Laser Tattoo Removal Recovery: Tips + What to Expect

Written by WD Staff, Skin Care Specialists on August 28, 2017 14 Comments

laser tattoo removal recovery

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.

Recovery Milestones

  • 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.


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.

14 Responses to “Laser Tattoo Removal Recovery: Tips + What to Expect”

  1. Avatar Jay says:

    So, I don’t need to worry about scabbing or bruising? If so, that would be a huge relief. My husband went in for his first treatment, and now some of that is forming.

  2. Avatar KD says:

    Thanks for this great post. I just had my first session and experienced a bit of pain and bruising. Using a cold pack seems to help though. Can’t wait to get rid of this tattoo 🙂

  3. Avatar Ellie says:

    My boyfriend and I just broke up and I’m wanting to get our matching tattoo removed. Thank you for pointing out that after my treatment it is normal for the area to turn a white color. I’ll have to keep this in mind as I search for the best place in my area to get this tattoo removed.

  4. Avatar Dr. Reyes says:

    Laser tattoo removal session may take one or two weeks to heal completely. The healing process will be faster as you move through the treatments. Second session normally takes 50% less time than the first treatment session to heal. The third session hardly takes 2-3 days, whereas the last session takes less than 24 hours. However, the outcome relies on the way you do the process. So hire a seasoned laser therapist, when it comes to removing a tattoo from the body.

  5. Avatar Daphne says:

    Thanks for pointing out that it takes about six weeks to recover after each session of removal. I’m interested in having my permanent makeup removed, so I’ve been doing some research about what I can expect from the process. I wasn’t sure how long the recovery would be, so I appreciate you sharing that info here!

  6. Avatar Gillian Babcock says:

    Very helpful post, I’m glad I found it. I’m going to start my first treatment this week so it was nice to know more details on what to expect before and after my removal sessions

  7. Avatar Aaron says:

    Having a tattoo is one of my dreams. I have a lot of ideas about what kind of tattoo I want to put on my skin. But the only problem I am worrying is that the removal one when a tattoo artist forgot some important details over your tattoo. Laser technology is great but it cost a little pricey.

    • Avatar Leah says:

      It is of the utmost importance that you research and ask for reviews about the tattooist whom you are considering. The idea that you are even worried that the artist will mess up or forget a detail makes me wonder if you are mature enough for a tattoo. When you decide to go all in and “pull the trigger” set up an appointment with the artist, and bring in your sketch or idea, and discuss all of the details with them, ie, size, location, colors, etc. They can access if all of your ideas will work, and can sketch your idea if you don’t bring a sketch yourself. They can also enhance your sketch if needed. And they never start the tattoo process until you are 100% with final sketch. They even place the outline of it on the location and have you look at it, and approve it. I wish you well, and hope you will love your tattoo forever.

  8. Avatar Silas says:

    Thanks for this post, I understand there may be some minor pain and swelling. I think that’s worth it, especially because I want to get rid of my old girlfriend’s name on my bicep 🙂

  9. Avatar Frank says:

    Nice Article…..

  10. Avatar Mark says:

    Great tips, thanks for sharing 🙂

  11. Avatar Fraser says:

    Great tips about the sunscreen and the massage. I had my first treatment 2 1/2 days ago and was trying to find information online about the bruising I’m experiencing. Once it’s healed I’ll be doing both those to increase ink absorption. The clinic did sell me a bundle including aloe vera gel and sunscreen but I assumed the latter was simply protective and not part of the healing process.

  12. Avatar Craig says:

    Very accurate post, I had my first treatment last week and and confirm much of what you say here

  13. Avatar Janez says:

    Thanks for this info, going in for my first treatment later this week. Was nervous but this really helped

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