Whether you are inserting or removing ink, tattooing procedures can cause discomfort. There’s no getting around the fact that when you disturb the skin, you will feel discomfort.


Since the pain is temporary but the effects are long-lasting – whether you’re getting a tattoo or having laser tattoo removal to fade a tattoo before covering it up – many people would agree that a bit of discomfort is a small price to pay for the body art they want.


Although the discomfort is worth it for many people, we still see all sorts of coping mechanisms from patients. Some curse, scream, and grasp their partners’ hands while holding back tears, while others sit stolidly and handle the experience stoically.

Your experience will depend on your pain threshold and the type and location of tattoo you are having faded or removed.


Some describe the pain as being far worse than the sensation of getting a tattoo and compare it to having hot grease spattered over the affected area. Others report that experiencing the discomfort of laser tattoo removal for short intervals is quite bearable and not significantly worse than receiving a tattoo.

Why Is Laser Tattoo Removal Painful?

Preparing yourself for laser tattoo removal psychologically can help ease you through the procedure. Familiarizing yourself with what causes the pain during laser tattoo removal is the first step towards getting over the pain.


The pain experienced during laser tattoo removal is caused by ink particles being shattered beneath your skin by the energy of the tattoo removal laser. The light emitted by the laser is absorbed by the ink particles as heat, causing them to burst.


Because the laser emits light in short bursts, the tissue around the ink has enough time to cool so the surrounding dermis is left unharmed and your skin undamaged. The pain is temporary and has no lasting effects on your skin.


When undergoing laser tattoo therapy you will only feel pain during the treatment period. You will not experience any discomfort between sessions, meaning the down-time between procedures can be relatively low.


Some people consider pain relief medication for their laser tattoo removal procedure, but most tattoo removal clinics will recommend avoiding pain relief medication because the pain is temporary and pain relief medication can cause complications.

The Pros and Cons of Using Pain Relief During Laser Tattoo Removal

The choice to use pain relief is yours, but there are some pros and cons you should consider for each of the following methods:


Numbing Cream

Numbing cream comes to mind when most people start crafting ways to reduce the discomfort of laser tattoo removal. Many tattoo removal specialists will encourage the use of topical numbing cream. It is especially popular for larger tattoos and longer sessions because it can significantly help patients who have larger tattoos stand the pain long enough to complete a session.


Although the numbing cream doesn’t affect the area where the tattoo ink rests, it can greatly reduce the sensation of the laser passing through the top layer of skin to take the edge off. You will still feel some discomfort, but it will come as less of a shock.


Prescription painkillers or numbing injections aren’t recommended because they pose an unnecessary risk and can lead to complications, especially for patients who take certain medications or have pre-existing health problems.


Cold Compress

Although using a cold compress is recommended to reduce inflammation and reduce pain following a laser tattoo removal procedure, if not used properly it can lead to serious complications.


Never apply a cold compress directly to the skin affected by the tattoo removal laser. Wrap the affected area in sterile gauze before applying the ice pack to protect yourself from getting an infection.


If pain and swelling persist after your laser tattoo removal treatment, apply a cold compress intermittently to reduce those symptoms.



Drugs including sedatives, alcohol, or painkillers are never recommended for dealing with laser tattoo removal treatments. Some substances can increase the intensity of the pain experienced during or after a treatment.


We strongly recommend that you be sober for tattoo removal treatments. Ordinary aspirin is acceptable and is the only drug that most clinics will tolerate.


If you are going to take an aspirin we recommend you take it at least an hour before your session, so it begins working when you are getting a treatment.


A laser tattoo removal treatment seems like a small price to pay when you leave with a terrific cover-up.