the skin. A healthy immune system and diligent cleaning help to avoid infection in treatment areas. To boost your immune system, eat well, stay hydrated, and avoid smoking. Signs of an infected laser tattoo removal site are prolonged redness, swelling, intense itchiness, and pus. Unexplained fevers are another sign of infection. Anyone with these symptoms after the procedure should seek medical treatment immediately.

Allergic Reaction

Some people are allergic to tattoo ink. The most common color that causes reactions is red. The least common is black. Symptoms can occur immediately after getting the tattoo or up to a year later. While rare, laser tattoo removal can invoke an allergic reaction as the ink molecules are fragmented into particles. These reactions are usually systemic and localized to the treatment area. In extreme cases, you may require a topical steroid. If you experienced an allergic reaction after getting the tattoo, you are at higher risk for an allergic reaction during removal. Communicate these concerns during the laser tattoo removal consultation.

Severe tattoo removal side effects like these occur in less than 2% of cases and should not deter you from getting laser tattoo removal. Life-threatening complications are even rarer. For example, per FDA studies, tattoo removal and cancer are not a concern at all. You are more likely to develop skin cancer from the sun or microwaves than laser tattoo removal treatments.

Following recommended aftercare procedures and selecting an experienced tattoo removal clinic like Removery will reduce the possibility of adverse outcomes. However, understanding potential concerns is vital to your overall health and should not be overlooked.

How Do I Speed Up Tattoo Removal Recovery?

There are several ways to speed up your tattoo removal recovery. These ways include:

  • Keep the Treatment Area Clean and Dry

  • Avoid Heat & Hot Water for 48 Hours

  • Do Not Exercise for 24 Hours

  • No Sun Exposure

  • Do Not Pick, Itch, or Tear Treatment Area

  • Seek Treatment for Blisters Larger Than a Dime

  • No Antibiotics Before Laser Session

Desirable tattoo removal results directly correlate to the body’s ability to heal. The most crucial factor is the immune system. Scheduling laser tattoo removal sessions when you are healthy reduces your risk for side effects. In addition, properly caring for the laser tattoo treatment area encourages better results and faster healing. Learn more about these factors below.

7 Tips For Tattoo Removal Aftercare

Following tattoo removal aftercare procedures is essential. These recommendations will reduce the chances of scarring, skin discoloration, and infection. 

Tip 1: Keep the Treatment Area Clean and Dry

After the procedure, protect the skin from damage and infection by covering the area with a waterproof bandage. Clean with antibacterial, fragrance-free soap. Wash lightly with your hand and avoid scrubbing. Rinse with room temperature or cool water. Wear comfortable, loose clothing to prevent irritation from rubbing or chaffing.

Tip 2: Avoid Heat & Hot Water for 48 Hours

Heat exacerbates discomfort, including swelling and irritation. Hot water can be painful, especially over the first few days after the procedure. Keep the laser tattoo removal area cool and dry to promote healing and reduce pain.

Tip 3: Do Not Exercise for 24 Hours

Sweat may irritate the treatment site. In addition, rigorous exercise generates heat that may cause discomfort or pain to the laser tattoo removal skin.

Tip 4: No Sun Exposure

UV rays are dangerous to the skin in general. After tattoo laser removal treatment, the skin is even more vulnerable. Sun exposure puts you at risk for scarring, blistering, and hyperpigmentation. Always wear mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide and a minimum 50 SPF rating.

Tip 5: Do Not Pick, Itch, or Tear Treatment Area

Blistering and scabbing are natural parts of the laser tattoo removal healing process. Allow these irritations to resolve on their own. Picking or itching at the skin will cause permanent scarring and undesirable skin texture changes.

Tip 6: Seek Treatment for Blisters Larger Than a Dime

Most blisters heal on their own. While rare, larger skin pockets can develop. If blisters are larger than a dime, return to the laser tattoo removal clinic to be medically lanced. Do not attempt to pop or cut the blister at home, as that increases the risk of permanent scarring.

Tip 7: No Antibiotics Before Laser Session

Your immune system should be in peak health when getting laser tattoo removal. As a result, you must be off antibiotics for at least two weeks before a laser tattoo removal session. To boost your immune system, stay hydrated, eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods, exercise regularly, and quit smoking.

