Can Lasers Completely Remove Color Tattoos?

Written by WD Staff, Skin Care Specialists on May 6, 2019 2 Comments

removing color tattoo

One of the most common questions received from tattoo removal patients revolves around the removal of colored tattoos. Ink color does play a role in tattoo removal success. Colored tattoos often require more treatment sessions to completely remove compared to all-black tattoos. However full removal of even the most colorful tattoos is possible.

Why are colored tattoos harder to remove?

Laser tattoo removal works by delivering laser light energy into pigmented skin. This transmission shatters the targeted tattoo ink into tiny particles while leaving the surrounding tissue unharmed. Fractured ink particles are later absorbed and eliminated by the body through natural metabolic processes.

In order to be removed, ink colors must be able to absorb enough laser light to be broken down. Ink colors vary in their ability to absorb laser light. Black ink is able to absorb a wide spectrum of laser light wavelengths making it the easiest color to remove. In contrast, colored ink is only able to absorb a relatively small laser wavelength, limiting the efficacy of each treatment.

All ink colors have selected light absorption spectra. For the treatment of a specific color to be effective, lasers must have the proper wavelength to emit adequate energy within the given absorption spectrum of the pigment.

A color must be able to absorb the laser in order to be broken down and removed. It is particularly important to ensure that the laser is able to emit the proper wavelength necessary to remove a certain color.

What are the hardest colors to remove?

  • Easiest colors to remove: Black tattoos (or ones that use gradients of gray and black for shading) are the easiest tattoos to remove.
  • Slightly difficult to remove: Red, dark blue, or dark green colored inks are also fairly easy colors to remove since these inks have darker hues and are better able to absorb laser light.
  • More difficult to remove: Lighter toned colors like purple, green, yellow, and standard blue are more difficult types of colors to remove since their absorption spectrums are lower. Neon colors can also be difficult to remove.
  • Most difficult to remove: White is the most difficult color to remove as laser removal treatments can actually cause white ink to darken.

PiQo4 laser technology

The PiQo4 laser only targets pigment (ink of the tattoo) while leaving all surrounding non-pigmented skin unaffected. It is a very precise treatment with four different wavelengths the 1064nm treats the darker colors; like black and dark blues and the 532nm treats the colors like reds, yellow and orange. The 585nm treats different shades of light blue and greens along with purple. Lastly the 650nm treats other shades of greens. This enables the PiQo4 laser to treat darker, multi-colored, and complex tattoos more efficiently, with more significant removal in much less time than traditional tattoo removal lasers.

Skin color also matters

The interaction between your skin color and the color of your tattoo can also play a role in the efficacy of removal. Generally speaking, the greater the contrast between your skin color and tattoo pigment, the quicker removal will be. Sharper contrasts between the two allow the laser to better target ink.

Other ink-related considerations:

Beyond color, there are two other ink-related tattoo characteristics that determine how easy removal will be: the amount of ink used and layering.

  • Ink Amount: Professional tattoos tend to use more ink compared to amateur tattoos, meaning their removal will require more treatments.
  • Layering: Layered tattoos (which often occur when a patient tries to cover up their initial tattoo with another one) are difficult to remove and require significantly more treatments than singular tattoos.

Overall complete tattoo removal of all colors is possible. It is often a process that requires multiple treatments. There are many factors that play a role in how many treatments it will ultimately take. Come into our office for a consult to learn more about the PIQO4 laser and pricing of our treatments.

WD Staff

A united group of skin care specialists from Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, Austin's leader in Dermatology and Plastic Surgery. Articles posted under WD staff are authored through combined contributions from our entire team, including Plastic Surgeons, Dermatologists, Aestheticians, Physician Assistants, Aesthetic Nurses, and Patient Coordinators.

2 Responses to “Can Lasers Completely Remove Color Tattoos?”

  1. Avatar Brandon says:

    I had a pretty colorful tattoo (had red and blue) and laser removal was very effective. It did take 9 sessions over a few months but its completely gone now

  2. Avatar Jerry says:

    Thanks for sharing this information.

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