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Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work on Dark Skin?

Although body tattoos have been around for centuries, they have become increasingly popular in recent times. Many people get this permanent piece of art drawn on their bodies, but they later regret this decision. Since a permanent tattoo is not something they can just rub off, they either head to some aggressive cosmetic tattoo removal options or compromise with that unwanted drawing.

The good news is that permanent tattoo removal is now possible with minimally invasive non-surgical methods. One of those methods is laser tattoo removal. But does this method genuinely help remove tattoos, especially on dark skin? Let’s find out.

Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work on Dark Skin?

The laser has evolved dramatically over the years and brought up a more viable tattoo removal solution for people who despise those lasting drawings on their bodies. Back in the day, laser tattoo removal only worked with light-toned skin. But now, the scope of this treatment has become broader in terms of the number of supported skin types. On top of that, this technology is safer than other methods, meaning that the chances of scarring or change of color in the treatment area are rare.

How Do Tattoo Removal Laser React With Different Skin Types?

When we say dark skin, we refer to a range of skin tones classified as dark. While lasers can reduce a tattoo’s appearance regardless of the skin shade, it is vital to see how laser beams work with different skin types.

The way your body responds to laser tattoo removal treatment depends on various factors, including your skin tone as the most profound variable. The laser technician will configure laser settings based on these factors.

Laser practitioners usually identify a patient’s skin type by referring to the Fitzpatrick scale. This scale, developed in the 1970s, is a numerical schema to classify human skin types based on their tone. Using this scale, the practitioners predict the response of a particular skin type to UV rays.

This scale categorizes human skin into six types. While this scale cannot be accurate in all cases, it helps laser technicians estimate the possible skin response to laser treatment. The types of skin defined by the Fitzpatrick scale are as follows.

  1. Light, pale white
  2. White, fair
  3. Medium, white to olive
  4. Olive, moderate brown
  5. Brown, dark brown
  6. Black, very dark brown to black

Generally, the darker is the skin tone, the harder it will be for a laser tattoo removal procedure to wipe out the tattoo ink. Due to a higher level of melanin content, dark skin types demand more care during the laser procedure. For this reason, it is vital to consult highly skilled laser doctors as they are well-versed with the ways to ensure safety and accuracy.

Remember, getting laser tattoo removal treatment from a skin doctor who is not familiar with the Fitzpatrick scale puts you at the risk of long-term side effects.

What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Laser Tattoo Removal For Dark Skin?

The laser technician has to be patient with a steady hand when directing a laser beam to the treatment area on dark skin. Similarly, the patient must also set realistic expectations with the procedure.

Dark skin has a high volume and concentration of melanin content, which can absorb light and heat from the laser beam. When used on a high setting, the laser beam causes permanent complications. Here is a brief overview of some most common side effects.


The laser beam can sometimes affect the natural skin tone while breaking up tattoo ink. As a result, the treated area may develop a darker color, commonly referred to as hyperpigmentation. Most of the time, this dark pigment subsides with time. However, this change of color may persist for the long term in some cases.


Hypopigmentation refers to the decline of natural melanin content in the skin. This complication occurs when laser tattoo removal targets melanin and the tattoo ink, making the treated area appear lighter than its surroundings. Generally, it takes months for the melanin level to come back to normal.

Keloid Scars

Although rare, keloid scars are one of the side effects of laser tattoo removal. These scars are characterized by a thickened and raised overgrowth of the scar tissue developed around the treatment wound. Keloid scars usually appear three to six months after tattoo removal. The good news is various treatments are available to flatten these scars.

Learn More: Home remedies to reduce scar marks


Which laser tattoo removal is best for dark skin?

Answering this question first involves overviewing the way laser tattoo removal works. When directed to the treatment area, the laser beam shatters the ink pigments, making them absorbable for the body. Now, laser tattoo removal on dark skin is more challenging because the laser system first has to differentiate between the ink pigment and melanin. There is a distinguishable difference between the skin and ink pigments if you have a lighter skin tone.

Based on this definition, the PicoWay laser has a significant edge over all other laser tattoo removal systems. Unlike other laser systems, PicoWay uses photoacoustic impact or pressure waves. The pressure waves allow the PicoWay laser to target ink pigments rather than melanin. On the other hand, other systems use photothermal effect or heat to target tattoo ink.

On top of everything, the PicoWay laser system shatters the tattoo ink into tinier particles, which are generally easier to remove for the body systems. The technology used in the PicoWay laser system helps remove ink pigments in half as many sessions as required with Q-Switched or other laser systems. Moreover, treatment with the PicoWay system carries fewer hyperpigmentation risks than other systems.

Does dark or black skin require more laser tattoo removal sessions?

According to a study, darker skin contains more melanin, making the normal skin area hard to differentiate from the tattooed region. For this reason, dark or black skin may require more tattoo removal sessions than lighter-toned skin. 

The next important variable is the tattoo’s size: the bigger the tattoo, the more sessions are needed.

Additionally, practitioners administering the tattoo removal treatment may have to use the laser system at lower settings and wait a bit longer between sessions. These factors also stretch the treatment duration.

Final Thoughts

So, does laser tattoo removal work on dark skin? The short answer to this question is yes. Is laser tattoo removal more complicated for dark skin than light skin? Again, the answer is yes. So, the key here is to get this treatment from a skilled practitioner regardless of whether or not you have dark skin.

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