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How does laser tattoo removal work?

My Skin

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, with the total surface area being around 2m2 for the average human (1). Your skin is broadly comprised of three layers which vary in thickness depending on the location around the body. The outside layer is the epidermis, which acts as a protective barrier and contains melanin which determines the colour of your skin. The dermis houses your sweat glands, hair, hair follicles, muscles, sensory neurons, and blood vessels (2). The subcutaneous fat layer attaches the dermis to the muscle and bone structures underneath. It protects the human body from external compression and stretches and slides the skin in response to external force (3).

Process of tattooing_edited.jpg

My Tattoo

Professional tattooing aims to inject ink through a hollow needle, through the epidermis, down into the dermal layer. As part of your body’s immune response, your lymphatic system will react to the foreign body (ink) and try to remove the particles from your body. Some of the ink is transported away and will end up in other organs to be excreted (discharged as waste matter). Most of the ink remains in the dermal layer as the particles are too big to be digested by the lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell that helps your body fight infection). Studies have reported that 42 days after tattooing, 68 percent of the dye was still located at the injection site (4).


Usually tattoo artists receive pre-mixed colours, though some may mix their own. Either way they will primarily contain a colour-giving pigment, in addition to a multitude of other substances such as preservatives, emulsifiers, solvents and metals. According to recently published research, tattoo inks can contain up to 100 different individual substances. Despite being injected into your body, tattoo inks are not classified as pharmaceuticals, medicinal products, or cosmetics. This means there are no internationally valid standards that govern the composition of the ink. As the ink used is not a standard material, the way the laser will react to the ink will differ (5). The removal process also depends on factors such as the location of the tattoo, the age of the tattoo and your body’s health.

Tattoo Removal

My laser tattoo removal treatment

Laser - Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation


Your tattoo ink sits in large particles in the dermal layer of your skin. The specific laser used in tattoo removal has enough energy to penetrate the dermal layer and shatters the top layer of these particles. The rest is up to your body’s immune response to effectively clear these particle’s. Depending on the tattoo, and your body’s immune response at the site of the tattoo, you will typically need around 8 sessions to fully break down all the layers of the tattoo for complete removal. The number of sessions typically needed depends on:


  • Immune response / general health

  • Toxins in the body (Smoking / drinking / use of drugs)

  • Medical conditions (e.g. vascular disease)

  • Stresses on the laser site (e.g. friction from clothing rubbing)

  • Infection

  • Skin type

  • External temperature

  • Diet

  • Age of tattoo

  • Location (extremities tend to heal slower due to distance from the heart / freshly pumped oxygenated blood)

  • Amount of ink

  • Type and colour of ink used


You may be wanting a cover up tattoo, in this case we will work with you and your tattoo artist to achieve the level of fade required. This may only require 1-3 sessions.

After my treatment

Aftercare is key to effective tattoo removal. Please see the aftercare tab for full details. You can purchase an aftercare pack following your treatment that has all the advice, care products and dressings you will need. 

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