Need a clean slate? How to care for your skin after tattoo removal

American Academy of Dermatology News Sep 11, 2019

Tattoos used to be considered permanent, but thanks to advances in laser technology, dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology say today’s lasers can get rid of tattoos more safely and effectively, including removing tattoo ink with fewer treatments and treating ink colors that were once difficult to remove. However, while the technology has improved, they say, the results will depend almost entirely on the person performing the service.

“For the best results and to reduce your risk of serious side effects, such as scarring, burns and other wounds, it’s important to make sure the person treating you is a physician who is extremely skilled in using lasers and has in-depth knowledge of the skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Marie Leger, MD, PhD, FAAD. “After that, it’s also important to properly care for the treated skin between sessions, as your skin needs time to heal and flush out the ink.”

To care for your skin after each treatment, Dr. Leger recommends the following tips:

  1. Wash the treated area twice a day with water and a gentle cleanser. Then, use a clean cotton swab to apply petroleum jelly to the area. This will help keep the skin moist so that it will not dry out or form any scabs. To prevent infection, cover the treated area with a dressing until the skin heals.
  2. Protect the treated skin from the sun. Since the treated skin is more susceptible to sun damage, which can lead to color changes on your skin, keep the treated area out of direct sun exposure. When outdoors, wear protective clothing, such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, pants or a wide-brimmed hat. Once the treated skin is healed, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Look for a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide, which deflects the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
  3. Avoid picking at any flaking, peeling, blisters or scabs that form. Do not pop any blisters, as doing so can cause an infection.
  4. Know what’s normal. After a laser tattoo removal session, you may experience some redness, swelling and blistering as your skin heals. However, if you notice signs of an infection, such as increasing redness and pain, swelling or pus, contact your dermatologist.

“Tattoo removal requires many treatments, with weeks between sessions,” says Dr. Leger. “For the best results, follow your dermatologist’s instructions for at-home care, and keep all of your appointments for laser tattoo removal, as each treatment removes more ink.”

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