Did you make the age-old mistake of tattooing a certain partner’s name on your skin? Or perhaps that cheap tattoo you got at Mark’s bachelor party is starting to haunt you. Either way, you’re probably interested in laser tattoo removal.
In this guide to the best laser tattoo removal machines, there’s a simple buyer’s guide to help you decide if this is the right route to take. We’ve also rounded up some tips on what to look for when buying a laser tattoo removal machine.
Oh, and of course, there’s the top 5 best laser tattoo removal machines list!
Should I Do the Tattoo Removal Myself?
Below, we’ve counted down the top 5 best machines for removing tattoos at home. But that might not be the path you should follow. Before we dig in, you need to decide if removing your tattoo is something you should leave to a professional or do yourself.
Professional laser tattoo removal machine operators have seen it all. So, embarrassment shouldn’t be a deciding factor! Even if your tattoo is an embarrassing design or in an embarrassing location, you shouldn’t be afraid of booking a session at a tattoo removal clinic.
Trust us, they’ve probably seen a lot worse.
Here are the basic pros and cons you should consider.
Pros of At-Home Laser Tattoo Removal
- May be cheaper than multiple sessions with a pro,
- More convenient than going to a clinic (especially during the COVID-19 pandemic),
- Less invasive than surgical tattoo removal.
Cons of At-Home Laser Tattoo Removal
- Hurts more (pros can use chilled air to numb the discomfort),
- Learning how to use the machine takes time,
- Once your tattoo is removed, you have no use for the machine.
Laser Tattoo Removal Machine Buying Guide
If you’re planning to go ahead with buying a laser tattoo removal machine, here’s the ultimate buying guide. Read it now to get an idea of what to look for, then bookmark it for later. It will be helpful to refer back to when you’re shopping.
How does Laser Tattoo Removal work?
The laser isn’t the table-cutting, high-power laser you’re imagining from James Bond. In fact, it’s closer to the size of the tattoo gun that got you in this mess in the first place!
If you’ve used an IPL treatment to remove body hair at home, you’ll feel a bit more familiar with laser tattoo removers.
These lasers produce shorts bursts of light at different wavelengths. When these light waves are directed at your tattoo, they penetrate the skin and are absorbed by the ink. The light breaks down the ink into smaller particles that are gradually removed by the body and immune system.
The keyword here is gradually. It often takes multiple sessions, particularly if the tattoo is large. It also depends on the color of the ink. Different wavelengths are needed for different colors, as the colors will absorb light differently. Yellow, green and blue inks are usually the most difficult to remove, while black and red are the easiest.
This means the larger, more colorful, and more complex the tattoo, the more sessions you will need to remove it at home.
As for the procedure itself, most people describe it as uncomfortable rather than painful. That will depend on your own pain threshold, but if you survived getting the tattoo in the first place, you will be fine!
While old laser tattoo removal machines and surgical removal options can damage your skin, laser tattoo removal is much safer and is less likely to leave permanent damage. The first session might take a week or so to heal, but subsequent sessions will take less and less time. Eventually, the tattoo will have faded completely.
Also Read: Is Laser Tattoo Removal Expensive? (And Other Removal Options)
Important Factors to Consider
Much like buying a new laptop or mobile phone, you need to spend some time looking at the features of the device rather than just admiring how it looks! These are the factors you should pay attention to when shopping for a laser tattoo removal machine.
1. Single and multi-purpose machines – you might come across many machines that advertise different functions. This isn’t necessarily a sign that the tattoo removal machine is a fake. In fact, the laser technology that removes tattoos can also be very effective on other types of skin conditions and pigmentation. Regardless, it’s always best to choose a tattoo removal machine that’s designed and/or tested for removing tattoos, so you know that it is effective.
2. Laser Technology
There are two types of laser technology that’s effective at removing tattoos. If a tattoo removal machine doesn’t clearly state which it uses, then avoid it!
