There are several reasons why someone might want to remove a tattoo.
Perhaps they no longer believe in what the tattoo represents.
Or maybe they want to clean the slate for a new tattoo.
Sometimes military service or employment might require tattoo removal.
In any case, the best tattoo removal technique is to use lasers.
- What Kind of Laser Is Used to Remove Tattoos?
- How Does Laser tattoo Removal work?
- Are Some Colors of Ink Harder to Remove than Others?
- What Are the Risks of Laser Tattoo Removal?
- Warning: Never Use a Hair Removal Laser to Remove a Tattoo
- What to Expect When You Do Laser Tattoo Removal
- Blue Lasers for Removing Colored Inks Other than Black
- Red Lasers for Removing Black Ink
- Accessories for Laser Tattoo Removal at Home
- How to Use Numbing Cream for Laser Tattoo Removal
What Kind of Laser Is Used to Remove Tattoos?
Currently, the best lasers for tattoo removal are picosecond lasers.
That’s because they’re faster and they hurt less (1).
But before 2012, the standard for tattoo removal was nanosecond lasers, which produce slightly longer pulses of light.
Both are Nd:YAG lasers with a crystal called neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (2).
You might also hear of something called Q-switching. That’s where the laser has two wavelengths: infrared and visible light. (This function isn’t necessary for tattoo removal.)
Both nanosecond and picosecond lasers break down the ink in tattoos.
How Does Laser tattoo Removal work?
Rapid pulses of light emitted by the lasers heat ink particles.
Each blast only lasts a tiny fraction of a second, but it heats the particles up to almost 2000° F.
As you can imagine, this destroys cells immediately. Then the body eliminates what’s left over (3).
If you remove a tattoo on a part of your body where you have good blood circulation, the process works faster. You’ll probably need fewer treatments to finish the job.
For example, your chest and back are easy to clear, but your feet and lower legs take longer.
The key is to be patient, as you may need six to twelve sessions or more. And in between each session, your skin needs to heal.
Are Some Colors of Ink Harder to Remove than Others?
Dermatologists say that black and dark blue tattoos are the easiest to remove.
Light blue and green aren’t too hard, but purple is difficult.
Red isn’t impossible to erase, but yellow and orange are very challenging.
As you shop for your own laser to do tattoo removal at home, you need to know some numbers.
Lasers that emit 1064nm wavelength light are ideal for erasing black and dark tattoos. Also, 694nm light works on black ink.
Meanwhile, 532nm light removes warm tones like red, purple, and brown. Then, 755nm erases green and blue ink.
Some inexpensive lasers emit 650nm or 585nm wavelengths. Typically, these colors are created with dyed filters. This makes them less powerful (4).
What Are the Risks of Laser Tattoo Removal?
Persons with tanned or dark skin run the risk of removing their own pigment along with the tattoo ink. Even persons with pale skin may see white patches where a tattoo was removed.
Doctors say that while depigmentation is common, it improves with time.
Warning: Never Use a Hair Removal Laser to Remove a Tattoo
IPL lasers that remove hair are likely to burn your skin and scar it (5).
It’s because they put out millisecond pulses to destroy the hair follicle. The long exposure to intense heat heats up the ink particles without breaking them up. It will damage your skin, perhaps irreparably.
You’ll end up with blisters and burns at a minimum.
In this case, more is not better.
What to Expect When You Do Laser Tattoo Removal
Just like when you get a tattoo, professional tattoo removal creates an open wound.
Yes, it hurts.
When your session is over, the doctor will bandage it and give you instructions about caring for it.
In the days to come, you’ll probably have blisters, bruising, and scabs (6).
Don’t pick – treat it like you would a new tattoo.
Keep it clean and use an ointment to speed up the healing.
If you are removing a tattoo at home, please keep things sanitary as possible.
Use antibacterial soap to cleanse your skin.
Follow the directions that come with the equipment to avoid injuring yourself. And don’t try to rush things.
If you suspect that laser tattoo removal isn’t for you, there are other options. We also reviewed products that fade tattoos.
But if you’re ready to press onward, let’s look at the top home use lasers for removing tattoos.
Blue Lasers for Removing Colored Inks Other than Black
Let’s begin the at-home tattoo removal laser reviews with a popular product imported from China.
