Allergic reactions to tattoo pigment after laser treatment

Dermatol Surg. 1995 Apr;21(4):291-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.1995.tb00175.x.


Background: Cutaneous allergic reactions to pigments found in tattoos are not infrequent. Cinnabar (mercuric sulfide) is the most common cause of allergic reactions in tattoos and is probably related to a cell-mediated (delayed) hypersensitivity reaction.

Objective: The purpose of these case presentations is to describe a previously unreported complication of tattoo removal with two Q-switched lasers.

Results: Two patients without prior histories of skin disease experienced localized as well as widespread allergic reactions after treatment of their tattoos with two Q-switched lasers.

Conclusion: The Q-switched ruby and neodymium:yttrium-aluminum-garnet lasers target intracellular tattoo pigment, causing rapid thermal expansion that fragments pigment-containing cells and causes the pigment to become extracellular. This extracellular pigment is then recognized by the immune system as foreign.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Leg
  • Pigments, Biological / adverse effects*
  • Tattooing*


  • Pigments, Biological