Laser tattoo removal is often the solution that comes to mind when the topic of erasing body art arises. And why not? Medical professionals and tattoo-removal specialists approve of the process. Throw in the fact that most clinics and hospitals offer the service, and you’re in for a convenient ride.
As with every medical procedure, laser tattoo removal has its own set of side effects and complications. Though hailed safe by health authorities, individual makeup still comes into play as far as outcomes are concerned.
Thus, it pays to be a step ahead by reading up on the side effects commonly encountered after the process. That way, you’ll be armed and ready in the event you happen upon any of them yourself.
Merriam-Webster Online defines swelling as “an abnormal bodily protuberance or localized enlargement.” This is one of the readily observable phenomena after laser tattoo removal, and is expected to occur immediately after the procedure.
See, the human body is equipped with an internal protection system that kicks off every time it senses an assault is about to take place. Using laser to erase ink from your body isn’t exactly assault in the conventional term, but your body doesn’t think of it that way. Anything that hurts your body is the enemy, and to survive, biological protective mechanisms must set in.
How to Deal
First, determine the swelling isn’t an allergic reaction. Once that’s out of the way, keep the swelling under control by placing ice packs on the area. Do this right after the procedure, and every few hours after that, to keep swelling at bay.
Do note this should go away a full day, at most, after the operation. By then, your body has figured out it isn’t under attack, after all, and will lower its physiological defenses.
Frosting, like swelling, is one of the immediate side effects of laser tattoo removal. It’s nowhere near as good-looking as it sounds, but its presence post-procedure can mean a good thing for your skin.
This effect is called as such due to its resemblance to—you guessed it—cake frosting. When the laser lands on the pigmented section of skin, the heat produces a chemical reaction with the ink.
The high temperature brings about the formation of gas or plasma, which are then released into the more superficial layers of skin. In these layers, the gas or plasma become carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide interacts with the tattoo. The tattoo puffs up and turns white, taking on the appearance of cake frosting, hence the term. In most cases, this occurs for up to 30 minutes after a session.
How to Deal
Frosting may not be very pleasant to look at, but don’t let appearances fool you. That your tattoo turns white and puffy is a good thing, as it means the laser has penetrated into your skin and into the tattoo pigment.
There’s no cause for alarm here, though. The effect generally goes away on its own, give or take several minutes after the laser tattoo removal session. It’s most evident after the first procedure; once you’re several sessions down, frosting no longer appears as much.
Ever stayed under the sun for so long you got a sunburn and formed blisters? Well, if you have your tattoo erased through laser, expect to go through that same sensation all over again.
In the tattoo-removal process, the intense heat in the laser causes the ink pigments to disintegrate. When this happens, the surrounding blood vessels break, resulting in the formation of superficial blisters.
Often, these blisters are made up of water and tattoo ink. They’re quite painful, but they tell you the healing process has kicked in.
How to Deal
When dealing with blisters, there is one cardinal rule: never pop them! They serve to protect your skin from infection, and with proper care, they’ll disappear completely sans complications.
For intact blisters, leave them as they are. For cracked blisters, cover them loosely with a bandage, making sure the surface of the bandage hovers a few millimeters above the wound.
Religiously apply antibacterial ointment to the affected area (especially for open blisters). Refrain from touching them directly with your hand. Limit physical activity to keep sweating to a minimum.
Also, be on the lookout for signs of infection. These include fever, pus-filled blisters, and enlarged lymph nodes. If these are present, contact your doctor immediately.
Laser tattoo removal isn’t exactly a pain-free process, so itchiness after the procedure is common, expected even. Fortunately, there are methods you can do to keep yourself from losing it over the maddening itch.
Itching indicates your immune system has begun to knit the tattoo-removal breaks back into place. Your body sets into gear an intricate healing process involving blood clotting, skin knitting, and scarring.
This uncomfortable sensation can also be due to dry, dehydrated skin. Laser, being a source of intense heat, zaps up your skin’s moisture. This leaves skin feeling parched, and dry skin is practically synonymous with itching.
How to Deal
You can say itching is a battle of wills. The temptation to do so may be massive, but you must not scratch the affected area! Scratching can break the sensitive skin, and this could lead to a host of problems down the line.
Ditch the itch by slathering on some fragrance-free moisturizer or cream after your daily shower. Consult your tattoo specialist or dermatologist for a trusty brand or variant that’s safe to put on your lasered skin.
Put your hot-shower habit to rest while you’re going through laser tattoo removal sessions. Hot water too drinks up the moisture from your skin, causing the itching to worsen.
Scabbing takes place after blister formation, and is one of the better indicators of skin healing.
Sometimes dryness and crusting occur with scab formation, and this combination may convince you to scratch away. But nope, no scratching allowed.
A scab refers to the “coat” placed over your skin to cover up the exposed area as your body heals the wound by creating a new layer of skin. They offer a protective function as new skin is created, so it’s a must you do not pick at them.
How to Deal
The best way to deal with scab formation is to leave the crusts alone. That’s it. The ball’s in your body’s court now; your role is to ensure it heals in as little effort as possible.
Wait for the scab to fall or come off on their own. Scabs should disappear within 2 weeks. Of course, you can undergo laser tattoo removal and not have scabbing. If this sounds like you, well, lucky you!
As you go through laser tattoo removal, maybe you’ll notice slight or distinct changes in the skin on or surrounding the target area. Though this looks alarming, you’ve really nothing to worry about, as changes in skin pigmentation are usual when tattoo removal is involved.
Skin discoloration is classified into 2: hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation.
In hyperpigmentation, you’ll notice patches of darkened skin—that is, skin that’s shades darker than your original color. In hypopigmentation, the opposite occurs. Patches of lightened skin appear, meaning it’s in a shade lighter than your skin tone.
These pigment-related changes happen due to the various light wavelengths present in laser. Laser doesn’t only dissolve the ink pigments in your skin but also affects your skin’s melanin production.
Melanin is a naturally occurring pigment found in both human and animal structures, like the skin and hair. With laser in the picture, your skin’s ability to create melanin either increases or decreases.
The higher the melanin content, the higher the likelihood of the skin experiencing adverse reactions to the procedure.
How to Deal
Hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation aren’t life-threatening, nor do they have a direct impact on your health. The discoloration can be quite bothersome to look at, but other than that, you’ve no cause for worry.
If the sight affects you a great deal, you can opt to use cosmetic products to even out your skin tone. The effects are temporary but will do in instances you think you need to cover up the different-hued patches.
Fortunately, these changes in skin color will eventually resolve on their own. Do note it can take months, sometimes even years, for your skin color to return to normal. There have been instances too wherein the pigment change never did go away. However, most folks agree they’d rather deal with hyper- or hypopigmentation than the actual tattoo they had removed.
Laser tattoo removal is a safe and regulated procedure, but it’s not 100% risk-free. Before you undergo the procedure, make sure to keep in mind these 6 side effects you’ll likely encounter.
Should you chance upon any of them, at the very least, you’ll know what to expect and how to ride out each complication smoothly. It helps to follow their aftercare tips as well for a speedier recovery.
In addition, if you come across a side effect you find alarming or worrisome, always consult your doctor or tattoo-removal specialist before attempting anything.