Tattoo Removal Overview

San Diego Laser Unwanted Tattoo

At Cosmetic Laser Dermatology, our skin care specialists offer expert and cutting-edge technology for laser tattoo removal. This is a safe and effective way to get rid of unwanted skin art. Since we have multiple lasers for tattoo removal, we can effectively remove or fade ink of almost every color from black to red to green to blue. The type of laser used depends on the color of the ink.

Our doctors are able to remove your ink with techniques that are tailored to suit your individual case. Overall, laser removal is the least invasive and most effective method, and with the addition of PicoWay, even bright colors such as orange can be treated.

Cosmetic Laser Dermatology is pleased to house a variety of lasers for any type of tattoo. These cutting-edge systems are the most advanced available, producing amazing results in fewer treatments!

We are also one of the 1st offices in the country to use fractional CO2 to remove tattoos:

How Does It Work?

During a tattoo removal procedure, a laser emits a pulse of energy that passes through the top layers of the skin and is selectively absorbed by the ink. This energy causes the ink pigment to break down into smaller particles and is then absorbed by the body. Thus, body art is safely and effectively removed without damage to the surrounding skin.

Multiple treatments, generally 5-10 sessions, are required for complete elimination.  The amount of treatments needed depends on the size, the color, what type of ink was used, the location, and your skin color. Laser treatments are spaced out every 4-6 weeks for maximum results.

Free Radiation Tattoo Removal

If you have undergone radiation therapy for cancer, Cosmetic Laser Dermatology will be happy to remove your radiation tattoos free of charge. Many people find that the removal of those small dots helps them to close a chapter in their life and look forward without the constant reminder on their skin. If you have tattoos from radiation therapy that you would like removed, don’t hesitate to contact us today!

What to Expect

Tattoo Removal Experts in San Diego

Read our pre/post treatment guidelines for tattoo removal.

During The Procedure

  • To make you more comfortable topical numbing ointment may be applied or local anesthesia may be injected prior to your procedure.
  • Eye shields will be used to protect your eyes.
  • You will feel a brief sensation of heat (similar to grease “splattering” or rubber band “snapping” against your skin).
  • Cold air may be applied directly to the skin surface as your tattoo is being treated to help decrease the sensation of heat.

After the Procedure:

  • You will have a sensation of heat/intense sunburn which will subside throughout the day. It is okay to take Tylenol or Ibuprofen.
  • You may notice a “white frosting” appearance over the treated area. This will subside shortly after treatment.
  • It is possible to develop pinpoint bleeding, redness, and mild swelling.
  • An ointment and bandage will be placed over your tattoo after the procedure to protect the surface of the skin.
  • If needed, apply ice packs (20 min. on and 20 min. off) the day of the procedure. This will help reduce the sensation of heat and help minimize swelling.
  • Swelling typically peaks at 48-72 hours. If the laser treatment is being performed on your face, sleeping with your head slightly elevated at night on two or three pillows for the first 2-3 nights will help minimize swelling. If the laser treatment is being done on the lower extremities (arms or legs), elevating these areas throughout the day and when sleeping at night for the first 3-5 nights will help minimize swelling.
  • Swelling may vary from patient to patient and from treatment to treatment.
  • It is okay to shower the day of the procedure.
  • Gentle cleansing with the fingertips is okay.
  • Crusting/scabbing may occur (allow to come off naturally, do not try to remove).
  • Apply antibiotic ointment daily until the surface has healed (typically 1-2 weeks).
  • Cover treated the area with a bandage if it is in a location that will be rubbed or irritated by clothing.


Laser Tattoo Removal on Wrist
Before and After Tattoo Removal on Wrist
1 Year After Tattoo Removal on Neck
9 Months Following Tattoo Removal on Thigh
Laser Tattoo Removal on Chest
5 Months After Tattoo Removal on Arm


Radiation Tattoo Removal: Dry Skin Remedies (5:03)
Dr. Mitchel Goldman Discusses Laser Tattoo Removal with PicoSure (3:40)
Laser Tattoo Removal by Dr. Wu (2:51)
Tattoo Removal in San Diego (4:01)
San Diego Tattoo Removal: Ruby Laser (0:41)
Dr. Wu Removes Eyeliner Tattoo (0:55)


Q: How does tattoo removal work?