The NEATCELL laser recommends their blue picosecond pen for colored tattoos and erasing acne scars.
NEATCELL Blue Picosecond Laser Pen with Glasses and Instructions by BuWiz
This is a product offered by various sellers. The package we chose comes with protective goggles that block light and glasses that filter the laser light’s wavelength. The seller includes English instructions and offers to email instructional videos.
Also important, they offer a one-year warranty and a six-month refund policy.
The blackout goggles are convenient for when someone else is using the laser to treat your face. Then, the yellow glasses are useful for when you are treating another part of your body yourself.
This laser pen is battery-operated and rechargeable. It comes with an adapter that has a US plug, but it runs on voltages worldwide.
It’s about seven and a half inches long with a barrel that’s less than an inch and a half in diameter. It weighs about 20 ounces.
As for the specifics about how it works, it emits 450nm light in picosecond bursts. This targets melanin and tattoo ink.
It stings, but apparently not as much as having the procedure done in a clinic. There should be no bleeding and no burning if you follow directions.
The manufacturer recommends starting with the lowest frequency and intensity to avoid damaging the skin. Oddly, level 9 is the lowest setting.
Don your protective glasses and prepare yourself for the loud beeping noise the laser emits.
Perform one treatment then wait as many days as it takes for the wound to heal before you do another. In the meantime, protect the skin from sunlight.
They anticipate a minimum of six sessions to remove a tattoo.
Beemyi Blue Ray Picosecond Pen
The Beemyi Picosecond Pen appears to be a clone or re-brand of the NEATCELL laser.
It also features nine frequency levels and four intensity levels.
The 2019 edition is rechargeable by way of the included micro USB cable.
The package we selected includes blackout glasses, simple English instructions, and the offer of an operational manual by email.
Unfortunately, there are no operator glasses included.
Professional Blue Light Picosecond Scar Tattoo Removal Pen by bluehorse
Another blue laser picosecond pen offers three different wavelengths with four levels of intensity.
It comes with a one-year warranty and a six-month refund policy. There’s also an English manual and a pair of protective eyeglasses that appear to be blackout goggles.
This model is somewhat bulkier, and it isn’t rechargeable as it requires you to plug it in to operate it. It comes with a power cord.
Red Lasers for Removing Black Ink
Red light lasers break up dark-colored tattoo ink and remove freckles and age spots.
NEATCELL Professional Red Light Picosecond Scar Tattoo Removal Pen by ancoos
Here is the red version of the rechargeable NEATCELL laser pen. It comes with a one-year warranty and a six-month satisfaction guarantee.
There are four intensity levels and three wavelengths.
The laser itself is rated for 2 million pulses before it no longer functions.
Although there is a pair of protective glasses in the package, they block light instead of filtering it. That’s only convenient if someone else is working on you and you need to cover your eyes. Consider buying a separate pair if you plan to treat yourself.
Professional Red Light Pen for Scar Tattoo Removal by Brrnoo
This portable model requires electricity. It emits picosecond pulses of red laser light with three different levels of intensity.
It comes with a 100% money-back warranty and a pair of protective glasses.
On the downside, users have commented that the English instructions are difficult to understand.
Accessories for Laser Tattoo Removal at Home
Please protect your eyes when performing laser tattoo removal.
Those pulses of light may look pretty, but they can burn your retina, and you’ll go blind. Obviously, you should never look directly at the laser light even with safety glasses on.
Besides eye protection, invest in the materials you need to keep your skin healthy.
FreeMascot OD 4+ 190nm-550nm Wavelength Laser Safety Glasses
This pair of safety glasses filters out a wide range of blue light like that used by picosecond laser pens. In fact, they protect against blue, green, and violet lasers.
When you wear them, you’ll still be able to see to perform the treatment.
The package includes a case and a cleaning cloth.
Blue Safety Glasses 590nm-690nm Red Green Yellow Laser Eye Protection Goggles
If you’re using a red laser, you’ll need safety glasses that filter out the appropriate wavelengths. This pair takes care of red, yellow, and green laser light.
Take note that the polycarbonate lenses are mounted on an adjustable frame that fits over eyeglasses.
They come with a case, too.
