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Why Your Skin Tone Is Important to Your Laser Tattoo Removal Technician

November 16th, 2016 by Tattoo Removal in Tattoo Removal

50 Shades of Fitzpatrick. Well… 6 shades and an explanation.

Skin type is an important factor for your laser technician to take into consideration when evaluating the likely success of removing your tattoo. Developed by a Harvard University dermatologist, the Fitzpatrick Scale is used to classify skin colour on a numerical scale. This scale is used by your technician to determine the fluence used to treat your unwanted tattoo. The Fitzpatrick Scale is also used as one of the parameters in determining the expected number of treatments needed to remove your tattoo.

Melanin, a word you will have seen every bit as much as ‘immune system’ if you have been reading this blog, is the determining factor in where your skin type falls on the Fitzpatrick Scale. Influenced by both genetics and sun exposure, the more melanin rich your skin is, the darker your skin appears.


So I guess the biggest question here is why does skin tone even matter when removing tattoos? It is all very well to say that your technician needs to adjust the fluence used to treat your tattoo based on your skin tone, but it doesn’t enlighten us as to why this needs to happen.

In previous blog posts we have discussed how different skin types react to laser tattoo removal and the potential side effects of scarring and temporary pigmentation changes. With this information in mind, there is a short answer to the question of why your skin tone is important to your laser technician.  Simply put, where your skin tone falls on this scale will determine how aggressively your tattoo can be treated. As a general rule, the lighter your skin, the less prone you will be to pigmentation changes and keloid scarring.

The slightly longer answer for those of you who didn’t have time to click the links and read more posts is that melanin is a pigment, just like the ink in your skin you want removed. The darker your skin, the harder it is to target only the tattoo ink in your skin without the surrounding skin absorbing the laser light as well. Melanin is capable of being broken down by the laser in the same way the ink is shattered and removed by the immune system in the tattoo removal process. When this happens the skin can be temporarily lightened for up to twelve months, this is called hypopigmentation. While this lightening is the more common of the two potential pigmentation changes, the opposite can happen also. Hyperpigmentaiton is the darkening of the skin and is also usually temporary. This, together with the higher incidence of keloid scarring and burning, is why your laser tattoo removal technician will assess your skin tone against the Fitzpatrick Scale to determine how to approach treating your tattoo for the most successful result.

Unfortunately, the extra care taken when treating darker skin tones does mean that more sessions will be necessary to remove as much of the ink as possible without incidentally removing the melanin as well. The upside is that you are much less likely to suffer any unwanted pain or skin damage. So, you know, swings and roundabouts.