Many people get tattoos without knowing it may affect their laser hair removal. We see clients every week with a new tattoo and have to tell them we are not able perform laser hair removal over the area where the fresh tattoo is. (IPL cannot be performed either). This blog will hope to clear up the confusion about laser hair removal and your tattoos.
Today there is almost no part of the body that cant and hasn’t been tattooed! Places that used to be off limits like face, neck and hands are no longer off limits. This presents challenges for people wanting to be hair free and also for laser clinics.
Not long ago, tattoos were mainly on upper arms so hair removal wasn’t much of an issue. Also laser hair removal or tattoos were not as common as they are now.
Get Laser hair removal before tattoos
If you do not have a tattoo yet, but are thinking about getting one, and it is going to be in an area where you are concerned about hair growth, the best thing to do would be to be prepared, have laser hair removal before you have your tattoo – if you want to keep the area smooth and hair free after the tattoo.
Some areas are naturally hair free so there is no need to worry. If you are planning your next tattoo on your forearms or legs, which are hairier, then plan ahead and get laser hair removal before you get the tattoo done.
Can you get a tattoo after laser hair removal?
You will have to wait a number of weeks after the laser hair removal before you are able to get your tattoo done. This gives the skin a chance to heal as laser hair removal does destroys hair follicles and you need to give your skin a chance to recover. So once you have a tattoo lets discuss what your options are.
Location, location, location
One of the key questions if you are thinking about laser hair removal and have tattoos is where is the tattoo located? If you have a tattoo that is on your ribs and wish to have laser hair removal you are unlikely to face any issues.
Large tattoos in areas where hair growth is unavoidable such as on your arms, if you have a sleeve, or back or on your legs or in more discreet places!
Can laser hair removal be used over a tattoo ?
Now for the bad news laser hair removal cannot be done over tattoos. Only the surrounding areas around the tattoo itself. The larger the tattoo, the greater the problem removing hair by laser.
There have been stories in the press of laser hair removal being done over a tattoo, usually by an unregulated clinic or untrained, inexperienced employee, which have resulted in serious third degree burns requiring hospital attention.
How to cover up a tattoo for laser hair removal
If you still want to do laser hair removal with a tattoo, then experienced practitioners will be able to create a cover for the tattoo and then target the surrounding area, usually keeping around 2-3cm between the tattoo and the lasered skin.
As long as the laser does not go near the tattoo you will be fine. You can ask the practitioner to mark around the tattoo with their white pen as an extra precaution. Medical tape or plasters are not necessary. Although be warned using this treatment may lighten the colour of the tattoo and could still damage the tattooed skin. The most important thing you can do is find an experienced practitioner you can trust.
What is the process for removing hair and how does it affect my tattoo ?
Laser hair removal treatment works by targeting the melanin or pigment in the skin using wavelengths of light.
This light energy attacks the hair follicle and prevents it from growing back. Lasers cannot tell the difference between dark pigment in a hair follicle or in a tattoo. A dark colour is a dark colour to a laser. Laser light is automatically drawn to the dark colour to destroy it. Unfortunately laser hair technology that can tell the difference between the two doesn’t yet exist, but may one day.
The effect of laser hair removal on tattoos.
If laser hair removal was performed over a tattoo the laser would have trouble accurately finding the pigment in the hair as there would be pigment from the tattoo surrounding, confusing the laser.
So you have the double effect of poor laser hair removal and exposing tattooed skin to the laser which could cause severe scarring or long term issues to the skin. So bad all round.
Also different lasers are used for laser tattoo removal and hair removal. What about IPL?
Can you use IPL on tattoos?
IPL are not classified as lasers. They are essentially full-spectrum flashlamps. Like a flash on a camera. They are good for treating certain skin conditions like sunspots and rosacea. Not as effective for laser for hair removal. We would not recommend IPL for laser hair removal and you encounter the same issues with your tattoos that you have with IPL.
So what are my other options?
If you are eager to remove the hair on a tattoo, don’t fret as there is a process that can be used as a substitute. Electrolysis treatments avoid the risk of scarring and damage to the tattoo itself.
Professional treatment is advised and the results are highly effective and can ease your concerns about excessive hair. You will not get the same results as having laser hair removal but it is the next best thing.
Of course, if you are genuinely concerned about the hair on your body then you could also decide what is more important: a tattoo or hair-free skin? If it is the latter, you could look at having the tattoo removed then waiting for a period of time, before undertaking the laser hair removal. At Premier Laser we do offer tattoo removal and laser hair removal.
Why not book a free consultation so we can have a look at your tattoo and hair growth and discuss any treatment plans along with performing a patch test to check your suitability.
Alternatively epilation could be the way forward although not as effective as laser hair removal it is still an option for you to be hair free. Then there are always the traditionally ways of shaving or waxing. Yes, they are a hassle and need to be constantly done but they are the options so you can enjoy hair free skin.