Q-switched laser technology is the older of the two. The most common type is the Nd: YAG laser, which usually offers wavelengths of 1064nm, which is perfect for removing black and blue tattoo inks. Nd: YAG Lasers can also have settings that switch the wavelengths to 532nm, which is better for red ink and other warm color shades.
The other type of laser tattoo remover we recommend is picosecond. They are faster and more modern than the Q-switched (which is also why they tend to cost more). The picosecond lasers work in the same way as the Q-switched, but they offer a wider range of wavelengths and operate much faster with higher energy levels. This makes the sessions faster and may even reduce the number of sessions you need to remove an old, densely inked tattoo.
3. Wavelengths, pulses, and energy
We’ve just touched on wavelengths, but that’s an important thing to consider. If your tattoo only contains black ink, you need a laser with 1064nm wavelengths. If your tattoo contains a range of colors, you’ll need a tattoo removal laser that can switch wavelengths to 532nm for warm sunset colors and 755nm for green and blue colors.
Pulses are the “shots” of light. If you have a 3-pulse setting, every time you fire the laser it will fire 3 shots. The Hz of the machine refers to the speed at which it can fire pulses.
Finally, there’s energy. This will be measured in j/cm2 or mj, so look for those figures when you compare machines. The higher the energy, the more aggressive (and therefore efficient) the machine is. But this is also determined by the spot size.
The spot size is the area the laser fires at. A larger spot size will fire at more of your tattoo with every pulse… but often, tattoo removal lasers will have the same level of energy. So, by increasing the spot size, you’ll be spreading the energy across a wider area. Thus, making it less effective.
In terms of energy and spot size, the best tattoo removal laser will have the highest energy levels at the biggest spot size setting.
4. Other Considerations
Ease of use – buying a technical tattoo removal laser that’s used by professionals might sound great, but what if you can’t work out how to use it? The ease of use is an important consideration. You don’t want to waste money purchasing a laser tattoo removal machine that you can’t actually use!
Double check customer reviews to find out how easy it is to use and contact the manufacturers for detailed guidance and instructions manuals.
Cost – the cost will vary depending on the brand of the laser machine, the power of it, and what it’s suitable for. A small laser tattoo removal machine to remove eyebrow tattoos will cost a lot less than a professional, clinic-standard large tattoo removal machine!
Laser Tattoo Removal Machine Certifications?
The FDA does regulate laser tattoo removal machines. According to their guide to tattoo removal, when a laser tattoo removal machine acquires FDA approval that means that the FDA has checked it’s equivalent to an existing legal machine on the market.
You’re also encouraged to contact the FDA’s MedWatch if you have any problems or severe negative reactions to tattoo removal. It’s important to report these things so that others can avoid those faulty laser tattoo removal machines and stay safe.
Extra Note: the FDA has not approved ANY creams or ointments designed to remove tattoos at home. So, if you see those online, avoid them at all costs!
Besides the FDA, there isn’t a single authority body that regulates and certifies these machines. It’s a good idea to check for clinical studies, however. These will help you understand a bit more about how the machines have been tested before released to the public. They also give you a chance to see how they actually perform, if you read between the lines of the study and ignore all the marketing talk from the company.
Safety Precautions Before Using a Laser Tattoo Removal Machine
First things first, read the advice above! If you cannot find any of the important details to consider on the product listing, no matter where it’s for sale, then avoid buying it until the manufacturer can clarify.
Likewise, FDA approval, positive clinical trials, recommendations from real tattooists and tattoo removers, are all things you should look for. If a laser tattoo removal machine doesn’t immediately strike you as safe and professional, it’s best left on the shelf.
Read the manual! Safety procedures may vary from machine to machine. The manufacturer should give you a list of what you can and can’t do, plus operating instructions, so read those before you do anything.
