Recovering from Laser Tattoo Removal: Tips + What to Expect
The removal of tattoos using lasers is an increasingly popular procedure. Letting the skin properly heal after each laser tattoo removal treatment session is important for several reasons. First, following all aftercare instructions will help to prevent any unwanted side effects like scarring, infection, or skin texture changes. Additionally, proper healing increases the efficacy of each treatment resulting in patients realizing full removal in fewer treatments.
While tattoo removal is a relatively minor procedure, there are some critical post-treatment guidelines that should be followed. This article will give you a good idea of the recovery process, along with some tips on making the process both easier and faster.
Note: The process of recovering from laser treatments can differ greatly from individual to individual as each individual differs in terms of their body’s recovery process and pain tolerance. Additionally, different laser technologies have different effects on healing and recovery time. As such, your recovery could differ from what is outlined within this post.
- Directly Following Treatment: Treated skin typically turns to a frosty white color, which is caused by the release of carbon dioxide as the laser penetrates the skin. This is completely normal.
- 8 to 72 Hours Following Treatment: Treated skin begins to peel or blister. Scabs and crust along the skin can also develop during this time.
- 1 to 2 Weeks Following Treatment: All blistering, scabs, and other signs of irritation should fully subside. (Healing time can vary depending on body location)
- 4 to 6 Weeks Following Treatment: Treated skin is typically fully healed and the patient is ready to undergo an additional treatment session if necessary
- 6 to 8 Weeks: Schedule next treatment session for tattoo removal if desired
Pain and Bruising
Laser tattoo removal involves the creation of a superficial skin wound, which can result in minor pain, bruising, swelling, or other irritation along the treated area. Patients can use Tylenol to soothe any discomforts following treatment. We also recommend apply aquaphor or Elta laser enzyme balm to the treated area to help promote healing and soothe irritated skin. These side effects often resolve on their own within 2 weeks.
Scarring and Pigmentation Issues
Once scabbing along the skin dissipates it is common for the skin to appear pink or pale in color until it fully heals. Pigmentation issues (either excess or reduced skin pigment) can occur but is temporary except in rare cases. The development of scarring (hypertrophic or keloid) along the treated area is also possible but extremely uncommon.
Tips for a Speedy Recovery
- A cold compress can be applied to the area for the first 24 hours following treatment to reduce pain and discomfort.
- Avoid physical activity (sweating) for24 hours.
- Try to keep the area clean and dry.
- Avoid hot water, saunas, hot tubs, high pressure showers, and lakes for 1-2 weeks following treatment.
- Shield the treated area from direct sun exposure while recovering.
- After healing, apply sunscreen to the treated area for 5-10 days regardless of sun exposure. This can help reduce itching and speed up the ink absorption process.
- Only drain blisters if they are very large, instead let them resolve naturally if possible
- Refrain from picking or peeling the scabs or skin at the treatment area.
- Shaving the treated area should be avoided until fully healed.
- Take Tylenol to help with pain. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen should be avoided.
- No tanning of any kind (sun, spray, or self-tanning) for 4-6 weeks following treatment.
- At 5-10 days following treatment, massaging the treated area for 5-10 minutes daily can help speed up ink absorption.
- Stay properly hydrated by drinking lots of water.
Following these tips should help increase the efficacy of your laser treatments and speed the removal process. Contact your provider immediately should you have any questions or concerns.