Laser Tattoo Removal Side Effects

Laser Tattoo Removal: Possible side effects, and how to handle them

Laser tattoo tattoo removal on men
laser tattoo removal scars

Whether it was a well thought out and carefully planned commemoration of something or someone special in your life, or an impulsive decision, sometimes a tattoo is no longer a sign of who you are. Top Laser tattoo removal clinics are often the recommended removal method, but the side effects can sound scary. Let’s discuss them and how to handle them.


Swelling is one of the body’s natural defenses against what it perceives as an assault. It often happens after being bitten by an insect or a severe injury like a broken bone, but it can also occur during tattoo removal, due to the laser’s heat. Usually, if it happens, it will happen fairly immediately after the treatment, and should only last a day or so.

Treatment: As long as you’re certain it’s not a rare allergic reaction, simply ice it every few hours.


Frosting tends to happen pretty immediately after the session. Frosting is the result of carbon dioxide being released due to the laser’s penetration and surfaces in the upper layers of the skin. Its name comes from its similarity in appearance to, you guessed it, cake frosting. Generally speaking, frosting will disappear about 20-30 minutes after the session, and is usually at its worst for the first session. Subsequent sessions will see less, if any.

Treatment: Do nothing. It’ll go away on its own within a short time.


Like spending a day in the sun with no sunscreen, tattoo removal can cause blisters. It causes small blood vessels to break and these form superficial blisters with water and ink inside. Blisters, like frosting, are actually a great indication that the removal is working.

Treatment: Don’t pop them. Don’t touch them at all, in fact, if you can help it. If they’re intact, simply leave them alone. If any are cracked or have popped on their own, cover them with a very loose bandage that doesn’t touch the blisters, and apply an antibacterial ointment to keep them moist and free of infection. Intact blisters should heal on their own in 3-14 days.


Itching is probably the most annoying, and difficult to deal with, side effect. It’s an indication that your immune system is kicking in and starting the healing process, which is a very good sign. Scratching can interfere with the tattoo removal process, however, so it’s very important that you resist the urge, no matter how tempting it is to give in. You could also break the skin, creating the potential for infection.

Treatment: Don’t scratch. Avoid hot showers, as they’ll dry out your skin and make the itch worse. Generally speaking, you should avoid putting creams or lotions on the removal site, but you could use a fragrance-free moisturizer or cream, if it’s bad enough. You should ask your laser operator for a trusted brand and any other advice they may have.


Scabbing comes after the blisters, and is an excellent sign of healing. It also tends to be dry, which leads to more of the itching mentioned above.

Treatment: Don’t pick or peel them off, as it increases risk of scarring. Generally, most scabs fall off within 2 weeks, so just do your best to ignore them.


Hyperpigmentation is when the skin becomes darker, and hypopigmentation is, of course, the opposite. It can take months, or even years, for the skin to go back to normal, and in some instances, it may be permanent. Even if it’s permanent, it’s likely much better than the tattoo you’re removing.

Treatment: Whether temporary or permanent, there’s not much you can do to resolve this one. There are cosmetic coverups, such as sunless tanning products or makeup, that can be a temporary fix, but there’s no permanent solution.

Discomfort/Muscle Soreness

Depending on the area of the tattoo, you may or may not experience discomfort or muscle soreness.

Treatment: Ice it with a compress wrapped in a towel, or take an OTC pain reliever. Do not use topical pain relief rubs.


Infection is rare, and usually occurs when the skin is broken by a popped blister or scratching.

Treatment: See a doctor if you have signs of infection.


Today’s laser tattoo removal only results in scarring in about 2% of cases.

Treatment: Vitamin E oil or OTC silicone patches. No cosmetic treatment until skin is fully healed. Stay hydrated and stop smoking.

Most of these side effects of removing tattoos are uncommon, and if they do occur, they don’t last long or are easily treated.