Will Laser Hair Removal Ruin My Tattoo?

laser hair removal

Do you have a lot of ink and you’re wondering if getting laser hair removal will damage your tattoos? You’re not the only one!

It is a common misconception that you can’t receive laser hair removal if you have tattoos in the area you want to be treated, but that’s not necessarily true. However, the answer isn’t exactly black and white either. In fact, the answer to the question “Will laser hair removal ruin my tattoo?” is this: it depends.

Where Is Your Tattoo?

If you have a tattoo on your ribs and are targeting the body hair on your underarms, you likely won’t have a problem. You can expect an issue if you have a full sleeve and want to get rid of the hair on your arms, or if you have a tattoo on your thigh and want laser hair removal on your legs. Unfortunately, laser hair removal cannot be done over the tattoo and must work around it, so keep that in mind if you’re planning to get any more tattoos in the future.

How Laser Hair Removal Works

Laser hair removal works by targeting the melanin or pigment of the hair using wavelengths of light. This destroys the hair follicle, ensuring it doesn’t grow back again. Thick, dark hairs are easier for the laser to target, which is why areas such as the underarms, arms, bikini line, and back are a popular choice for those seeking laser hair removal. The peach fuzz that many women have on their face is much harder to eliminate, but not impossible.

Since hair grows in cycles and each hair is at a different point in the cycle, a number of treatments are required in order to target all of the hair in an area. True Lasers, or any other class IV FDA approved lasers, are able to target the hair follicles within the layers of the skin without causing any damage to the skin’s surface. This makes them popular for those with darker skin tones, as they won’t cause any skin pigmentation.

Learn more about how laser hair removal works by watching this video, which explains the technical details of laser treatments:

How Laser Hair Removal Affects Tattoos

Lasers are designed to target the pigment of the hair, which is located in the hair follicle deep in the layers of the skin. The hair pigment absorbs the laser, ultimately destroying the follicle and preventing the hair from growing back. If laser hair removal is done on tattooed skin, there’s no way for the laser to know not to target the pigment of the tattoo ink. Even if the tattoo is unwanted and you plan to have it lasered off anyway, the equipment used for laser hair removal isn’t designed to do both. Instead, the lasers will cause severe skin damage and burning that can lead to scarring in the future.

What Your Options Are

If you’re trying to keep your tattoo but get rid of the surrounding hair, you licensed medical laser technician will likely create a template to place over your ink. This will ensure that the laser doesn’t affect the skin around your tattoo and allow you to get hair removal everywhere else. Typically your laser technician will ensure there are at least 2 to 3 centimeters between your tattoo and the treated area. As long as your tattoo is protected, there’s no risk of it being ruined by laser hair removal.

For those who are looking into getting rid of an unwanted tattoo as well as laser hair removal, it’s best to focus on getting rid of the tattoo first. You will likely have to wait until you laser tattoo removal is complete before you can start the hair elimination process, but each case is different. It really depends on where your tattoo is located and how much overlap there is between your ink and the hair you want to be removed.

The best solution, when faced with a problem like this, is to speak to a licensed medical laser technician during your free consultation and explain to him or her what your goal is—and then allow them to come up with the best plan for you. Most laser clinics will customize your treatment to best suit your skin, hair, and overall objective. Don’t hesitate to call and schedule your free consultation appointment today!