Woman with tattoos on dark skin

Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work on Dark Skin?

There’s a lot of information about laser tattoo removal and what does and doesn’t work, but one of the most common questions we get asked is “does laser tattoo removal work on dark skin?” – and the answer is yes! However, there are some exceptions and things to be aware of.

As you know, safety is our top priority at MEDermis Laser Clinic, and that’s why we take our time with each patient. 

If you have darker skin, we’re going to break down everything you need to know about laser tattoo removal. From what to expect to possible complications to the different types of skin tones and how lasers react, we’ve got it all covered.

How Lasers React To Different Skin Types

Before getting into the specifics of lasers, it’s important to go over exactly what we mean by dark skin and why the pigmentation matters and how lasers interact with certain skin types.

There are various characteristics that may dictate how your body reacts to laser tattoo removal, and skin tone is definitely one of the top factors your laser technician will take into account when planning your laser tattoo removal. 

A common method for identifying a patient’s exact skin type, which helps us when determining the number of treatments needed to remove a tattoo via laser, is the Fitzpatrick scale. This is a numerical classification schema for human skin color developed in the 70s to estimate the response of different types of skin to ultraviolet light.

Under this scale, there are six skin types, and while it may not be 100% accurate, it is a good determinator that can help your laser technician anticipate how your skin will react to the laser. The six skin types are the following:

  • Type 1 – light, pale white.
  • Type 2 – White, fair.
  • Type 3 – Medium, white to olive.
  • Type 4 – Olive, moderate brown.
  • Type 5 – Brown, dark brown.
  • Type 6 – Black, very dark brown to black.
scale of six types of skin colors

In general, treating darker skin types is challenging because the laser can remove skin pigment with the ink. The higher levels of melanin, the more care needs to be taken during treatment. Consulting a laser technician with vast experience will be essential to a safe and successful removal process.

If you work with a technician that isn’t familiar with the Fitzpatrick scale and doesn’t adjust the laser settings properly, you run the risk of unwanted and lasting side effects.

Challenges with Laser Tattoo Removal on Darker Skin

Taking a laser to darker skin tones requires patience and a steady hand, it’s just as important for patients to take things slow as it is for the laser technician. 

Melanin absorbs energy and heat, and an inexperienced laser specialist could use the laser for too long or at too high of a setting, causing permanent issues like:

  • Hyperpigmentation: The darkening of skin over time
  • Hypopigmentation: The lightening of the skin in the area of the tattoo.
  • Keloid scars: While rare, keloids are raised scar tissue that develops around the treated area.

Waiting longer between sessions, a higher number of sessions and proper aftercare are all important steps to follow to ensure skin has time to heal adequately between treatments. 

The Importance of an Experienced Laser Technician

As a specialist treating a dark skin type, you have to be extremely conservative with the laser settings in order to not pull the pigment from the skin. This means that the darker the skin type, the lower the laser settings you’ll need, in turn giving you slower results. 

Unfortunately, when we explain this during the consultation, many people don’t have the patience and don’t want to go through with such a long process. Or they will do a few treatments and then give up – which is a reason we don’t have many examples in our Before and After gallery

At the end of the day, experience behind the laser will be your best bet for successful tattoo removal, especially for skin types 4 and above. 

While experience is key, there are some instances where we may recommend avoiding laser removal. 

For example, a skin type 4 or higher with any red ink tattoo could be too risky. 

We generally advise against laser removal for these cases as the laser frequency that is used for red (532 wavelengths) will simply pull all the skin pigment out leaving a damaged hypopigmentation scenario. 

That is, unfortunately, a permanent situation that many people want to avoid. If you’re unsure if you’re a good candidate for tattoo removal, a consultation is the best place to start.

Call the Tattoo Removal Specialists Today!

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to laser tattoo removal, and consulting an experienced specialist is critically important. The MEDermis Laser Clinic team has years of experience and is ready to answer any laser tattoo removal questions you may have. Are you ready to schedule your FREE consultation? Get in touch with MEDermis Laser Clinics today by calling our Austin clinic at 512-637-5277, the San Antonio clinic at 210-402-4030, or by filling out our online contact form.