Does laser tattoo removal work on dark skin?
In the earlier days of laser tattoo removal, tattooing on dark skin was a far more difficult task that would often result in scars, hyperpigmentation, or hypopigmentation. This was mainly due to the laser technology available at the time and was not something that exclusively happened to dark skin.
Today’s modern pulsed lasers ensure that the skin is not constantly exposed to heat from lasers, which protects the skin and are significantly less likely to leave scars behind. For people with dark skin, getting tattoos removed is a much better process than ever before.
What’s the difference between working with lighter and darker skin?
When removing a tattoo, the laser has to make a distinction between your ink and your skin. If there is a greater contrast between them, the easier it is to remove the tattoo because we can be more aggressive with the laser settings. This is because the pigment in your skin also reflects or absorbs the laser from the light. We want the laser to target the ink pigment in your skin, not your skin’s pigment.
Depending on where your skin color falls on the Fitzpatrick scale — a classification system created by the dermatologist Thomas B. Fitzpatrick that estimates different skin types’ responses to ultraviolet (UV) light — you may require a greater or fewer number of removal sessions.
There are 6 categories on the Fitzpatrick scale:
- Type I: the palest; always burns and never tans; may have freckles
- Type II: usually burns; tans minimally
- Type III: sometimes gets mild burns but tans cleanly across the board
- Type IV: moderate brown; minimally burns but will always tan well
- Type V: dark brown; very rarely burns and tans easily
- Type VI: darkest brown; never burns
If you have dark-colored ink on Type VI skin, removing the tattoo will likely take more sessions because we can’t be as aggressive in removing the tattoo as we would be with dark-colored ink on Type I skin.
The number of sessions is the one difference when it comes to removing tattoos on dark skin.
But the biggest difference is that only black ink can be safely removed from darker skin. Removing any other ink colors from darker skin increases the risk of a change in the skin’s natural color.
What is the best laser for removing tattoos from dark skin?
The best laser for removing tattoos from dark skin is the Nd:YAG laser. The Nd:YAG laser operates using near-infrared light, which is harder for more pigmented skin to absorb. Plus, this laser operates at two different wavelengths, so it can remove darker and brighter ink colors.
Risks of removing tattoos from dark skin
The risks of removing tattoos from dark skin are really the same as they would be for anyone getting a tattoo removed. But those with darker skin are more susceptible to the following:
Keloid scars are rare, and thankfully are becoming more scarce due to the improvements in tattoo removal laser technology. Keloid scars are a type of raised scar tissue that occur around the area that is undergoing laser removal.
Keloids can happen to people regardless of skin color, but there is a slightly higher chance of them happening to people of color.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when patches of skin become darker than the surrounding skin. Hyperpigmentation, when caused by laser tattoo removal, usually fades within a few months.
Hypopigmentation occurs when some skin becomes lighter than the rest of the skin around it. Hypopigmentation is more likely to occur on darker skin than on lighter skin. Unlike hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation does not fade away. For people with darker skin, hypopigmentation is one of the biggest concerns and can occur quite easily if you’re working with an inexperienced laser technician.
How can I avoid any issues with removing a tattoo from dark skin?
The best way to avoid scarring, hyperpigmentation, and hypopigmentation is to make sure your laser technician is one with a lot of experience. Using the wrong settings when removing a tattoo from dark skin can leave detrimental results.
Dr. Ink Eraser has been around for more than 20 years, so we have a great deal of experience when it comes to removing tattoos from dark skin.
Contact us today for a tattoo removal quote.