How Laser Tattoo Removal Affects Body Hair

A common concern for those looking to receive laser tattoo removal treatments is how the laser will affect the hair in the area surrounding their unwanted ink.
Since many people don’t fully understand the technology behind the lasers used for both laser tattoo removal and laser hair removal treatments, many assume the same lasers are used for both procedures, leading to the assumption that getting a tattoo removed will also remove or damage body hair.

Those looking to have a tattoo removed on an area of the body where missing body hair would be obvious (such as the scalp or arms and chest for men) tend to put up with unwanted tattoos for longer than they should. So, rather than procrastinate getting laser hair removal any longer, learn the truth about how these treatments will affect body hair.

The Different Targets

When receiving laser hair removal treatments, lasers designed to target and damage hair follicles are used. This is how these treatments are able to provide permanent results. On the other hand, the lasers used for tattoo removal are designed to target different colors of pigment found in a tattoo’s ink. Since the hair and ink are found in different layers of the skin, tattoo removal can be performed without damaging or permanently affecting hair growth in the area.

The Layers of the Skin

To understand how laser tattoo removal differs from laser hair removal, it’s best to first understand the layers of the skin. The skin is made up of three separate layers: the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. Body fat and connective tissue make up the hypodermis, which is the deepest layer of the skin. The mid layer, the dermis, is where the hair follicles and sweat glands can be found, and the epidermis is considered the protective layer of the skin.

While both hair follicles and tattoo ink can be found in the dermis layer, the two are considered to be worlds apart. The dermis has two layers within itself: the reticular dermis and the papillary dermis. Ink from a tattoo rests toward the top of the dermis layer in the papillary dermis, so that a tattoo can be seen through the epidermis. The papillary dermis intertwines with the epidermis to make this possible.

Body hair, on the other hand, can be found throughout the dermis and epidermis layers, providing an additional protective layer for our skin. The hair follicle however, which is what is targeted by lasers to permanently remove hair, is found in the deeper layer of the dermis, namely in the reticular dermis. While this is only millimeters away from the papillary dermis where tattoo ink lays, they might as well be miles apart when careful laser tattoo removal treatments are being performed.

Different Wavelengths of Energy

The lasers used for laser hair removal are very different from the lasers used for tattoo removal, but those who don’t understand how lasers’ wavelengths are measured may find that confusing. Lasers all emit wavelengths that are measured in nanometers. This measurement not only differentiates lasers used for hair removal from those used for tattoo removal, but also differentiates the different settings used for the various pigment colors in the ink. The most common wavelengths used for laser tattoo removal are 1064 nm, 532 nm, 694 nm and 755 nm—all specific for different ink colors and skin types.

Lasers used for hair removal also emit wavelengths of 755 nm to remove hair, similar to the 755 nm tattoo removal laser used to remove blue and green tattoo ink pigments; however, the pulse duration used in each treatment is very different. The duration of laser pulses used in hair removal are far longer than those used in tattoo removal, as the laser needs to reach further into the layers of the skin to be able to reach the hair follicles. This allows the lasers to target different areas of the dermis without damaging the epidermis.

Find Out What Kind of Laser Is Being Used

One of the biggest mistakes people make when researching places to have their laser tattoo removal treatments done is focusing on the price of each session rather than the kind of laser being used and how well trained the technicians are. Even though there are great lasers out there that won’t affect the body hair after sessions, that doesn’t mean the laser clinic around the corner is using them. Generally, lower end laser spas will use one or two lasers for all of the treatments they offer. Using the wrong laser or a laser set to the wrong setting for a tattoo removal will not only increase the chance of blistering and scarring, but the removal process will be much slower compared to those who use the latest technology. One can end up spending more money on treatments and might have to wait years before being happy with the results.

Additionally, if a laser technician isn’t trained properly, there’s a higher risk of damage being done to the hair surrounding the unwanted ink. Laser tattoo removal treatments should only be performed by a licensed medical professional who has been properly trained on the laser they are using.

In conclusion, few people experience any difference to their hair growth pattern after laser tattoo removal treatments, as the lasers being used shouldn’t target hair follicles. Similar to when the tattoo was done, however, a laser technician might shave the area so that they’re able to clearly see the lines of unwanted ink. If a tattoo is on the scalp or chest, understand that this might be an area where the skin is bare or stubbly for a few months while treatments are being performed.

Some hair loss after laser hair removal treatments is normal, especially for those whose unwanted tattoo is in an area where body hair is excessive. The hair also tends to grow back slower than usual after each treatment until the area is able to fully recover when tattoo removal is complete. These side effects are certainly not permanent though, and very few people experience them.

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Paul A. Boulos
Dr. Paul A. Boulos is an excellent and versatile cosmetic surgeon, passionate about his vocation and helping others. Dr. Boulos is an alumni of Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his General Surgery training at Inspira Medical in Southern New Jersey. He studied and learn under Dr. Joseph Castellano, one of the premier breast and body Cosmetic Surgeons in South Florida. He currently works as a Cosmetic Surgeon at Jolie Plastic Surgery in Miami, FL.