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The Pitfalls of Laser Tattoo Removal

The third annual South African International Tattoo Convention returned to Cape Town at the end of March, 2019. The convention hosts over 90 tattoo artists from around the world and showcases their skills and expertise while illuminating the tattoo trends of the year. Each year tens of thousands of ink-lovers descend upon the V&A Waterfront to watch their beloved artists work their magic. Many of these visitors will either 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 is estimated that around one third of South Africans have at least one tattoo and almost 25 percent regret getting one. The reasons for this are as varied and plentiful. Most people find that they got their tattoos too young and they simply cannot relate to their ink anymore. For many young people, the decision to “get inked” is spontaneous and impulsive. Later on, they find themselves regretting this decision either because of personal sentiment or because of professional and societal pressures.

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?

Laser tattoo removal is a particularly popular method of removal because it is the lesser evil. Sure, it beats out other ineffective removal methods, but that does not mean that it is as effective as it should be. Laser therapy can be a long, drawn out process which could end up costing you thousands of rands. Tattoo ink stays underneath the top layer of skin, which is what makes it so difficult to remove. So, if you are contemplating using laser therapy to remove your tattoo, you should be aware of what this therapy entails, and what the potential risks and pitfalls may be.

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

It is important to note that removing a tattoo with lasers is a much longer, more painful and vastly more expensive procedure than actually getting a tattoo 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. Unfortunately, most people will also walk away with serious scarring as the skin tries to heal itself.

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

What Are The Risks Of Laser Tattoo Removal?

Approximately five percent of people who have laser therapy done experience mild to serious complications. But what can actually go wrong?


The most common cause of infection happens when you do not take care of the affected area after you have had laser treatment. The skin needs to be kept clean, dry, and out of the sun. If sun exposure is unavoidable, then make sure you apply a high-factor sunscreen.


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 potentially damaging to – your eyes, so always wear protective goggles or sunglasses during each session.


Blisters, crusting and pinpoint haemorrhages are common, particularly if you have darker skin. The pinpoint haemorrhaging usually stops quickly on its own. If bleeding leads to scabbing and crusting, it is important not to irritate these areas, as this can cause scarring or pigmentary changes.

Pigmentary Changes

These changes 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 skin. 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 is 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. Because laser tattoo removal therapy is invasive, one runs the risk of permanent damage to the skin. In many cases, the skin is not healthy enough to be tattooed again, which you probably would not want to do anyway but the point is that it can create uneven and sinewy skin textures.

What Is The Alternative?

At Tattoo Removal Studio in Pretoria and Johannesburg, we offer the safest tattoo removal products and services available to both consumers and industry professionals. No scarring, no lasers and no acid, and the best part is that out method is 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, and you won’t even have to break your budget.

Contact us today for a free consultation! You won’t regret it.

  • 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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