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How laser tattoo removal works is a common question we receive from prospective clients visiting our Chicago office. During the free consultation, most people reveal a vague sense of the tattoo removal process but don’t know the details. The mystery makes people skeptical of whether tattoo removal works. Clients are also often concerned about the pain. We’ll shed some light on these subjects in this post.

How Laser Tattoo Removal Works

We’ll try to spare you from minute detail on the physics of how laser tattoo removal works and give a more general overview here.

Laser technology has revolutionized a lot of industries since its theoretical roots were laid by Albert Einstein in 1917.  Many physicists since have furthered the research that has led to the vast array of modern day lasers that serve incredibly diverse purposes.

Essentially, how laser tattoo removal works is the laser sends a very fast pulsed beam of light at a specific wavelength and specified level of energy (measured in joules) to target the ink in the dermal layer of the skin. The ink is shattered into smaller particles that the body can then process away. Lymph nodes and your circulatory system help to process the ink. This means that tattoos closer to the heart and neck often come of quicker than other areas of the body. Clients can also help facilitate the fading by exercising, drinking lots of fluids, and refraining from smoking.

The ink may take several weeks for your body to finish a cycle of processing it before a subsequent treatment is necessary. The number of treatment sessions (and therefore, cost) varies from client to client depending on a number of factors. Typically it can be anywhere from as few as 3 to 10 or more.

Treatments are typically scheduled a minimum of 4 weeks apart although there is no negative to waiting longer than 4 weeks and you may see additional fading if you wait longer. Remember, it takes time for the body to process the ink.

Do Your Research – It Will Save You Time and Money

How laser tattoo removal works is a complicated thing but it is worth taking the time to understand. There are many lasers out there that are used for tattoo removal but not all are designed to target tattoo pigment. In some cases lasers designed for other procedures like toenail fungus removal and hair removal can achieve some fading of tattoo ink. Unfortunately, they are likely not be the most effective tattoo removal machines. You’ll likely spend more money and time if you go to a clinic without a laser designed specifically for tattoo removal – and your odds of full removal go way down.How Laser Tattoo Removal Works

What Lasers Are Designed for Tattoo Removal?

Lasers used in tattoo removal are of the Q-switched variety. This means they produce a pulsedbeam, not a continuous beam. Nd:YAG lasers with a 1064 nanometer (nm) wavelength target dark blue and black ink pigments and are among the most common tattoo removal lasers. The Nd: YAG 532nm wavelength targets red, orange, and yellow inks. Ruby lasers with a 694 wavelength are best at treating light blue, green, and purple pigments. Many clinics only have the 1064 and/or a 532 so be sure that if you have a colorful tattoo you check to ask which lasers are at your clinic. Our Chicago clinic has the Quanta Q+C laser which has all 3 wavelengths to treat all colors on all skin types.

How Successful is Tattoo Removal?

Achieving good fading is very common. Full tattoo removal often requires more than just a few sessions and could require 10 or more treatments. Also note that full fading cannot be guaranteed. If a clinic does guarantee full fading, you should be highly skeptical. Full removal is most common in clients who are ideal candidates for removal. There are many factors which we’ll discuss further in another blog post. Some of the most important are:

  • Ink density & depth
  • Skin type
  • Location
  • Ink type
  • Colors
  • Age of tattoo
  • Lifestyle

Because there are so many factors, it’s best to talk with a professional who can explain at length how laser tattoo removal works and give their opinion on the odds of successful removal. This is also why we advise clients not to put too much weight on before and after pictures as they’re not always indicative of how YOU will respond to treatment.

Laser Tattoo Removal Pain: How Bad is It?

How Laser Tattoo Removal WorksMost clients describe the feeling of a rubber band repeatedly snapping against the skin. While it’s not a great feeling, it’s very tolerable. In fact, we’ve never had a client not be able to handle the pain. We’ll do a test spot before beginning treatment so you can experience the feeling. If you don’t want to go forward with treatment, we won’t charge you.

Bare Tattoo Removal in Chicago also offers the Zimmer Cryo 6 (“aka the Chiller”) to numb the skin to help minimize any discomfort during treatment. This method is more sterile than ice packs, gives us more control over the level of cooling, and can be consistently applied throughout treatment. It’s also more convenient than topical numbing creams and injectable numbing agents.

How Long Does Each Tattoo Removal Session Take?

The length of time a tattoo removal session takes depends on the size of the tattoo. Fortunately, small tattoos require just a few seconds up to a few minutes. Larger tattoos like sleeves may take a half hour or more to complete a session.

We hope this post helped answer your questions on how laser tattoo removal works. If you still have questions, send us a message at