Let’s say you have a barbed wire tattoo inked around on your upper arm that was super awesome in the 90s, but now, not so much. You head to the laser removal clinic to erase it from your arm (and your memory) for good, and after a few treatments – poof! – it disappears into thin air. Plain and simple, right? Not exactly. What actually happens to your tattoo when you undergo laser removal treatments is far more interesting and unexpected: you poop it out.
First things first. It’s the job of our bodies to protect us from foreign objects, and when you get a new tattoo, which involves different sized particles of ink pigments being deposited beneath the top layer of skin with each prick of the needle, your body immediately tries to get rid of it. It sends white blood cells to attack the ink particles and carry them out of your system, but most of the particles are too big, which is why the tattoo is able to stay on your skin.
Still, the white blood cells do their best, carrying off the smallest of the ink particles and gathering around the larger ones. Over time, the ink pigments fade and break down into smaller and smaller particles beneath the skin, and the white blood cells carry those particles to the liver to be processed for removal from the body. When you head to the clinic to undergo laser tattoo removal, this process is simply sped up by the laser, which breaks up the pigment particles at lightning speed.
The white residue that can be seen on the skin after the pigment is removed is called frosting and is only temporary – the process of laser tattoo removal actually has a very low risk of scarring, even though it reportedly hurts like hell, falling somewhere between having a rubber band snapped against your skin and being splattered by hot bacon grease. The way laser tattoo removal works is by shining quick bursts of light at the pigment particles, breaking down the pigment molecules underneath the skin until they are small enough to be carried away by the white blood cells to the liver.
So, there you have it. Whether your tattoo fades away over time or gets removed from your body more rapidly via laser removal, it comes down to the same thing: poop!