Laser tattoo removal is essentially zapping away the heavy metal in particles of ink. As we explained before, when getting a tattoo, your white blood cells try to gobble up and get rid of those particles as part of your immune response. However, that's a difficult task, because the white blood cells are so much tinier than the ink particles (scoot ahead to the 3:40 mark to see the size comparison). But, the laser breaks down the particles so they're small enough for the white blood cells to take care of, speeding up the natural immune processes that were already taking place. (Skip ahead to 6:55 to see the laser work its magic.)
As Destin, SmarterEveryDay's host, cautions, "It's a lot harder to get a tattoo off than it is to put it on." And, in most cases, the laser removal process is painful and must be repeated a few times to get the full effect. Even then, a tattoo may not be completely gone — it depends on the pigments and density of the ink used. So, if you were grossed out by the idea of getting a tattoo, getting one removed probably sounds even worse. But, we still hope our love for our tattoos lasts as long as they do.