YAG Laser Removal: Everything You Need To Know


There are many reasons why you may no longer like your tattoo and want to remove it. Perhaps it wasn't done by a professional or skilled artist and doesn't look exactly how you wanted, or maybe the design was something you loved when you were 20, but at 40, you regret it. Whatever reason you may have, you might consider YAG laser removal.

What you once thought you would have forever can now be just a memory with the help of this special laser. There are many different types of lasers besides YAG. Understanding all your options is important to ensure your result is what you want it to be. You need education on this topic before you ever begin treatments because many variables can affect its success. While you can use the information here to educate yourself, make sure that you always speak with a trained professional before you get YAG laser removal.

What Is YAG Laser Removal?

YAG laser removal is just one kind of laser removal option when it comes to getting rid of a tattoo. According to LaserAway, a YAG laser is part of the Q-switched laser group and stands for yttrium aluminum garnet. These lasers use pulses of energy to break down the pigment in the ink so the body can naturally get rid of them. The ink particles are too big for the body to remove as they are, which is why they need to be broken down. A YAG laser is very concentrated and precise as it works, so the surrounding skin is left untouched.

The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology explains different factors affect the tattoo removal results of YAG laser removal. These factors include how well the ink pigment will absorb the color of the laser, if the laser can reach far enough in the skin due to the depth of the pigment, and how much energy the pigment requires to break apart. The person operating the machine must know how to set it and use it in order to achieve the best results.

How YAG Differs From Other Laser Removal Options

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There are many lasers used for removing tattoos. YAG laser removal is a leading option because of its versatility and usefulness. There are two types of YAG lasers: 532 nm and 1064. The 532 works best on removing bright colors while the 1064 works well on black, blue, and green. However, some other Q-switched lasers also produce nice results.

One alternative is the ruby laser. This really only works for blue or black inks. It is good for sensitive areas where healing may take longer, though. Another option is an alexandrite laser. Again, this works best for blue or black ink but may also work on green. The biggest downside is it often causes hyperpigmentation.

A different and newer option is the picosecond laser. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, picosecond lasers may be more effective than Q-switched lasers. They break down particles more quickly, meaning it takes fewer treatments to remove a tattoo. However, they do not work as well on dark skin colors. The YAG laser seems to be the forerunner in that area still.

Limitations Of YAG Laser Removal For Tattoos

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While there are many good things about YAG laser removal, this laser also has limitations.

Skin Type

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To begin with, this laser works on all skin types except the darkest skin colors. It also will not work well on tanned skin. If you get a tan, you should wait for it to fade before you get YAG laser removal. However, YAG works the best of most lasers on darker skin without causing hypopigmentation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Pigment Removal

In addition, any laser has limits on what pigments it can remove. Because of this, most treatments use multiple lasers. Each type of laser works at different wavelengths. The wavelength affects which color of ink the laser can remove. The color has to be able to absorb the laser in order for it to heat up and break down.

Length Of Removal

Furthermore, no laser can remove a tattoo in one session. It always takes multiple treatments. YAG laser removal lightens the tattoo with each session. Professionals use the Kirby-Desai Scale to figure out how many treatments you will need to remove your tattoo completely and if complete removal is even possible. This scale uses factors, including the layering of the ink, the color, the location, the size, your skin type, and the amount of ink, to give a professional a good idea how long it will take to remove it. Do be aware that YAG laser removal may not be able to remove your tattoo, even after multiple treatments completely.

Other Options May Work Better

Finally, YAG laser removal may not always be the best option. Factors that affect removal include your skin type, the age of the tattoo, and the location. Other options may provide better results or less recovery time.

What To Expect With YAG Laser Tattoo Removal

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If you decide to get YAG laser removal, you need to prepare for the process. You will not see immediate results because it takes time for the laser to remove a tattoo. Generally, you will need multiple treatments. Between each treatment, you may have to wait as long as seven weeks. That allows time for your skin to heal.

Type Of Tattoo And Your Results

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According to the Journal of the Laser and Health Academy, the color and age of your tattoo also play a role in how long YAG laser removal will take. It is easier to remove older tattoos and those done by an amateur than it is to remove newer and professionally done tattoos. If you only have one color, removal is also faster. Some pigments, such as purple, yellow, and green are very difficult to remove. In some cases, YAG laser removal cannot remove them completely.

