Comparing the efficacy and safety of laser treatments in tattoo removal: A systematic review

Pooja Gurnani, Natalie Williams, Ghadah AL-Hetheli, Olivia Chukwuma, Rebecca Roth, Francisco Fajardo, Keyvan Nouri

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Although lasers have been the criterion standard for tattoo removal, selecting the best modality can be challenging because of the varying efficacies and adverse effects. Objective: To evaluate all lasers used to remove tattoos and assess their efficacies and adverse effects. Methods: Our systematic review searched PubMed, MEDLINE, Embase, Scopus, CINAHL, Cochrane Central Register of Trials, and for all laser treatments. The outcomes measured included laser parameters, treatment methods, patient and tattoo characteristics, clearance rate, and adverse effect rate. The quality of the included articles was appraised by using specific assessment tools and given a high, moderate, or low risk of bias. Results: Our search led to 3037 studies, with 36 being included in the systematic review (7 randomized controlled trials, 2 nonrandomized controlled trials, and 27 case series). Although quality-switched neodymium-doped yttrium-aluminum-garnet lasers are safe and effective, picosecond lasers have shown superiority with blue, green, and yellow tattoo pigments. Both are safe and effective for black tattoos. Limitations: Variability among studies. Conclusions: Picosecond lasers show superiority when treating blue, green, and yellow tattoos. The R20 and R0 novel techniques can effectively reduce treatment time. Further randomized controlled trials are required to make a more definitive recommendation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Dermatology
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Q-switched
  • ablative
  • laser(s)
  • picosecond
  • tattoo color
  • tattoo pigment
  • tattoo(s)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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