Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is tattoo removal safe?"
I have some embarassing tattoos on my arms that I don't want any more. I was looking into having them removed. Should I talk to my doctor about it? Is it safe to have them removed or could I make my skin permanently damaged?
If you are interested in having your tattoos removed, you should set up an appointment with a dermatologist who performs laser tattoo removal to discuss the procedure. Laser tattoo removal is becoming very popular. It is generally well tolerated, but there are some side effects to consider. The most common side effect that people experience is that, after every laser session, the skin around the tattoo tends to be red and inflamed, much like a bad sun burn. Keeping the skin clean, dry, and protected is usually all that is needed, and this clears up in a few days. Occasionally, there can be blistering or crusting over of the skin; in these cases, it is even more important to protect the skin, as the risk of infection is higher. The most serious side effects from laser tattoo removal are changes in the color of the skin. In particular hypopigmentation, where the skin becomes lighter than the surrounding skin, is a potential side effect, especially in people with darker skin tones. Hypopigmentation from the laser can take months to years to resolve and, in some cases, it can be permanent. You will definitely want to discuss the risk of hypopigmentation with your dermatologist before deciding on the procedure.