Does Laser Tattoo Removal Hurt?

By Courtney Gill, PA-C October 23, 2018 No Comments

does laser tattoo removal hurt

It’s one of the most common questions we receive about laser tattoo removal: “How much will it hurt?”

It sounds like a simple question, however, there are multiple variables that determine whether or not each individual patient finds the procedure painful. Here’s what every patient should know about the pain and discomfort of laser tattoo removal.

Pain Level Compared to Getting a Tattoo

It’s true that laser tattoo removal can cause moderate pain and discomfort. The treatment involves the creation of a superficial skin wound, which can result in pain, bruising, swelling, or other irritation along the treatment area. As the energy from the laser’s pulse of light hits the skin many patients describe a feeling of getting snapped by a rubber band or experiencing a grease-splash burn (think cooking bacon).

However, most patients say that the pain from laser tattoo removal was relatively equivalent to the pain they experienced when getting that tattoo done. Basically, if you endured getting the tattoo in the first place you’ll be fine getting it removed!

How Long Pain Lasts

Patients will only feel pain or discomfort while the treatment is being done (i.e. while laser energy penetrates the treatment area). There is no residual pain or discomfort once the treatment is finished. Advanced tattoo lasers like PiQo4 only require a single pass over the tattoo, making treatments very quick. This super-fast (pico-second), new technology means treatment sessions only last for a few minutes, meaning most patients will only experience a short period of discomfort.

Characteristics of Your Tattoo

There are many different factors, including age of the tattoo, location, size, and type of ink/colors used, that determine both the number of treatments each patient needs and how long each individual treatment session takes. For example, black ink tattoos are easier to remove (i.e. require less treatments of a shorter duration) compared to colorful tattoos. Since pain only occurs during the treatment, patients with tattoos that require longer treatments will experience more pain than those who need shorter treatment.

Pain Tolerance

Every person is unique when it comes to how well they tolerate pain. Certain locations on the body are also more sensitive than others. Some tattoo removal patients have said they felt absolutely no pain or discomfort whatsoever during their treatment sessions, while some cringe with each pulse of the laser.

Minimizing Pain

There are a few ways to mitigate pain and discomfort during a laser tattoo removal treatments session. Patients may use a non-aspirin pain reliever like Tylenol prior to their procedure. Some providers will also offer to do the treatment using topical numbing, injectable lidocaine, and cold air to minimize pain. Other distraction techniques like tapping also offer some relief for patients as well.

We tailor each tattoo removal session to the individual. The type of pain minimization, duration of treatment and technique is custom made for each patient. Please come in for a free consultation and further information at our Westlake Location.


Courtney Gill, PA-C

Courtney Gill PA-C, Certified Physician Assistant, earned her Masters in Physician Assistant Studies from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Texas. She is qualified to diagnose, treat and prescribe appropriate medical therapy for various dermatological conditions. Courtney sees patients at our Westlake location.


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