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Tattoo Removal

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Regret your Tattoo? You’re not alone!

It has been estimated that 20% of adults in the USA have at least one tattoo and that rate appears to be increasing, with recent surveys of University students finding around 50% now have tattoos. Tattoo regret is very common with estimates that about half of those who have tattoos will want them removed at some point.

The reasons for wanting tattoos removed varies from person to person. It may be that a decorative tattoo done when younger is now out of place and inappropriate. Tattoos and job interviews usually don’t mix. It may be that a decorative tattoo has simply not turned out well.

Cosmetic facial tattoos such as eye-liner and lip liner may need to be removed for such reasons as wrong position, wrong colour or a change in fashion. Some patients only want a tattoo partially removed so they can replace it with a new tattoo. This is termed remodelling and often only a few laser treatments may be needed to fade an existing tattoo before a new tattoo can replace it.


1. Tattoos are very common and their popularity is increasing with currently over 20% of Australian adults having at least one tattoo.

2. About half of people with tattoos regret the decision at some stage and consider removal.

3. Medical grade lasers are undoubtedly the most effective and safest method of tattoo removal.

4. Lasers vary greatly in quality and safety but in Victoria there are no regulations controlling the quality and safety of Tattoo Removal lasers.

5. Treatment methods and lasers which achieve Tattoo removal in fewer treatments continue to be developed and the latest technology is the PICOSURE laser.

6. Laser Tattoo removal is a safe procedure when performed correctly but scarring and infection can occur especially with cheap equipment and unqualified operators.

7. In Victoria there are no regulatory controls to safeguard the public as to who can perform Laser Tattoo removal..

8. All tattoo colours and skin types can be treated but the number of treatments can be unpredictable.

9. Realistic expectations are important as complete removal of tattoos can never be guaranteed.

10. The best and safest results in Tattoo removal are when a medical grade laser is used in a medical laser clinic by experienced practitioners with University qualifications.


The Q-SWITCH laser produces laser beam pulses in small fractions of a second (nanoseconds). The short Q-SWITCH pulses can shatter tattoo pigment into smaller particles which the body’s normal scavenger system can then remove. The short pulses means the normal skin is not heated as much and hence the risk of scarring is significantly reduced. There are 3 types of Q-SWITCH lasers (called YAG, RUBY and ALEXANDRITE) which vary in the wavelength (colour) of light they produce. Different wavelengths of laser light are attracted to different colours of tattoo pigment, for example to remove red tattoo ink a different wavelength of laser light is needed to the laser light required to remove black tattoo ink. This means to treat multiple colours of tattoo ink effectively more than one type of Q-SWITCH laser is required. At the Cosmetic and Laser Medical Centre we use both the REVLITE Q-SWITCH YAG laser from the USA and the SINON Q-SWITCH RUBY laser from Germany. It needs to be remembered that in Victoria there are no regulations protecting the general public on the quality and safety of lasers. The quality of Q-SWITCH lasers can vary significantly with cheap clone machines out of Asia in particular having issues with effectiveness, reliability and safety.


Frequently Asked Questions

Laser Tattoo removal is the process of removing tattoo ink with laser technology and it generally requires multiple treatments over a period of months.

Many methods have been used to try and remove Tattoos including using acid (Trichloroacetic acid to remove the top layers of the skin), scrubbing the surface of the skin with salt (Salt abrasion), mechanical removal of the skin (Dermabrasion), freezing the skin (Cryosurgery) and even surgical excision of the tattoo.

Lasers were first tried over 20 years ago to try and remove tattoos, however the earliest lasers such as the Carbon Dioxide laser, used a continuous beam of light which caused burning of the skin and high rates of scarring.

With the development of lasers which could deliver very short pulses of laser energy, called Q Switch lasers, results improved and rates of scarring reduced dramatically and Laser Tattoo Removal with Q-Switch lasers is now regarded as the treatment of choice to try and remove unwanted tattoos.

All colours of tattoo ink can be treated however some inks prove much harder to remove than others. In the past blue and green tattoos were hard to remove but the latest PICOSURE Laser can now remove these colours very effectively.

Cosmetic tattoos, such as eyebrow and lip liner, can be particularly difficult to remove. The light coloured pink, tan or white tattoos used in permanent makeup often contain Titanium Dioxide in the ink and Q-SWITCH lasers can actually turn these tattoos black and much darker than before treatment.

Newer fluorescent tattoo inks also present a much greater challenge to remove as well.
It is important to remember that there is no regulation on the ingredients of tattoo ink used by tattooists. As different inks respond differently to treatment the response to Laser tattoo removal can be unpredictable both in terms of number of treatments and level of fading achievable.

Laser tattoo removal is a safe procedure when performed correctly but skin damage, infection and scarring can occur particularly when cheap equipment is used by unqualified operators.
The lasers used are Class 4 lasers and as such have the potential to cause eye damage and specialised eyewear must be worn by the laser operator and the patient.

Immediately after treatment, blistering and crusting can occur and if the proper wound care is not undertaken then infection and even scarring can occur. Pigment change, either the loss of pigment (hypopigmentation) or an increase in pigment (hyperpigmentation) can occur after treatment and these can be long lasting especially in darker skin types.

When a laser shatters tattoo ink, as well as smaller tattoo pigment particles being created, unknown decomposition products and other new compounds can also develop. Allergic reactions have been reported as these various particles are removed from the skin via blood vessels and the lymphatic system. These allergic reactions can appear as small localised itchy lumps, but rarely can be a generalised systemic allergic reaction that is severe enough to require medical treatment. Allergic reactions seem to occur particularly with red and yellow inks.

The safest results with laser tattoo removal are when medical grade lasers are used by experienced University trained practitioners in a medical laser clinic.

We’ve not going to sugar coat this, treatment is painful. Most patients characterise the level of pain as more painful than getting the tattoo in the first place. With small tattoos this is not usually a problem as the latest lasers can pulse at a high repetition rate which means the removal process can be very quick. Some areas however, such as over bony areas like the ankle bone, or large areas like sleeves can be more sensitive and may require anaesthetic.

Because the PICOSURE doesn’t rely as much on the laser heating up the ink particles, much lower power settings can be used, typically half the power (fluence) is required compared to Q-Switch nanosecond lasers. This has the dual advantage of being much less painful than Q-Switch lasers and also reduces the heat reaction in surrounding skin and hence a significantly reduced risk of pigmentation change and scarring.

We can make it less painful for you

Pain relief can be provided in a medical laser clinic if necessary, and this can range from chilled air, topical anaesthetic creams, or in certain cases local anaesthetic injections or anaesthetic inhaler.

Procedures continue to improve with the development of both new lasers and new treatment protocols to achieve safer and fewer tattoo removal treatments. The latest development in laser tattoo removal has been the Picosecond Laser which delivers laser pulses in ultrashort pulses ( much shorter than Q-Switch lasers) to more effectively shatter tattoo pigment. The first picosecond laser called the PICOSURE is particularly effective on green and blue tattoos, which prior to the PICOSURE were very difficult to remove. The PICOSURE is also very effective in clearing up residual tattoos that have stopped responding to Q-Switch laser treatments. At the Cosmetic and Laser Medical Centre we have been using the PICOSURE laser since it was released in Australia in 2013.

Large Tattoos

Price dependent on choice of laser device and ink colours. For tattoos larger than a standard business card size
Typically $250-$450 per treatment

Small Tattoos

Price dependent on choice of laser device and ink colours. For tattoos smaller than a standard business card size
Typically $150-$250 per treatment

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