Laser Tattoo Removal
What is laser tattoo removal?
Laser tattoo removal is a cosmetic procedure that doesn’t require any surgery. Instead, it uses advanced laser technology to lighten or completely get rid of tattoos you no longer want. It’s highly regarded as one of the safest ways to remove tattoos, minimizing any noticeable scarring. During the procedure, a powerful laser beam is focused on the tattooed skin, breaking down the tattoo ink into tiny pieces. Over time, your body naturally flushes out these smaller ink fragments, leading to the gradual fading or complete removal of the tattoo.
Cost of laser tattoo removal
Generally, the cost of laser tattoo removal falls within the range of $200 to $500 for each treatment session. Below is the average cost based on the size of the tattoo:
- Small Tattoo (1 to 2 Square Inches): $200 and $300 per session.
- Medium Tattoo (3 to 6 Square Inches): $200 to $500 per session.
- Large Tattoo: $500 to $1,500 per session, depending on their size and complexity.
It’s important to keep in mind that achieving complete tattoo removal usually necessitates multiple sessions. On average, most individuals require anywhere from 5 to 15 sessions to attain the desired results.
Factors affecting the cost of treatment
The total cost of getting rid of a tattoo with laser treatment can depend on several things, like:
- Tattoo Size: How big your tattoo is plays a big role in figuring out how much it’ll cost to remove.
- Complexity of Tattoo: Tattoos that have complicated designs, shading, or lots of colors might need more sessions and special techniques to get rid of them properly.
- Ink Color: The color of the ink may impact the cost. Dark colors like black or dark blue are usually easier to remove, but lighter colors like green, yellow, or fluorescent colors can be trickier.
- Tattoo Age: How old your tattoo is can affect the cost too. Older tattoos tend to fade a bit, which can make them easier to remove compared to fresh and bold tattoos.
- Tattoo Location: Where your tattoo is on your body can also change the cost. Tattoos in sensitive or hard-to-reach places, like your face or hands, might need special care or techniques.
- Number of Sessions: You usually need more than one session to completely get rid of a tattoo with lasers. The number of sessions can vary based on things like how big your tattoo is, what colors are in it, and how your skin responds to the treatment.
To figure out how much it will cost you, schedule an appointment with a qualified provider. They can take a look at your tattoo and give you a precise estimate based on your unique situation.
Are you a candidate?
A good candidate for laser tattoo removal is someone who has a healthy immune system and is patient. In many cases, laser tattoo removal can take multiple treatments, so it is important to have realistic expectations of what it can do. Treatment should not be given to anyone with:
- Active skin inflammation such as eczema or psoriasis
- Active warts or herpes
- Any other active disease that can slow healing
- Pregnant or nursing
Before getting the procedure done, you will be asked about your medical history, the medications you currently take, previous surgeries, drug allergies and if you have had a history of scarring.
You might also need to provide information about the tattoo such as the colors of the ink and whether the tattoo was done by a professional or an amateur. The answers to these questions will determine how many treatments you will need.
How does it work?
Tattoos consist of many large particles of ink that are too big for your immune system to naturally remove from the body. Laser tattoo removal works by emitting a light of a certain wavelength that targets the ink pigment. The pigment absorbs the light and converts it into heat energy that fractures the ink particles into smaller fragments. The smaller fragments can then be more easily eliminated by the body.
Types of lasers
- Q-switched laser: A laser called the Q-switched laser is the most popular for treatment because of its high intensity and short pulses of light. This allows it to be more powerful and effective, while also resulting in less damage to surrounding skin because of its shorter contact time. Different types of Q-switched lasers emit light of different wavelengths. The type of laser used depends on your tattoo color and skin type. In some cases, many lasers need to be used if the tattoo contains many colors.
- Nd: YAG laser: The Nd: YAG laser is the most often used Q-switched laser because it can treat many dark ink colors, such as black, blue, green and violet and also many light colors, such as red, orange, yellow and pink. It is also the ideal laser to use in individuals with darker skin because its longer wavelength allows for the laser to be less attracted to the skin’s pigment. This results in a lower risk for skin pigment changes.
- Ruby Laser: Ruby lasers are good for treating more stubborn colors of ink, such as some shades of green and blue. However, it may pose a higher risk since the skin pigment may change.
Depending on the size of the tattoo, the whole procedure should take between 10 minutes to an hour.
A topical anesthetic or a lidocaine shot will be given before the treatment to prevent you from feeling much pain during the procedure. You will also be given eye protection to wear to prevent the laser from being attracted to pigmented areas of your eye.
Laser pulses will be targeted at your tattoo. You should not feel much pain during the procedure, but you may still feel like a rubber band is hitting your body with each pulse.
After the procedure, you will have a wound that you will need to clean daily and apply a healing ointment to it. You may feel some tenderness, which ice can help facilitate.
Your skin should heal within 5 days of the procedure, but you will be expected to wear a bandage for 7-10 days after treatment.
It is important to use sun protection for 3 months afterwards to avoid further complications with your skin.
How many treatments will you need?
The number of treatments needed to remove your tattoo will depend on many factors, such as the size, the color, the depth and density of the ink and the age of the tattoo. For example, older tattoos fade and tend to be easier to remove than newer tattoos.
Most patients will need more than 1 treatment to see results. The average number of sessions needed is usually between 5 to 15, with treatments being spaced apart by 6 weeks.
The time between treatments is necessary for healing and for the ink particles to be excreted from the body.
When will you see results?
It depends on tattoo (ie color, depth, etc). Final results can be see after 1-10 treatment sessions.
How long will your results last?
Results are permanent.
Alternatives to laser tattoo removal
Other methods for tattoo removal exist; however, many of these are less effective and result in a greater risk of scarring or damage to the surrounding skin. Some of these alternatives include:
- Chemical peels: A chemical peel uses chemicals to remove the outer layers of the skin. The skin takes about 5-7 days to heal after treatment. This method can be used to treat tattoos that do not penetrate as deep, but it is not a method used often.
- Surgery: This method involves cutting out the tattoo, which can result in scarring and complicated wound closure. For this reason, surgery is best reserved for smaller tattoos rather than larger ones.
- Dermabrasion: This method involves using a machine with a fast-spinning wheel to abrade the skin to remove the top layer of the tattoo. The deeper layers of the tattoo can then be removed surgically. This method results in a healing time of 10-14 days and may cause scarring.
- Salabrasion: This is an older method and is not often used today. It involves using coarse salt and gauze to abrade the top layers of the skin. This method can remove more superficial tattoos, but scarring can occur.
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- American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Tattoo removal: Eliminate unwanted tattoos. American Society of Plastic Surgeons website. Accessed October 26, 2020. https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/tattoo-removal
- Burris K, Kim K. Tattoo removal. Clin Dermatol. 2007;25(4):388-392. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2007.05.011
- Astanza Laser. Q-switched laser tattoo removal. Astanza Laser website. Accessed October 26, 2020. https://astanzalaser.com/q-switched-laser-tattoo-removal
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. Tattoo removal: Lasers outshine other methods. American Academy of Dermatology Association website. Accessed October 26, 2020. https://www.aad.org/public/cosmetic/hair-removal/laser-tattoo-removal
- The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Cosmetic surgery national data bank statistics: The authoritative source for current U.S. statistics on cosmetic surgery. Accessed October 26, 2020. https://www.surgery.org/sites/default/files/ASAPS-Stats2017.pdf