Areolar cosmetic tattoo ink darkening: a complication of Q-switched alexandrite laser treatment

Dermatol Surg. 2002 Jan;28(1):95-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1524-4725.2002.01118.x.


Background and objective: Medical tattooing of the areola is widely performed in Korea. However, cosmetic tattoos containing flesh-tone, purple-red, and yellow dyes are sometimes resistant to Q-switched laser and may even become darker.

Method: Two Korean women in their 30s who had a mastectomy got light brown to red areolar medical tattoos but they were not satisfied with the shape and size of the tattoos. They underwent Q-switched alexandrite laser treatment with a 3 mm collimated beam at fluences of 7.5-8 J/cm2 in order to trim the irregular contour and reduce the diameter of the tattoos.

Results: Within 5 minutes a dark gray to black discoloration of the treated area was evident and remained dark for 6 weeks. Improvement was not noted after two further Q-switched Nd:YAG laser treatments.

Conclusion: Medical areolar tattoos should be approached with extra caution when attempting their removal with high-energy pulsed lasers such as Q-switched alexandrite laser and a small test site should be performed prior to treatment.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Korea
  • Lasers / adverse effects*
  • Mastectomy
  • Nipples / radiation effects*
  • Tattooing*