People get tattoos for many reasons, be it cultural, personal, or simply because they like the design. Tattoos are becoming more mainstream, too, with face tattoos even growing in popularity.
Just as there are many reasons people get tattoos, there are many reasons why people may want to remove them.
Although tattoos are permanent, this is only to an extent. They can be removed if you decide you no longer want them.
Let’s take a look at the ways you can remove a tattoo, including cost, how long it’ll take, and more.
Older tattoos as well as amateur (“stick and poke”) tattoos are easier to remove than newer ones.
Some colors are easier to remove than others as well. These include:
Larger, darker, more colorful tattoos are more time-consuming and expensive to remove than smaller, lighter, and less colorful ones.
Due to the risk of side effects, it’s also more difficult to remove tattoos if you have:
- darker skin
- a preexisting skin condition, like eczema
- a health condition that affects the skin, such as herpes
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t remove your tattoo if any of this applies to you. It just means you may need to take a bit more time to find the best removal option for you.
Your healthcare provider can also help you if you have a health condition. For example, they can prescribe antiviral medications to prevent a tattoo removal procedure from triggering a herpes flare-up. They can also refer you to a dermatologist for further guidance.
Most experts consider laser removal to be the most successful and cost-effective way to remove tattoos.
Today, most tattoos are removed with a Q-switched laser. It sends out energy in one strong pulse. This pulse of energy heats up the ink in your skin to dissolve it.
You’ll need to receive a number of laser treatments over several weeks or longer to remove your tattoo.
Often, lasers don’t completely remove a tattoo. Instead, they lighten or fade it so it’s much less noticeable.
Who should get laser removal?
Tattoos with many colors are more difficult to remove. They might require treatment with different lasers and wavelengths to be effective.
The best candidates for traditional laser removal are those with lighter skin. This is because laser treatment can change the color of darker skin.
If you have darker skin, your best laser option is Q-switched Nd:YAG laser treatment. It’s least likely to change the color of darker skin.
Older tattoos tend to fade most with laser treatment. Newer tattoos are more difficult to remove.
How much does it cost?
The cost of laser tattoo removal depends on the size, color, and age of your tattoo.
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the national average cost of laser removal is $463.
Tattoo removal isn’t covered by most insurance companies because it’s considered to be a cosmetic procedure.
What’s laser removal like?
You can get laser tattoo removal at an aesthetic clinic. A laser technician will numb the tattooed skin with a local anesthetic. Next, they’ll apply the laser to the skin. The skin may bleed, blister, and swell following each procedure.
This process is repeated over multiple sessions until you’re happy with the extent to which your tattoo has faded.
The average course of treatment varies greatly from person to person. In general, it takes about six to eight sessions to remove a tattoo with laser treatment. You’ll have to wait six to eight weeks between sessions for best results.
Your technician will give you specific aftercare instructions.
In general, apply antibacterial ointment to your skin for several days following each procedure. The ointment will help heal your skin and reduce the risk of infection. Change the wound dressing each time you apply the ointment.
For at least the next two weeks:
- Keep the treated area clean and dry.
- Avoid wearing tight clothing.
- Avoid exposing the treated area to direct sunlight.
- Don’t pick at any scabs or blisters that form.
Scarring and other risks
Some people experience scarring. To reduce your risk for scarring, don’t pick at the area as it heals. Also, be sure to follow your provider’s instructions and recommendations.
Surgical removal, also called excision tattoo removal, involves cutting off tattooed skin and stitching remaining skin back together.
Surgical removal is the most invasive method of tattoo removal. However, it’s the only surefire method of completely removing a tattoo.
Who should get surgical removal?
Surgical removal is a very effective method for getting rid of an unwanted tattoo. It’s often less expensive than some of the other options. However, surgical removal will leave a scar, so it’s usually preferred for small tattoos.
How much does it cost?
The cost of surgical tattoo removal tends to be lower than laser removal and dermabrasion.
Depending on the size of the tattoo, surgical removal may range between $150 and $350, according to St. Joseph’s Plastic Surgery Center.
Because tattoo removal is considered a cosmetic procedure, insurance doesn’t usually cover it.
What’s surgical removal like?
The procedure can be done in a plastic surgery office. During the procedure, a surgeon will inject your skin with a local anesthetic so you don’t feel pain.
They’ll use a sharp, knifelike instrument called a scalpel to cut away the tattooed skin. Then, they’ll stitch the remaining skin back together.
Surgery to remove a tattoo may take one to several hours, depending on the tattoo’s size…