A: Laser energy is directed at the art, passing harmlessly through the outer layers of the skin and directly targeting the ink. The ink is disrupted, allowing your body to absorb it, break it down naturally, and remove the tattoo.

Q: What types of tattoos can be removed?

A: We are able to remove any type because we have various lasers. Different treatments are able to remove different colors. Our office is fully equipped with everything needed to remove all colors, shapes, and sizes.

Q: Are certain colors easier to remove than others?

A: Yes, certain colors respond quicker to elimination. For example, black, red, dark orange, and dark blue are the easiest and fastest to remove. Green, purple, brown, light orange and light blue may require more visits. The depth of the tattoo will also determine how many treatments are needed, as well as the type of ink used. Lastly, your skin tone will play a part in how fast the laser works. Lighter skin tones typically have a higher success rate.

Q: How many treatments will I need?

A: During your consultation, one of our board-certified dermatologists will estimate the number of treatments you will need. As every person is unique, every tattoo is unique, but most take between 5-10 treatments to remove, each 4-6 weeks apart.

Q: Will the tattoo completely disappear?

A: In most cases, yes, it will completely disappear. The ability to completely remove body art depends on several factors, including size, location, how long you have had it for, etc.

Q: How much downtime is required?

A: The aftercare is minimal. You are able to return to your daily activities immediately after the treatment. However, you should keep the treated areas out of the sun for a few days and wear a good sunscreen.

Q: Will I have scars?

A: After the removal of a tattoo most patients will not scar, however scarring is possible with any medical procedure. Compliance with our detailed after-care instructions will reduce your chances of scarring.

Q: Can I remove only part of a tattoo?

A: Yes, our lasers are very accurate so we can remove just a portion if you wish.

Q: Can I remove permanent make-up?

A: Yes. Cosmetic ink is different than the ink used in body tattoos, but we have the correct lasers to effectively remove permanent make-up.

Q: Is it painful?

A: The pain associated with removing a tattoo is very tolerable. Most patients describe the feeling as similar to a rubber band snapping on the skin. A numbing cream can be applied prior to the treatment. When our San Diego dermatologists treat a sensitive area, a local anesthetic may be used.

Q: Are there any side effects of laser tattoo removal?

A: Laser tattoo removal side effects are generally very minimal but may include hyperpigmentation (an abundance of color in the skin around the treatment site) or hypopigmentation (treatment area becomes lighter than your normal skin color).

Q: How much does it cost?

A: Prices vary from patient to patient and depend on the size, color, and location of the tattoo. To find out how much the cost of laser tattoo removal in San Diego will be for you, schedule a consultation with one of our cosmetic dermatologists.


La Jolla Skin Rejuvenating Treatment Deals

For more information about the monthly specials offered at Cosmetic Laser Dermatology, visit our Promotions page.

5/5 Stars

“If I could give this office 10 stars I would! I’ve never been to such an incredible office where everyone was so sweet, helpful, and professional!”

- Jessica V.

5/5 Stars

“I had such an awesome experience for my first visit and I am referring everyone I know to this office. From the super friendly staff to the state of the art procedures, they are the cream of the crop.”

- Dinah M.

5/5 Stars

“I love and appreciate the professionalism, knowledge, warmth, and extraordinary care from the team at Cosmetic Laser Dermatology.”

- Alejandro S.

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The information available on this website is provided for informational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace a medical consultation where a physician's judgment may advise you about specific disorders, conditions and/or treatment options. We hope the information will be useful for you to become more educated about your health care decisions.

*Free consultations are available with Drs. Butterwick, Groff, Wu, Boen, and Leysin Fletcher, PA-C. General Dermatology consultations are subject to a fee.