Getting the most from tattoo removal

Posted by Aaron Carr on May 12, 2022

tattoo removal and your immune system

You’ve researched the process of tattoo removal, you’ve carefully chosen a respected laser clinic with high quality equipment and a track record of results, and you’ve started treatment. But how do you get the best out of it? Tattoo removal relies on your immune system to do the heavy lifting and actually shift that ink out of your skin once the laser has broken it up into tiny fragments small enough to process. The best way to maximise your outcome is to boost your immune system

Boosting your immune system

Don’t smoke

sparking up

To not put too fine a point on it, smoking kicks the crap out of your immune system, in lots of different ways. As part of its undisputed life-shortening effects, it globally immunosuppresses you. This includes suppressing the action of the macrophage white blood cells which engulf small particles of tattoo ink and remove them from your skin. 

This paper from 2012 estimates that smoking reduces your likelihood of achieving full removal in 10 sessions by nearly 70%. So just in case you needed yet another reason to quit smoking, there it is

Vaping is probably not as bad as smoking conventional cigarettes, but it’s still not great. Long term effects of it still aren’t fully understood and dodgy vaping fluid from unregulated countries can have all sorts of stuff in it. It’s still likely to significantly slow your tattoo removal.

Eat well

tasty vegetables

This is a massive subject, and filled with controversy over what precise things are healthy and which aren't. Suffice to say, we advise you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, a decent amount of protein, and avoid processed foods, refined sugar and seed oils.

Your definitions of a healthy diet may vary, and that’s fine. Human beings can thrive on many different regimens and diets. Just make an effort to eat healthily whatever that means to you and you have ticked that box.

Drink water

the lymphatic system

Macrophages are large white blood cells that cruise around looking for foreign contaminants in your body. They interrogate proteins on the surface of target cells or compounds and if they don’t detect a friendly signature, they just eat them. Their action is dependent on your lymphatic system which is a massive network parallel with your circulation that transports and distributes lymph around your body to and from lymph nodes. Lymph is a milky fluid full of white bloods cells and all the supplies and nutrients they need to do their job. It also carries stuff like captured bacteria, tattoo ink and other nasties back to the lymph nodes for processing. 

Foreign contaminant

The system relies on being well hydrated to flow well. If you’re dehydrated then your lymph won’t flow properly and the whole system slows down and becomes much less efficient. I am quite circumspect about the trend to over-hydrate, but you certainly don’t want to be routinely dehydrated for successful tattoo removal.



We’re back to the lymphatic system. Lymph requires energy to move around your body. Your blood circulation is driven by your heart. Your lymphatic system is driven by exercise. As your body moves and flexes, lymph flows.

One of the best exercise you can do is trampolining. The accelerations and decelerations of the activity shoogles all your lymph so that it flows beautifully, moving particles of ink out of your skin and supplying fresh lymph to wherever it may be required.

It’s not for me personally, I prefer going for a walk or chopping wood, but all you gym bunnies who frequent our clinic are one step ahead of the more sedentary folk in their tattoo removal journey.


Arwa Grant

He’s going to talk about lymph again, isn’t he? Yup...

First of all, wait until you have fully healed from your last laser tattoo removal treatment. If the site is tender to the touch, leave it alone a few more days. Massage can be used directly on the tattooed area to get things moving, get the juices flowing, warm everything up and mechanically move those wee macrophages through your tissues to do their stuff.

Any kind of massage is good, even if it’s just giving the area a squeeze and a knead while you watch television in the evening. If you're lucky you might have a friend to help you. You can also use various mechanical massagers that vibrate or pummel your tissues. These are available with long handles so you can get to out of reach places on your back if required.

Best of all is professional massage, which is good for all sorts of other things too. It’s not really our area of expertise, but Arwa of Highland Muscle Therapy (pictured) is a very skilled professional Massage Therapist and is well placed to advise you on a course of treatment to help you achieve your goals.



Stress has been shown to be immunosupressive in many studies and the link between chronic stress and health problems is well established. It’s probably not helpful to advise you to be less stressed. Life is a difficult journey for just about everyone in various different ways. Buddhists and Hindus have a word for the inevitability of suffering woven through our lived experience, Duḥkha. This is not a pessimistic view point, but recognises that the miracle of our consciousness does offer challenges as well as joys.

Much has been written about managing stress and I do not pretend to be an expert on this by any means. However, research repeatedly shows us that a regular meditative practice significantly reduces stress. Which reminds me, I really ought to meditate regularly... 


sleepy cat

Sleep is a time to repair and recharge. It’s a crucial component of our healing process both mentally and physically and allows us to process the Duḥkha from the day before. If we want our immune system firing 100% to remove that tattoo ink we need to allow our body to rest.

So if all that trampolining isn’t enough to ensure you crash out in the evening, I’m afraid I’m not well placed to comment. I’ve had sleep problems all my life and none of the usual advice such as avoiding caffeine and screens seems to be particularly helpful to me. So if you have any answers for this, or have any other comments or questions, please let us know on our Facebook page

Aaron Carr

About the Author

Aaron Carr has been delivering laser treatments since 2015 and previously worked as a paediatric critical care nurse