The Procedure

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The actual procedure during a session usually requires only 10 minutes. You will do it in the provider's office and are able to leave after. You will usually get an application of anesthetic cream on the tattoo before the procedure starts to numb the area and provide pain relief. When it is complete, the provider may apply an antibacterial cream.


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You should wash the treated area with mild soap and water, along with using moisturizer in the time right after your session. Professionals recommend avoiding the sun, tanning, exercise, and alcohol for at least a week. You may also need to apply a fading cream. After a treatment, it is common that you will have mild to moderate skin irritation. Your skin may swell for a few days. The treatment area may also develop a scab for about a week. Generally, any symptoms or side effects will not last more than a week after your treatment.

Results With The YAG Laser

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Everyone has different results from YAG laser removal because everyone's situation is different. As mentioned, your results depend on a variety of factors. Only a professional can project how many treatments you may need and what the possible outcome may be.

One thing to keep in mind is that any laser treatment could change the color of your skin. You could end up with hypopigmentation, which is the lightening of your skin, or hyperpigmentation, which is the darkening of your skin. However, YAG laser removal has a lower chance of causing hypopigmentation than other lasers.

Another issue you may have with laser tattoo removal is scarring. Keep in mind that YAG laser removal has less of a chance of leaving scars than other laser removal methods.

Can Anyone Buy And Use A YAG Laser?

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While there are many different YAG lasers on sale to the general public, you need to understand that most of the lasers you can buy and could afford to buy are not usable for tattoo removal. According to Astanza, only certain lasers will work to remove a tattoo because the wavelength and other details of the machine must be at certain settings. The design of most YAG lasers sold for home use is to remove small age spots or hair.


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While anyone can try to do laser tattoo removal, only trained experts can do it safely and effectively. The treatment is only as good as the person doing it. If a person does not know how to run the laser, he or she will not be able to remove your tattoo effectively, and the chances of an error or injury greatly increase. The operator must know what wavelength and pulse duration to set the machine to and how long to apply it to your skin for optimal results. A dermatologist is often the best person to choose, but as long as an individual has training in YAG laser removal, he or she should be able to do an effective job.

Legal Regulations

Keep in mind as well that each state may have regulations as to who can do YAG laser removal. Some states have regulations requiring the removal facility to have a licensed medical professional affiliated with it, and some states require the licensed medical professional to be on site. A few states, such as Ohio, require only licensed physicians to do tattoo removal, while some have no regulation at all. However, most states at least require the person doing YAG laser removal to have certification and training in using the laser and safety. Finally, federal regulations require all facilities offering tattoo removal to have and use lasers approved by the FDA for tattoo removal.

Treatment And Equipment Costs

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When it comes to the cost of your YAG laser removal, it is almost always tied to the cost of the equipment. You will find the price of one session ranges from $100 to $1,500. Remember that you must have multiple sessions to remove your tattoo completely, so the cost can add up. How much you pay depends on the details of your tattoo, such as age, size, color, and the depth of the ink.

The laser costs to your removal technician or doctor, according to the National Laser Institute, usually range from $ to $$$. These are medical-quality lasers able to remove various sizes of tattoos. Some facilities may buy their equipment while others may lease it. In any case, the chances are good the facility is still paying for the equipment and needs to recoup that through the treatment costs.

If you do a search for YAG lasers to buy, you will find some sold to the public. These range from smaller machines used only for hair removal or small spot removal to industrial machines not meant for use in a medical situation. The smaller machines may sell for $ to $$$. Larger machines often sell used from $ to $$$.

Summing It Up

YAG laser removal is a popular option for tattoo removal. It has many benefits that other laser removal options lack. This tattoo removal option has fewer risks of permanent damage to the skin and quick healing times. It is also fairly easy to find a facility that provides this type of laser tattoo removal because it's a top choice.

If you want to get YAG laser removal, it is important to choose a provider carefully. A trained professional is your best choice because he or she will know how to properly and safely use the laser. Also, many states require professionals to have certification in order to offer such services.

In any case, you should always discuss your desires with a professional before beginning any treatment. YAG laser removal can help many people to remove unwanted tattoos completely, but there is never a guarantee it will work for you. Discussing your specific situation with a professional will allow you to know best what to expect.


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