Laser Hair and Tattoo Removal

Laser hair removal

Laser hair removal works by targeting the pigment inside the hair follicle and avoiding damage to the delicate pores and structures of the skin. Because hair cycles through “growth” and “dormant” phases, and because during the “dormant” phase the follicle has no pigment, at least 2 or 3 treatments are needed to fully remove a hair follicle. The number of sessions will vary for each individual.

Laser versus electrolysis

With electrolysis, the operator inserts a needle into the hair shaft with the intention of reaching the follicle, then sends a small electrical charge designed to disable the follicle. The operator then removes that particular hair with a tweezer. Hair removal is much faster with a laser as the laser is pulsed about once per second across the surface of the skin. Each “pulse” of laser light disables a large number of hair follicles.

Electrolysis operators can only treat those hairs that they can see and the follicle they can reach through the hair shaft. A laser treats any “active” follicle, even if the hair has not yet reached the surface of the skin, or if the hair shaft is not straight.


Before proceeding with laser hair removal, your plastic surgeon or technician will shave the area to be treated. A small hand piece, or “wand” is placed against the skin and a burst of coolant is applied as the laser is activated. The hand piece is repositioned and the laser is activated again. The size or the area treated will determine the number of laser “pulses” required.

While some areas of the body are more sensitive than others, most patients report little or no discomfort. For more sensitive patients, anesthetic creams can be applied prior to the treatment.

Laser tattoo removal

Laser tattoo removal is most successful with black and blue pigments. Other colors such as red, green and yellow are more difficult to remove. Note that more than one treatment are  is usually required to remove tattoos. Also, the skin might be paler in the area where a tattoo has been removed with a laser. This is called “ghosting”.

Your plastic surgeon will discuss with you whether surgical excision or laser is a better option for your tattoo removal.

Recovery and possible complications

Immediately following laser treatment for either tattoo or hair removal, the skin will look pink and slightly swollen, similar to a sunburn. This will subside within a few hours and the skin will return to normal.

Occasionally, a patient may have pigment changes, blistering, or scabbing. As with electrolysis, cases of scarring have been reported with laser hair removal, but these are rare. A test spot is sometimes the best determinant of how each individual’s skin will react.