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What does laser tattoo removal feel like?

Updated on December 28, 2014

Tattoo to be removed

16 year old tattoo, all black, professionally done (hard to believe).
16 year old tattoo, all black, professionally done (hard to believe).

Which is worse? The tattoo or the removal?

What does laser tattoo removal feel like? I searched for that answer before removing mine, and couldn't find it. So, I'll share what it felt like for me. This article is all based off my personal experience, and researched knowledge on the process of tattoo removal with the Fotona QX MAX laser. Seriously Skin is the location doing my removal work, and I highly recommend them. You can find a lot of information on their site explaining more about the removal process.

Body modification, tattoos and tattoo removal is very personal. I have over 5 tattoos and my right leg is in the process of being sleeved. The one I chose to remove not only looks bad, but it has memories associated with it that I no longer want (live and learn). The pain from applying a tattoo vs. removal is not really comparable. They are two very different sensations. Also, expect to pay about 3-10x more for removal than application. It can become a costly venture, but results are amazing, even after the first treatment.


Ink or no ink?

See results

Pain vs pleasure

A lot of people describe getting a tattoo as a "pleasure spiked with pain feeling". I've found this to be true. Tattoo application is painful, not unbearable, but also strangely addictive as well.

I didn't think the same would apply for removal until I had a treatment done. But the craving for more treatments is not fueled by the physical sensation, it's fueled by the results. Removal hurts in a way I had never experienced before. The minute you think you can't take any more, it's over.

Some places offer inject-able numbing, if I ever remove larger tattoos I'd opt for it. They also provide topical numbing solution, which I found useless. The removal process is very fast, we're talking seconds. Obviously it's not like applying a piece of artwork, you're literally erasing with a laser eraser! So there is no need for the technician to stay in between the lines.

How does it feel to get a tattoo?

  • Rug burn
  • "like having a sunburn, and someone drawing on it"
  • Being scratched repeatedly with a pin

How does it feel to get a tattoo removed with a laser?

  • Like a hot splattering grease burn
  • Electrical zaps
  • Cold zaps
  • Being flicked with a rubber band repeatedly

Tattoo Removal
Tattoo Application
Sounds like: a snapping sound as it hits the ink (zap, zap, zap)
Sounds like: A continuous buzzing (zzzzzzzzz)
Feels like: very cold electrical shocks, similar to a tens unit, a splattering grease burn sensation
Feel like: Very slow rug burn
Procedure does not smell
Procedure does not smell
Immediately after: hot irritated skin, possible white glazed appearance, swelling, bleeding, blistering, feels like a mild burn
Immediately after: Raw irritated skin, possibly bleeding, feels like a mild burn.
Application time: seconds
Applications time: varies, could be hours

Removing your tattoo

Removing a tattoo is a process. It's just as personal as getting a tattoo. There are risks associated with removal, albeit minimal and it can become expensive. Many people choose removal treatments to lighten a tattoo so that it can be re-worked. Black and red inks tend to remove the easiest. Expect your removal to have 6-12 weeks recovery time before another treatment. The longer you can wait, the longer your body has to remove, fade, and absorb the ink that was disrupted, so don't rush the process. The pain with removal is tolerable, and aftercare is minimal. Keep it iced every 15 min for the first 6-12 hours, and keep it clean. You don't have to apply special ointments or lotion, unless you have open skin (or blistering). I'm very happy with my first treatment, but pray for my pocket book to only have maybe 2 more.

1st Treatment Results

4 hours after first treatment
4 hours after first treatment
24 hours after first treatment
24 hours after first treatment

Live and learn

Sure it's expensive to remove a tattoo, but if you regret such decisions, or have a job requiring a tattoo to be hidden, then removal may be just what you're looking for.

It's more painful then getting a tattoo applied, but not painful enough to be unbearable.

I'm very happy with my first application, and cannot wait to have this particular tattoo removed. I highly recommend removal of a tattoo by laser if you can afford to have it done.


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    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 3 years ago

      This is one of the most useful hubs I have seen since it utterly confirms my decision to never get a tattoo.

      There are folks who have it worse. Imagine being one of those people with tattoos and piercings in the neither regions who decide to have them removed....

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 3 years ago from USA


    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Very useful for those who have tats or are considering them. I don't but was intrigued by the description of both application and removal processes. Pinning because I know others will want to read this!

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Kept private 3 years ago from Northeast United States

      Great and useful hub :) Have a great New Year ! :)

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 3 years ago from USA

      Thanks Pegcole17, all i know is when I begin to show signs of wrinkles, I'm also going to get fractional resurfacing. Lasers are amazing. They've come a long way. lasik was a lot scarier than tat removal. :)

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      This is important information for those who want their old tattoos removed. I found this process also worked on dark areas that appeared on my face years ago which grew larger and harder to cover. The process was done using a Ruby Laser which sounds similar to the equipment here. The pain is bearable, sort of like getting snapped with a rubber band. Like you said, just when you think you can't take anymore, it's over.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      a very good hub. Bishop.. I dunno the tats I wear can easily come off with a bath..LOL still the hub is and will prove helpful to those thinking of getting a tat.. or removing one :)