There are numerous tattoo removal options available if you’ve grown tired of old ink. Some, like laser tattoo removal, are pretty tolerable on the pain scale while also being very effective.
You may be wondering about what remains on your skin when your tattoo has been zapped out of existence. While it varies depending on each person and each tattoo, we’ve put together ways to help prevent or minimize any scarring that may come from tattoo removal.
Table of Contents (clickable)
What Causes Tattoo Scarring?
A new tattoo is a wound, created by needles injecting ink into your dermis. This ink could have settled on various layers of your dermis, depending on the heavy-handedness of your artist, the needles being used, or the tattooing techniques. Though our body tries to fight off the foreign substance injected into this wound (ink), doing so over the years of us carrying it, our bodies continue to perceive our tattoo as a site with foreign substances that needs clearing.
During laser tattoo removal, the equipment shoots out quick and powerful heat-bursts in various wavelengths to break apart the ink into tiny particles that can be absorbed by the bloodstream. The laser begins working on the most shallow inks while working deeper with each session.
The intense heat along with your body being put into recovery-overdrive, trying to eliminate and remove the particles through the bloodstream, can cause scarring, regardless of the skill and experience of the tattoo removal specialist.
Sometimes if your skin is highly sensitive to the heat, you may also experience blistering, much like an intense sunburn. It is crucial that you do not touch, pop, or disturb these blisters as they can leave serious scars and also introduce bacteria to the area.
It is important that you ask for thorough pre- and post-procedure care instructions from your tattoo removal specialist, so you can be sure that you are primed to combat as much scarring as possible.
How To Prevent or Reduce Tattoo Removal Scarring
While you can never be certain that your particular skin, the tattoo you are removing, or the location experiencing the removal won’t experience some form of scarring, there are ways to prevent severe scarring from forming.
- Take the advice of a qualified professional. We always recommend taking extensive time to research the facility you plan to use for your tattoo removal. Ensure you ask many questions, have a thorough list of pre- and post-procedure care instructions, and are able to look at before-and-after photos of clients of the facility.
Qualified specialists have additional certifications in tattoo removal, are using top-of-the-line equipment, and will provide you with the best quality of care during and after your procedure. It is very uncommon for laser tattoo removal to leave scarring. Normally, following their instructions very carefully will eliminate any issues.
- Do not rush the healing process. Between sessions, you are often given six to eight weeks of recovery; if you try and move onto another session too quickly, you will be doing the procedure over-sensitive, under-healed skin, putting you at risk for greater damage or scarring.
- Do not touch your tattoo after sessions. Other than cleaning or rewrapping bandages (if you are asked to do so), you should keep your hands off of the blisters or scabs that form on the area where you are removing your tattoo. If they break, crack, or bleed, you are at risk for introducing bacteria into the wound and perhaps causing scars to form.
- Stay out of the sun. After a tattoo removal session, your skin may feel like you are recovering from a serious sunburn. What’s the last thing you want to do? Go lay out in more sun, of course! Be sure to keep out of direct sun and cover the recovering area when you are out and about. After a week or two of healing, you should also be applying sunscreen to the area.And you should also consider applications of sunscreen in the days leading up to your first session, as this helps prevent hyperpigmentation during the removal process.
- Stay hydrated. Increasing your water intake and avoiding dehydrating drinks like alcohol or caffeine help increase your circulation which, in turn, help bring more white blood cells to the recovery area. This will help with fading the tattoo as it heals, and will also increase your immunity’s natural healing time.
- Avoid or quit smoking (if you can help it). Numerous health studies have shown that smoking severely affects the efficiency of laser tattoo removal, causing an increase in sessions (thus, an increase in cost). If you consider that smoking affects circulation by constricting blood vessels, and good circulation is crucial for in-between session healing, this makes a lot of sense.
- Exercise and sweat it out. Since circulation is the key to removing all those ink particles that have been zapped apart by laser equipment, after your first week of healing (to ensure you don’t break any blisters), get into a cardio routine where you get your blood pumping.
- Choose laser removal for your tattoo removal. Compared to using a cream that removes tattoos, other options, such as dermabrasion or surgical removal, are not only more painful but have been shown to cause more scarring than laser removal. In addition, laser removal has been known to be the most effective removal option. If done correctly, and if aftercare protocols are followed carefully, there is usually no scarring. But as a word of caution, avoid any and all creams that advertise that they remove tattoos as they usually cause burns and excessive scarring.
What Is Keloid Scarring and Is It Normal for Tattoo Removals?
Keloid scarring happens when there is an overproduction of collagen to the wounded area. The cells that are coming to the wound to help heal it continue to produce collagen, causing excessive production of scar tissue over the area. Some patients experience this specific type of scarring following a tattoo removal procedure.
Not everyone experiences keloid scarring. Most people who develop keloid scars are prone to them; they have a history of injuries healing in this way.
If you have keloid-prone skin, it’s important to speak to your dermatologist about it, prior to consulting with a specialist for your laser tattoo removal. There are also treatments that help remove or minimize keloid scars.
If you do not have a history of keloid scars, you likely have nothing to worry about when it comes to your tattoo removal. You can still discuss the fear with your specialist but they will probably tell you the same.
Can You Get a Tattoo Removed Without Scarring?
Scarring is very uncommon for laser tattoo removal if:
- You are being treated by a high-quality specialist
- They are using the latest modern laser equipment
- You are given careful before-and-after care instructions
- You don’t rush to each session but allow yourself the six to eight weeks to heal properly.
There are other factors to keep in mind when it comes to the possibility of scarring, as they may influence how difficult or impossible it is to remove a tattoo.
- The age of the tattoo
- Where the tattoo is located
- The color of the pigment used
- The skill of the artist
- Your skin texture and tone
- How much ink there is, and which layers of dermis they are in
- The age of the individual getting the tattoo removed and their health
It’s important that you discuss any fears you may have regarding scarring with the tattoo removal specialist or your dermatologist, who will walk you through what you can expect for your particular case.
Our Final Thoughts
Scarring from laser tattoo removal can almost always be avoided. You could experience a bit of discoloration on the area where your tattoo once was, but that’s totally normal and may even fade to normal over time. In order to ensure your tattoo removal process heals as best and as scar-free as possible, discuss everything carefully with your specialist and adhere to all aftercare procedures.