Why are Tattoos Hard to Remove?

Since tattoos are meant to be permanent, that means they can tricky to remove – even when treated by the leading laser tattoo removal technology. There are particular reasons why some tattoos can be harder to treat than others, which we have explained in this post.

As a refresher: A tattoo is created by using small needles to first puncture the skin and then deposit inks, dyes, and pigments into the deep layer (dermis) of the skin. Older tattoo methods (and DIY ‘stick and poke’ methods) involved a tattoo artist puncturing the skin manually with a needle and injecting the ink by hand. Modern tattoo methods are much more refined; professional tattoo artists now use tattoo machines that move the needle up and down to deposit the ink quickly, evenly, and efficiently.

Because the ink is deposited into the deeper layer(s) of the skin, tattoos are effectively permanent since your body cannot break down and flush away the large tattoo ink particles. Because of this, specialized methods are required to safely remove a tattoo.

Laser tattoo removal uses lasers of different wavelengths to break down ink into smaller, manageable particles, which can then be removed naturally by the body’s lymphatic system.

Here are the main factors that can make a tattoo hard to remove:

Depth of the Ink
Ink is injected into the dermis (the second layer of skin) during the tattooing process. The more superficial the ink is, the easier it is to remove. We use the 2019 Candela PicoWay for all of our tattoo removal treatments which effectively targets tattoo inks – regardless of their depth – while minimizing damage to the surrounding skin.

Density and Age
Even though it is hard for our bodies to naturally break down tattoo ink, it still happens to some extent. This can be because of the type of ink used, or because of the age of the tattoo. Either way, the more dispersed and ‘broken up’ (faded and/or blown out) the ink is, the easier it is remove. If your tattoo has thick, solid lines or swaths of color, that generally means more treatments, as there is more ink to break down, and more work for your body to do to flush it all out.

Ink Color
Different colors require lasers of different wavelengths for effective removal, and some inks are easier to remove than others. Black is the easiest to remove, while bold colors are the most challenging and often require more treatment sessions. Even white ink can require more treatments.

Our PicoWay lasers are able to break up inks of all colors, largely due to its multiple types of laser wavelengths. Our highly-trained laser technicians evaluate each client’s tattoo to ensure the correct wavelengths are being used to most effectively remove the tattoo ink.

If you had your tattoo done on top of existing scar tissue, or if the tattoo process created scarring, this could make it more difficult for the laser to penetrate your skin to break up the ink. Because scar tissue encapsulates the ink, it works as a barrier that makes it harder for the laser to reach the ink. It’s not impossible to treat, but it may require more treatments.

Skin Tone
Lasers interact with pigments, including those naturally occurring in melanin, which determines the skin tone. In essence, the darker the skin tone, the more energy is absorbed into the skin instead of the ink particles. Since lasers can remove all pigments, including those in the skin, the power of the laser needs to be reduced to ensure that clients with darker skin tone don’t experience hypopigmentation, which is an unwanted lightening of the skin.

The Fitzpatrick scale is what our technicians use to determine each client’s skin tone, allowing them to use the correct laser strength to minimize skin discoloration. In some instances, laser tattoo removal isn’t entirely effective for certain ink color/skin tone combinations.

At Eraser Clinic we are the tattoo removal experts. We offer free consultations and will happily answer any questions you may have about laser tattoo removal. Book your Free Consultation with us today!