Ebanel 5% Lidocaine Topical Numbing Cream
We’ve mentioned a few times that laser tattoo removal is painful. But you can get around the problem by using numbing cream.
Lidocaine is a topical anesthetic that’s FDA-approved for regular folks to use at home as long as it’s in a 5% or less concentration.).
Not only can you numb your skin before tattoo removal, but you can desensitize it before you get a new tattoo.
Plus, a numbing cream is useful for all sorts of bites, stings, and even hemorrhoids.
Ebanel manufactures this cream in an FDA-licensed facility in the USA.
It’s not greasy or sticky, but soothing and moisturizing with allantoin and aloe. There are no parabens or nasty chemical additives in it.
You’ll begin to feel the full effect about 20 minutes after you apply it. Then your skin will stay numb for up to two hours.
Dr. Numb Maximum Topical Anesthetic
Another option is Dr Numb. It claims to work a little faster and last a little longer than Ebanel. In as little as 15 minutes, you’ll be pain-free. Then the effects last up to four hours (if you apply it like the instruction below suggest).
Since it’s not oily, many tattoo artists won’t mind if you prep your skin with it before getting inked.
This cream with a 5% concentration of lidocaine is used by professionals across North America. The brand is FDA-certified and also approved by Health Canada.
How to Use Numbing Cream for Laser Tattoo Removal
Before you perform laser tattoo removal at home, wash your skin thoroughly. Use antibacterial soap if you have it.
Don gloves to avoid numbing your hands (unless you need to do ink removal there).
Then apply the numbing cream in a generous layer. Massage it in until it disappears.
Now put on a thick second layer and cover with plastic wrap.
Wait at least one hour for the cream to penetrate and activate. You can test it by pressing on the wrap over the skin. If you have no sensation, you’re ready.
Remove the excess cream with a dry paper towel and get to work with your laser pen.
SUPER NUMB Anesthetic Skin Numbing Cream
There’s also Super Numb cream that advertises itself as a solution for piercing, tattooing, laser hair removal, and waxing.
It’s water-based and non-greasy with a 5% lidocaine formula.
Cosco Green Soap + squeeze bottle
The famed Cosco Green Soap is a staple item in many tattoo studios. You’ll find it listed in our reviews of the best tattoo aftercare products.
It’s a strong disinfectant for the skin.
This package includes a pint-size container of soap and a squeeze bottle. The extra bottle is handy since you’ll need to dilute the soap before you use it.
Sanibalm Tattoo Aftercare Roll-On Balm
Sanibalm is made by Saniderm, the bandage manufacturer. It comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
It’s a quick and easy way to keep injured skin free of infection.
The formula is rich in healing omega-7 fatty acids from sea buckthorn.
Laser tattoo removal is the most effective way to erase ink under your skin.
While this procedure is usually done in a clinic, it may cost thousands of dollars to complete.
But luckily there are home-use lasers for tattoo removal.
They are also useful for treating freckles, age spots, and acne scars, so it’s never money down the drain.
Follow the directions to protect your skin and be patient as results take weeks or months.
In the comments below, let us know about your success in removing your tattoo at home.
1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306088185_NdYAG_1064-nm_picosecond_laser_vs_NdYAG_1064-nm_nanosecond_laser_in_tattoo_removal_A_randomized_controlled_single-blind_clinical_trial by F. Pinto, et al., published August 2016 in the British Channel of Dermatology, accessed September 11, 2019
2. https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/ndyag-laser-treatment/ by Anoma Ranaweera, published January 2014, accessed September 11, 2019
3. https://www.mdedge.com/dermatology/article/147787/aesthetic-dermatology/picosecond-lasers-emerging-go-tattoo-removal by Doug Brunk, published September 23, 2017, accessed September 11, 2019
4. http://info.astanzalaser.com/blog/why-laser-wavelengths-matter-for-removing-tattoos by Opal Taskila , published July 28, 2017, accessed September 11, 2019
5. https://disappearink.com.au/ipl-laser/ by Peter Poulos, accessed September 11, 2019
6. https://www.insider.com/everything-you-should-know-about-tattoo-removal-2019-7 by Janaki Jitchotvisut, published July 16, 2019, accessed September 11, 2019