Tattoo Laser Removal

That's right! We now offer Laser Removal in our shop. Please come by the shop Wed-Sat between 1pm and 7pm for a consultation or to make an appointment. All of our tattoo removal procedures are performed by a Registered Nurse and overseen by Medical Director James J. Chao, MD, FACS. Read his bio below and check out our FAQs on Laser Removal to answer any questions you may have. If you've had removal done, please download our post care instructions (PDF) to help properly heal.


San Diego Barber ShopJames J. Chao, MD, FACS
Clinical Professor of Surgery, UCSD Division of Plastic Surgery

James Chao MD is a Clinical Professor in the UCSD Division of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Chao specializes in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the hand and upper extremity, aesthetic and reconstructive breast surgery, body contour surgery, and the development of new technologies in the field of plastic surgery.


Dr. Chao received his medical degree from New York University (NYU) School of Medicine. He completed his fellowship in Hand and Microsurgery including his plastic surgery residency at NYU Medical Center, Bellevue Hospital. Dr. Chao is the former Director of Hand & Microsurgery at the University of Texas Southwestern and Parkland Hospital and joined the faculty in the UCSD Division of Plastic Surgery in 2004.

The ultimate goal of Dr. Chao’s research is to pioneer new state-of-the-art technologies for plastic surgery patients that are not available anywhere else. Dr. Chao is currently conducting research to improve the quality of reconstruction for breast cancer patients and to decrease the scarring on wounds. Dr. Chao is involved with multiple companies in the development of new devices for hand surgeries. He is recognized for his clinical excellence by his role as the plastic surgeon for the San Diego Chargers and ESPN X games.

In addition to his clinical practice and research, Dr. Chao trains residents and teaches medical students daily on the art and principles of plastic surgery. His excellence in teaching was recognized as a Recipient of 2004 UCSD Plastic Surgery, Human Anatomy Lab. Additionally, Dr. Chao has been the recipient of numerous prestigious state and national research awards.

Many disadvantaged children will wake up and be able to use their hands in a way they couldn’t before due to Dr. Chao’s volunteer efforts with the Fresh Start Organization of San Diego. Dr. Chao provides his services free of charge for many “surgery weekends” that gives children with deformities a new chance.

Dr. Chao has authored several peer-reviewed journal articles and is also a member of several professional societies including the American Board of Plastic Surgery, the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery and serves as a committee member on the Plastic Surgery Research Council.


Laser Removal FAQ's

How Do Lasers Remove Tattoos? 
Lasers work by producing short pulses of intense light that pass harmlessly through the top layers of the skin to be selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment. This laser energy causes the tattoo pigment to fragment into smaller particles that are then removed by the body's immune system. Researchers have determined which wavelengths of light to use and how to deliver the laser's output to best remove tattoo ink. The laser does not remove normal skin pigment. Fortunately, the laser selectively targets the pigment of the tattoo and does not damage the surrounding skin.

Will a Laser Remove my Tattoo? 
Lasers, which stand for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation, have become the standard treatment for tattoo removal because they offer a bloodless, low risk, effective alternative with minimal side effects. Each procedure is done on an outpatient basis in a single or series of visits.

The type of laser used to remove a tattoo depends on the tattoo's pigment colors. Yellow and green are the hardest colors to remove;black is usually the the easiest. The three lasers developed specifically for use in tattoo removal use a technique known as Q-switching, which refers to the laser's short, high-energy pulses:
* the Q-switched Ruby,
* the Q-switched Alexandrite,
* the Q-switched Nd: YAG, the newest system in this class of lasers and particularly advanced in the removal of red, blue and black inks

San Diego Laser Removal currently treats all Tattoo Removal Patients with the Q-switched Nd: YAG.

Does Tattoo Removal Hurt? 
The unfortunate thing about tattoos is that both getting them and having them taken off can be uncomfortable. The impact of the energy from the laser's powerful pulse of light has been described as similar to getting hot specks of bacon grease on your skin or being snapped by a thin rubber band. Because black pigment absorbs all laser wavelengths, it's the easiest to remove. Other colors, such as green, selectively absorb laser light and can only be treated by selected lasers based on the pigment color. The discomfort of having a tattoo on your body you are unhappy with, could be greater than monthly treatments watching your unwanted ink fade into a memory.

What Can I Expect After the Treatment? 
Following treatment, our Nurse will apply an antibacterial ointment and dressing to the area, which should be kept clean with continued application of ointment as directed. A shower or bath the day after treatment is okay, but the treatment area should not be scrubbed. Your skin might feel slightly sunburned for a couple of days and the treated area may remain red for a few weeks. The site might also form a scab, which should be handled gently. After healing, the site will gradually and continually fade.

Side effects of laser procedures are generally few but may include hyperpigmentation, or an abundance of color in the skin at the treatment site, and hypopigmentation, where the treated area lacks normal skin color. Other possible side effects could include a lack of complete pigment removal and a 5 percent chance of scarring.

How Many Treatments Does it Take Before my Tattoo is Gone? 
Every ones results are different, we have seen tattoos remove in as quickly as 3 treatments or take as many as 20+ treatments.  With that said, on the average it takes 6-12 treatments for complete removal. There are so many variables regarding removal ie: Type of pigments used, depth of tattoo, tattoo needle groupings used during application, age, diet, activity level, etc. There is no way to HONESTLY predict how many sessions you will need for complete removal. Our goal here at San Diego Laser Removal is to safely, completely and efficiently remove your unwanted tattoos in a FEW treatments as possible.

If you have any other questions, comments or concerns, please call us anytime at 619-269-0569. Thank you, and we look forward to treating you.