hand covering tattoo on neck of black woman

Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work on Dark or Black Skin?

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Tattoos have become an accepted part of society and an increasingly popular fashion accessory, but soon after getting a permanent piece of art drawn on your body, you may come to regret the decision. You can always return to the tattoo artist and get a cover-up, but advancements in technology mean that laser tattoo removal is now a viable option.

However, those with dark or black skin might be wondering whether laser tattoo removal actually works for them. Some believe that tattoos on dark and black skin are harder to remove, while others have heard it will leave more visible scars. But, as extensive research has found, laser tattoo removal on darker-skinned patients works for the vast majority of people. Furthermore, cases of skin lightening and permanent scarring are rare too.

Even so, it is understandable to have certain questions and queries about tattoo removal on dark or black skin; which are answered here.

Risks associated with laser tattoo removal on dark or black skin

Regardless of whether you have dark or fair skin, the risks and side effects associated with laser tattoo removal are much the same. Things like blistering, scabbing, swelling and itching are quite normal, as they are an indication that your immune system has started the healing process. Skin colour does not have any bearing on pain levels, infection or muscle soreness either.

However, those with darker skin might be more susceptible to the following:

Hyperpigmentation

In order to remove tattoos, pulses of different light wavelengths are used to break up the ink. But this can affect the skin’s natural pigment or melanin, resulting in hyperpigmentation. Sometimes these patches of darkened skin will disappear over time, but cosmetic products can be used to make them appear more natural too.

Hypopigmentation

This is where your skin’s natural pigmentation is actually removed and lighter patches will be visible where the tattoo was removed. Due to the contrast between dark skin and light hypopigmentation patches, this can look worse than it actually is. And while it may take months or even years for the skin’s pigment to look normal again, it is bound to be better than the prior tattoo.

Keloid Scars

These are very rare, but can develop as a result of tattoo removal. Keloid scars manifest themselves as a raised and thickened overgrowth of scar tissue that develops around the original wound. Although keloid scars sometimes appear three to six months after removal, several treatments are available to help flatten them.

Does dark or black skin require more laser tattoo removal sessions?

A study entitled ‘A Proposed Scale to Assess Tattoo-removal Treatments’ found that darker skin tones contain pigment colours similar to that of tattoo ink. Therefore, more sessions might be required to effectively remove a tattoo, especially those with darker ink. Understandably, the size of tattoo will also have an affect on the amount of sessions too.

Those administering the treatment might also use lower laser settings and wait longer between treatment sessions to minimise the unwanted side effects on people with darker skin. Hence, the entire process could take a bit longer to complete.

Can the PicoSure laser treat dark or black skin?

Not all laser removal treatments are the same and a lot will depend on the patient or tattoo in question. Owing to the fact that melanin pigment absorbs ultraviolet radiation, this can be a problem when it comes to choosing the right wavelength for tattoo removal. What’s more, tattoos with variations in colour might be resistant to certain wavelengths of light just like bacteria sometimes repel antibiotics.

PicoSure has been heralded as the fastest tattoo removal treatment in the world and can achieve better clearance in 75 per cent less time. This laser delivers ultra short pulse bursts of energy to the tattoo in trillionths of a second. However, there is a higher risk of hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation with PicoSure on darker skin tones. As such, it is not recommended for those that want healthy and natural looking skin after treatment has taken place.

Alternatively, RevLite Laser tattoo removal is more appropriate for those with darker skin. This laser is capable of delivering a 1064 nm wavelength, which is near-infrared light (invisible to humans) and poorly absorbed by melanin, making this the only laser suitable for darker skin. It is the safest wavelength to use on darker skin tissue due to the low melanin absorption and low haemoglobin absorption. RevLite is particularly effective with dark blue, black and red tattoos, but other colours also respond well too.

Andrea Catton

Andrea has over over 40 years experience delivering beauty and skin care treatments and has over 20 years laser experience. Regarded as the number one PicoSure laser technician in the UK, Andrea is trained and qualified to use Aculight HR IPL, Chromolite IPL, N-Lite laser, Ellipse, Episoft MD IPL, ADL Sapphire Nd:YAG, RevLite & PicoSure. Andrea is also a member of the British Institute & Association of Electrolysis, British Medical Laser Association and is fully qualified to teach IPL & laser hair remova

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