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Temporary Skin Discolouration After Laser Tattoo Removal.

November 2nd, 2016 by Tattoo Removal in Tattoo Removal

Q-Switched lasers, such as the ones used by Tattoo Removal Laser Clinics, are considered to be the gold standard in laser tattoo removal technology.  That being said, there are risks associated with any medical procedure you undergo.  And even though most laser tattoo removal clinics do not operate out of a doctor’s surgery, it does not change the fact that it is a medical procedure.

Using a Q-Switched laser makes tattoo removal a relatively safe procedure to perform, especially when compared with the cheaper continuous wave and non-laser options that are available.  The most common side effects of any Q-Switched laser treatments range from the expected redness, tenderness and swelling associated with any trauma to the skin, through scabbing and bruising as the treatment site heals, to painful blistering and scarring if the treatment is inexpertly performed.

Another, much less common, adverse side effect can be pigmentary alteration.  When the correct protocols are used for the patient’s skin tone and type of tattoo being removed, the likelihood of damage to the pigmentation of the skin are limited.  These changes are more often than not transient; however in a handful of cases they can be permanent.  This is why it is imperative you choose your laser technician wisely.  With such lax standards of oversight in the laser tattoo removal industry, you can literally do a weekend course and call yourself a laser technician.  But you wouldn’t, would you?  Just like the technicians at Tattoo Removal Laser Clinics haven’t.

Hypopigmentation is a loss of pigment in the skin and is the more common of the pigmentation changes that can occur after laser treatment.  The skin is left with a white, almost bleached, appearance after the melanocytes contained within the treated skin are damaged or destroyed by the laser.  This de-pigmentation is one of the reasons a skilled laser technician treats each patient according to their Fitzpatrick type and will be more conservative when approaching tattoo removal from darker skin tones.

When hyperpigmentation occurs, the wavelength of the laser is absorbed by the melanocytes causing them to react to the laser in the same way they would to sunlight.  These pigment producing cells are stimulated to over produce melanin, leading to a darkening of the skin where the laser has been used.  One of only a handful of studies done in to pigmentary alteration due to laser treatment points to a direct correlation between the patient’s Fitzpatrick rating and the incidence of hyperpigmentation.   More commonly, hyperpigmentation can be a result of contact dermatitis caused by irritants used to soothe and protect the treated skin such as icepacks antibacterial creams and adhesive tapes.

Both hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation are usually temporary conditions that resolve themselves over time.  It is typical for these irregularities in the melanin production system to disappear after a few months.  With gradual exposure to the sun, the damaged melanocytes should re-pigment.  It may also be wise to avoid using topical ointments containing benzoic acid and corticosteroids.  Conversely, if you do experience transitory hyperpigmentation, it is important to avoid sun exposure and use a quality sunscreen with a high SPF rating to circumvent the further production of melanin in the affected area.  Any other restorative treatment should only be done after consulting with your laser technician.

Your technician will also want to wait longer than the initially recommended six weeks for any subsequent treatments.  The affected area will need to be fully healed before you continue with your laser treatments to avoid the risk of permanent damage to the skin.  Continuing to treat skin with current pigmentation alterations can lead to permanent changes.

Those most at risk of pigmentation changes have skin tones that fall in to the mid to darkest ranges of the Fitzpatrick Scale.  If you are one of these people, you need to take the advice laid out in our article “Tanning and Tattoos. Why Sun Exposure Can Affect Your Laser Tattoo Removal.” Be mindful to avoid sun exposure before and after treatment.

So, getting back to all laser tattoo removals being a medical procedure that carry associated risks, let me ask you a question.  Would you want your hair cut by someone who had been shown how to use scissors or a hairdresser who has been taught the art of a good cut?  Laser tattoo removal is not a beauty treatment; it is a medical procedure with the potential to cause painful and irreparable damage, far more damaging and permanent than walking away with a wonky fringe.