Some tattoo removal lasers will need to be operated by a professionally trained tattoo remover, but in general:
The Top 5 Best Laser Tattoo Removal Machines 2021
To select these 5 best laser tattoo removal machines, we spent a long time researching! It wasn’t feasible to use and test each laser tattoo removal machine ourselves (we love our tats too much!) so we consulted experts instead. We spoke to professionals who use laser tattoo removal machines to find out their recommendations.
We also dug deeper into the tattoo removal machines on our shortlist, checking the companies behind them to ensure they are reliable and genuine.
As for customer reviews, we reached out to genuine users of each laser tattoo removal machine to find out what they thought. You can’t always trust those suspiciously positive reviews on Amazon anymore!
If you’re planning to find your own laser tattoo removal machine that isn’t on our list, we highly recommend that you follow our buying guide above. Do your research and turn over every stone before you settle on your chosen machine. Otherwise, you risk wasting a lot of money and potentially putting yourself in danger with a faulty or outdated laser.
1. DONSU Q Switch Laser Tattoo Removal Machine
- Price Range: $$$
- Best For: eyebrows and small tattoos
- Home Use: yes
This Nd: YAG laser is for home use – but you’d better be prepared to study the user manual that comes with it before you use it! The laser operates with 1064nm and 532nm wavelengths, which makes it ideal for black and red ink colors but not so good for greens and blues. The spot area is adjustable from 1mm to 5mm, which is smaller than average.
In the box, you also get three different heads to use with the laser. One is ideal for dark pigmentation and tattoos, while the other two are designed for freckles and acne.
Overall, this is a better laser tattoo remover for very small tattoos. If you have eyebrow tattoos or small initials or stars somewhere on your body, this will be good enough to remove them. With larger tattoos, it will seemingly take you forever just to complete one session.
Extra Tip: this laser tattoo removal machine has a frequency of 1 to 10hz, which is quite slow! This means sessions will take longer than a faster machine. But that’s what you get from a cheaper laser.
2. NEATCELL Hand-Held Laser Tattoo Machine
- Price Range: $
- Best For: small black and blue tattoos
- Home Use: yes
This small, hand-held gadget by NEATCELL is designed to erase skin troubles and pigmentation, including tattoos! The most positive reviews for this device say that it helps to fade away old tattoos inked with black and blue colors.
It’s incredibly cheap, especially when you compare it to the tattoo removal machines that they use in clinics, which can cost upwards of $100,000. It’s also from an unknown brand and is made in China.
But many customers still claim that it’s worth it! According to Kevin Gross’s review:
“3 sessions using this equals 1 sessions of actual professional tattoo removal… I would say this is 100% worth it.”
The set includes a pair of glasses (though it would be wise to buy your own that block the blue light from this laser more efficiently), an instructions manual in US English, and USB charging cable.
Warning: while we found many customers who were happy with this tattoo machine and left positive reviews, there’s not much else know about this brand and the tattoo laser itself. Important information like the wavelengths, pulses, energy, etc. are missing from the product information.
3. Lucid Q PTP Laser Tattoo Removal Machine
- Price Range: $$$$$
- Best For: professional tattoo removal
- Home Use: no, commercial buyers only
The Lucid Q PTP laser is a Q switched Nd: YAG tattoo remover with 1064nm and 532nm wavelengths available. It’s a large unit and is designed for professional use within a clinic – so you may struggle to buy one of these if you want it for home use!
Described as the “fastest laser tattoo removal machine”, this unit is easy to operate, and has smart technology for auto-calibration. Put simply, it’s good for beginners who don’t want to spend all day with their nose in the manual looking for the right instructions.
The speed of this tattoo laser is up to 25hz and it can maintain that speed and energy with spot sizes up to 10mm. That’s good for most tattoo sizes.
Also worth noting is the fractional HP mode which allows this laser to be just as effective at targeting pigmentation in darker skin tones as well as lighter skin tones.
Important Note: if you need the 585nm and 650nm wavelengths for your tattoo colors, you’ll need to buy this as an “add on” as it’s not included in the standard Lucid Q PTP machine.