Long-Term Tattoo Removal Risks and Complications

There are no serious risks and complications with tattoo removal. Disregarding recommended aftercare procedures will result in serious complications, including skin discoloration, scarring, and infection. While most side effects of laser tattoo removal are cosmetic, untreated infections can result in serious illness and even death. Understanding the possible consequences of laser tattoo removal is vital to protecting your health and attaining the desired results.

Choosing a Qualified Tattoo Removal Provider

As tattoos become more popular, the practice of removing them is increasingly common. Laser tattoo removal is considered a cosmetic medical procedure. Consequently, laser tattoo removal is offered by various providers, including spas and makeup studios. For optimal results, choose a clinic that exclusively provides laser tattoo removal. These niche facilities have the best quality equipment and expert staff.

How do you find a reputable laser tattoo removal provider? Start by researching the company’s service offerings and results. Reputable laser tattoo removal clinics will have a library of before and after photos and resource guides on the procedure. Check the studio’s customer ratings on Google and social media to ensure patients have been pleased with their experience. Finally, schedule a consultation. This in-person meeting allows the laser technician to evaluate your tattoo and skin to offer predictable treatment results. During the consultation, ask critical questions like:

  • What types of lasers do you use? High-quality lasers like Picoways are more effective at removing all colors of ink.
  • Am I at higher risk for complications? Inspecting your skin health and tattoo will determine the probability of adverse tattoo removal side effects like discoloration and scarring.
  • How many treatments do you anticipate? Every tattoo is different, and while it is impossible to pinpoint an exact removal timeframe, the tattoo removal expert should be able to offer an estimation.
  • Have you treated a tattoo like mine before, and how did it turn out? Viewing before and after photos is an essential part of the consultation process. This is the best way to establish what results you can expect.
  • Am I eligible for complete removal? Not all tattoos qualify for total removal. There are instances where residual ink may be left behind. While nothing is guaranteed with laser tattoo removal, the consultant will advise whether or not utterly ink-free skin is possible.

Comparing Side Effects of PicoWay vs. Other Tattoo Removal Lasers

Start Your Tattoo Removal Journey with Removery


Removery is the highest-rated laser tattoo removal clinic in the US, Canada, and Australia. Their facilities extend across the United States and feature ground-breaking PicoWay lasers. The experienced staff at Removery have successfully removed the most stubborn tattoos on the head, neck, hands, and more! No matter the color or style of your unwanted ink, Removery has an effective treatment plan for you. Consultations are free, and Removery’s flexible scheduling and payment options make tattoo-free skin accessible to everyone. So, if you are ready to say goodbye to an old tattoo, visit your local Removery studio and learn how their safe laser tattoo removal process can change your life!


Additional Laser Tattoo Removal Resources


What Factors Affect Laser Tattoo Removal?
How Many Treatments Does Laser Tattoo Removal Take?
Is Laser Tattoo Removal Painful?
Why Is My Laser Tattoo Removal Not Working?
Are There Alternative Tattoo Removal Methods?
How To Choose A Cover-Up Tattoo
What’s The Best Laser For Tattoo Removal?
Ultimate Facts About Laser Tattoo Removal: The Complete Guide
Beware: Ask Your Provider These Questions Before Starting Laser Tattoo Removal
2023 Tattoo Cost: How much are tattoos?
Why Choose A Tattoo Removal Specialist?
What Is The Best Laser Tattoo Removal Aftercare?
How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Assist With Tattoo Cover-Ups?
Tattoo Removal Case Studies: Results Speak For Themselves
Worried Your Tattoo Is Infected? Read This
Tattoo Removal Nightmares: Unsuccessful Tattoo Removal
Tattoo Removal Progress: What Results To Expect
How to Naturally Speed Up Laser Tattoo Removal
Why Does My Tattoo Look Darker After Laser Removal?
What To Know About Tattoo Lightening
Detailing The Laser Tattoo Removal Healing Process

Questions? We have answers.

We advise all of our clients to read up and research as much as possible. The more you know about laser tattoo removal, the more comfortable you’ll be with the whole experience.

Tattoo Education

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Tattoo removal isn't easy, trust the experts and protect your skin

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