So you got tired of weekly shaving and monthly waxing. Both are expensive, unsustainable and the results are short-lasting. After doing your research, you decided that the best way to be rid of unwanted body hair is laser hair removal. All happy with the prospect of having smooth skin all year round, a realization just came up to you: you’ve got tattoos. Now, you are wondering if laser hair removal will affect your tattoos.
Tattoos are not uncommon. They come in all shapes and colors, on all parts of the body. They are quite popular and can have a lot of different meanings based on the wearer. You love your tattoos and know that laser is one way to remove them. So of course, you are wondering if laser hair removal will ruin your prized tattoo, if the treatment will have effects on the ink.
Let us discuss how laser hair removal affects tattoos, how you can still undergo laser hair removal and what options you have.
How does laser hair removal work
Laser hair removal is a long-term hair growth reduction method. The treatment will reduce hair growth by up to 90%. Although laser hair removal does not classify as a permanent hair removal method, a lot of patients do still experience permanent hair removal. A lot of factors can influence the results and length of a laser treatment.
Laser hair removal relies on selective photothermolysis. It is an optical technique used to ablate tissue in targeted regions. The major goal of the technique is to heat targeted tissue with a laser and destroy it without damaging surrounding tissue.
During a laser hair removal session, the laser gun emits light energy that targets the pigments in the hair. Once the melanin has absorbed the energy, the latter travels down to the hair follicle where it turns into thermal energy. The heat will damage the follicle and prevent further hair growth.
For the treatment to work, the hair must be in the anagen phase of growth. Indeed, it is the only time the hair and follicle connect, allowing the energy to go from the former to the latter. Since only 20% of all body hair is in this specific stage at any point in time, one session can treat up to 20% of hair. This is why patients need multiple sessions six weeks apart.
Why is laser hair removal over tattoos not recommended
Certified laser technicians will not apply a laser hair removal treatment over tattooed skin. This has a very logical explanation. As explained above, it is the pigments in the hair that attract the light energy. That energy will damage the hair follicles upon turning into thermal energy and stop hair growth.
While laser hair removal works best on light skin with dark hair, it also is effective on both dark skin with dark hair and light skin with fair hair. Tanning will however put the skin in an excited state that may interfere with the treatment as there will be a change in natural pigmentation. Tattoos will lead to the same issue.
Indeed, tattoos are stored as a pigment in the skin. Thus the laser will be attracted to the ink, which can lead to damaging consequences through the excessive production of heat. Not only can a laser treatment over a tattoo be painful but it can also cause burns, fading or even distortion of the tattoo.
Laser hair removal can permanently damage tattoos and cause blisters that will take a long time to heal. Should you decide to undergo laser hair removal close to tattooed skin, the technician will have to be very careful and avoid any reaction with the ink. You may still do the treatment but will have to laser around the tattoo as there is no way the laser will not affect your tattoos.
Does the treatment work as laser tattoo removal too?
Laser hair removal can affect tattoos and inked skin. It can indeed cause permanent damage. Because both laser hair removal and laser tattoo removal use lasers, it may be tempting to confuse them with each other. However, it is dangerous to do so.
Indeed, both treatments use different lasers with varying intensity. Both will make an impact on the ink although lasers used for laser tattoo removal will break the ink particles and effectively remove any artificial color off the skin.
Although tempting to think otherwise, patients must remember that laser tattoo removal is a completely different procedure with a different purpose and with unique characteristics. Lasers used for hair removal are of many kinds: alexandrite, ND: YAG, diode, etc. Lasers used for tattoo removal are Q-Switch devices that deliver energy much faster so that the laser hits the pigment causing it to fragment.
Can tattooed patients still get laser treatments?
Yes, tattooed patients can still undergo laser hair removal. First of all, the feasibility of the treatment will depend on the location of the tattoo. For example, should you decide to laser your underarms despite having a tattoo on your forearms, your ink will be safe. A tattoo on the thigh will not have any impact on upper lip or Brazilian laser hair removal and vice versa.
However, should you wish to undergo laser hair removal on a body part that holds a tattoo, things may prove trickier. For example, you have a tattoo on the back of your calf and wish to remove unwanted body hair off your lower legs. Here, the technician will have to work around your tattoo. The laser will have to avoid your ink to prevent any damage or alteration.
Indeed, there will ideally be two to three centimetres between the treated parts and the tattoo to keep the art protected and avoid the risk of blisters and burning. You may have to remove hair on the tattoo using other methods such as waxing or shaving as those methods do not affect tattoos.
Can I get a tattoo after laser hair removal?
If you are not inked yet and wish to get a tattoo, we would advise that you wait until the end of your laser hair removal treatment. Laser hair removal can reduce hair growth by up to 90%. The length of a laser treatment will vary from one person to another. Indeed, some people may need only six sessions while others may need up to twelve.
There are indeed many factors that may impact the results of your treatment. The area you choose is one of them. If it is hormonal, you will need more sessions. Thus, it would be safer to wait until your laser treatment is completely over and you have reached satisfactory results before you decide to get a tattoo.
And even after that, we would recommend that you wait some time before getting inked. Indeed, laser hair removal is a treatment that leaves the skin very sensitive to external aggressors and sun damage. You will need to give your skin some time to heal and recover before getting a tattoo.
A few weeks after you are done with laser hair removal, you may contact your local tattoo artist and schedule a consultation to make sure it is safe for you to get a tattoo. Should they give their get go, only then can you get inked.
If you end up undergoing laser tattoo removal, we advise that you wait a few weeks before you try laser hair removal. Again, you should give your skin some time to heal, regenerate and recover from a procedure that is quite intense.