4. Youruo Portable Laser Tattoo Machine
- Price Range: $$
- Best For: small tattoos, makeup tattoos
- Home Use: yes
This picosecond hand-held laser pen is designed for erasing small, simple tattoos. If you had eyebrow tattoos or even had your makeup permanently tattooed on your face, then this laser machine is designed to help. You can also use this tattoo remover on beauty marks, birthmarks, age marks, and vascular lesions.
The Youruo portable picosecond laser fires at two different wavelengths, in single or double pulses, at a spot size of 1 to 5mm. That’s quite small! You would struggle to remove a large tattoo with this tiny laser.
We like that the laser unit has a color touch screen that guides you through the process of using it. This makes it one of the easier tattoo removal lasers to use for beginners… although there is one problem.
It’s described as portable, but it actually isn’t! You will need to plug in this machine to use it at home.
Extra Tip: the Youruo portable laser tattoo machine operates at wavelengths of 1064nm and 532nm, which is great for black inks and warm red colored inks. However, this won’t be very effective on green shades in your tattoo.
5. PicoSure Tattoo Removal Laser by Cynosure
- Price Range: $$$$$
- Best For: tattoos and stubborn skin conditions
- Home Use: No, commercial buyers only
We couldn’t write this guide without including the PicoSure, which is one of the few aesthetic picosecond lasers with an amazing track record. According to Cynosure, clinical data shows better tattoo clearance in fewer treatments.
The PicoSure uses a Focus™ Lens Array to treat a range of pigmentary conditions, including tattoos. The 755nm wavelength tackles blacks, blues and greens, while the 532nm wavelength will work on reds, oranges and yellows.
Unfortunately, you need to be a professional with a clinic to buy this machine. You also need up to $100,000 spare to buy it… second hand. Yep, that’s crazy expensive! But this does make sense, as it’s designed for professionals to use regularly on their clients, not just one-off use at home.
Important Note: you cannot buy this laser tattoo removal machine unless you’re a professional with a clinic… but you can still find those professional who do own it and book sessions with them! This will give you the assurance that the machine is top-quality, even if it does cost more for you that way.
Removing your tattoo at home isn’t just possible, it’s also safe and easy with some of these laser tattoo removal machines. We hope you found the perfect machine for your tattoo on our list, but if not, use our buyers guide and the FAQ section below to carefully select a model for yourself.
Laser Tattoo Removal: More FAQs
Still not sure if laser tattoo removal at home is right for you? We’ve summarized the main points of this article and answered the biggest questions people have about laser tattoo removal below.
What is laser tattoo removal?
Laser tattoo removal is the process of firing light at specific wavelengths at your skin. The light breaks down the ink pigments that create your tattoo. Over multiple sessions, the tattoo will be removed completely.
Do laser tattoo removal machines hurt?
It depends on your pain threshold, but generally people describe the experience as uncomfortable rather than painful.
Can you do laser tattoo removal at home?
Yes, you can do it at home. That’s why we’ve created this guide to buy laser tattoo removal machines! There other methods of removing tattoos at home, e.g., with creams, however laser tattoo removal is generally the most reliable and efficient method.
How much do laser tattoo removal machines cost?
The cost varies greatly! Our cheapest laser tattoo removal machine is roughly $100, while the most expensive is $100,000. A single session with a professional laser tattoo remover will cost around $400.
How effective is laser tattoo removal?
Highly effective, when it’s used correctly! The right wavelengths for the right colors, the correct power from the machine, and a practiced hand at tattoo removal makes the laser method highly effective. It’s most effective on black and red inks, for quick tattoo removal.
Does laser tattoo removal leave permanent damage?
No, laser tattoo removal shouldn’t leave any lasting damage. You might experience discomfort during the session and in the days after, as your skin heals, but this shouldn’t be permanent. In most cases, your skin will return to normal after the tattoo is fully removed. If your tattoo is very heavily pigmented, you might struggle to completely erase the tattoo and restore your skin with this method of removal.