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The Pitfalls of Laser Tattoo Removal

The third annual South African International Tattoo Convention returns to Cape Town at the end of March 2019. The Convention sees 90 tattoo artists from over 15 different countries converge to showcase their skills and expertise, and tens of thousands of ink-lovers are set to descend upon the V&A Waterfront over the three days to watch them in action. Many of these visitors will either bravely get their very first tattoo, or add to their existing collection. There’s no doubt that in South Africa – and around the world – tattoos are big business.

But so too, is tattoo removal.

It’s estimated that around one third of South Africans have at least one tattoo, but of those people, almost 25 percent regret having it done. The reasons for this are as varied as they are numerous, but a common lament is that they got the tattoo when they were young, and that the image no longer fits in with their current “older” lifestyle. For many young people, the decision to “get inked” is spontaneous and impulsive, with little thought or research behind it. Later on, they’re either faced with societal and employer prejudices, or they simply no longer identify with the sentiment that prompted the tattoo in the first place.

Whatever the reason, with around a quarter of all tattooed South Africans rethinking their inking, tattoo removal specialists are busier than ever. And with it costing up to 10 times more to remove a tattoo than to put one on, you need to make sure you choose your particular specialists – and method – very carefully.

What Is Laser Tattoo Removal?

Tattoo ink stays underneath the top layer of skin, which is what makes it so difficult to remove. Laser tattoo removal is a particularly popular method, but it’s not a quick and simple procedure. If you’re contemplating having it done, you should be aware of what it entails, as well as the potential risks and pitfalls.

The process uses high-powered lasers that penetrate deep into your skin. These lasers permanently destroy the particles of ink within your cells that give the tattoo its colour. Depending on size and ink colour, different lasers are used to remove the tattoo. Once the ink is broken down into tiny fragments, they are eventually absorbed into the bloodstream and passed out of your body.

It’s important to note that removing a tattoo with lasers is a much longer, more painful and vastly more expensive procedure than having one in the first place. No matter how sophisticated the equipment, or how skilled the removal technician, most people need a number of sessions – sometimes up to 60 days apart – to completely remove the tattoo.

Although it’s impossible to predict in advance exactly how many sessions you’ll need, most people find they have to have between five and 10. In some cases, however, up to 20 sessions are required. It all depends on how big the tattoo is, where on your body it’s located, its colour and its age.

What Are The Risks Of Laser Tattoo Removal?

Approximately five percent of people who have the process done experience complications that can range from mild to serious.


The most common cause of infection happens when you don’t take care of the affected area after you’ve had laser treatment. Skin needs to be kept clean and dry, and out of the sun. If sun exposure is unavoidable, then make sure you apply a high-factor sun screen.


Pain is common during the laser removal process, but it can be eased by applying a topical anaesthetic cream to the area a few minutes prior to starting the procedure. The light used can also be painful for – and potential damage – your eyes, so always wear protective goggles or sunglasses during each session.


Blisters, crusting and pinpoint haemorrhage are common, particular if you have darker skin. The pinpoint haemorrhaging usually stops quickly on its own. If bleeding leads to scabbing and crusting, it’s important not to pick at it, as this can cause scarring or even pigmentary changes.

Pigmentary Changes

These are actually among the most common complications of laser tattoo removal, often occurring within four to six weeks after the treatment. They are usually only temporary, but longer-lasting changes have been reported, particularly in people with darker skins. In some cases where a permanent eyeliner tattoo has been removed, permanent whitening of the eyelashes has been reported.

Residual Tattoo And Scarring

Despite the skill of the tattoo removal specialist, it’s not always possible to completely remove the tattoo. This is often the case with multi-coloured tattoos, which may leave behind residual pigment or a “ghost” outline. Scarring is most seen if a high laser fluence is used, and is again more common in dark or very tanned skin.

What Is The Alternative?

At the Tattoo Removal Studio, we offer the safest tattoo removal products available to both consumers and industry professionals. No scarring, no lasers and no acid. And it’s painless! We use the Linda Paradis tattoo removal technique, which produces amazing, guaranteed results – without the serious side effects that can be experienced with laser removal.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

  • mphela kagisho
    Posted at 15:40h, 24 April Reply

    I prefer the alternative nd i like the idea so i want to remove also how much wil it cost

    • jacques@nele.co.za
      Posted at 12:36h, 25 April Reply

      Hi Mphela,

      I have sent you an e-mail with some more information.

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