People get tattoos for many reasons and they get them removed for many more. People decide to get tattoos removed after a break-up or if they don’t adhere to a certain belief anymore that a tattoo depicts.
They may get a tattoo removed if something is spelled wrong or doesn’t look so great because colors have bled or faded. Some people decide to remove a tattoo for better job prospects or for more personal reasons. Whatever the reason, there are some basic things you should know.
Laser tattoo removal can get expensive because of many factors. A basic rule to keep in mind is the bigger and newer the tattoo the more expensive it will be and this is mainly due to the number is sessions it will take to remove it.
How Effective is Laser Tattoo Removal?
Tattoo removal has been around almost as long as tattoos themselves. Before the first laser removal in 1967, unwanted tattoos were removed in super painful and highly dangerous methods that left patients open to infections as well as scarring, with no promise of actually removing the tattoo! Luckily today, methods are a lot friendlier, that’s not to say painless. However, now laser removal is safe and effective on most tattoos.
The effectiveness of a laser tattoo removal depends on the tattoo itself. These factors include:
- The Age of Your Tattoo – Older tattoos are typically easier to remove.
- The Color of Ink Used in Your Tattoo Black ink is the easiest for lasers to remove. Blue, green, white, yellow, orange, and red are more difficult even when they are faded.
- The Size of Your Tattoo The bigger the tattoo the more sessions it will take, thus making it more expensive.
- The Condition and Tone of Your Skin – If your skin is scarred or even sunburnt, it could be a bit more difficult. People with fair skin tend to get faster results than those with a darker complexion.
- Whether Your Tattoo was Professionally Done or Homemade – The quality of your tattoo will have a lot to do with the effectiveness of your tattoo removal. Homemade or prison tattoos tend to be easier to get rid of than professional tattoos.
- Where Your Tattoo is Placed – Tattoos on hands, feet, and legs could be more difficult or take more sessions to remove than tattoos on the arms and back.
- How Your Overall Health Is – People with stronger immune systems also see faster results during laser removal. This is because your body is what actually flushes out the tattoo ink – not the lasers. So, the healthier you are, the quicker the ink is removed from your body
How Much Should I Expect to pay?
As we eluded to earlier, the price your going to pay is dependent mainly upon the number of sessions it requires to fully remove the tattoo or lighten it for a possible cover-up.
To get the most accurate price estimate your best bet is to make an appointment with a reputable removal center, some centers even do free consultations. You can get several estimates or referrals from different places and make the best option for you. It is important to ask a lot of questions and to see if they give run promotions or discounts.
Depending on such factors as listed above, the price could range from a couple hundred dollars per session for old, smaller tattoos with black ink to large tattoos being thousands of dollars per session.
If and when you have your consultation, it is important to remember to ask how many sessions it could take so that you can calculate your budget correctly.
What Type of Laser Tattoo Removal is There?
There are various types of laser removal and one might work better for you. It is important to note that it is really your body that gets rid of the tattoo ink so the healthier you are, the more water you drink, and the more you exercise, the better and more efficient your results will be.
- Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL) – This style uses a bright light set to a specific wavelength set to get through the skin and break up the ink from the tattoo. IPL is typically quite expensive and is not very effective on darker skin.
- Q-switched Ruby – This style uses short pulses of red light to break down the tattoo ink, then your body can then carry the ink away. This is most effective in people with strong immune systems.
- Q-switched Alexandrite – This type of laser runs at 755nm wavelength and is works really well for blue/black and green ink in tattoos but does not work well on red ink tattoos.
- Q-switched Nd: YAG – This is a great option for most tattoos. The laser is affection on both professional and home tattoos and most color of ink.
- Picosure Laser – This is the newest and most effective laser tattoo removal treatments out there. It puts supershort picosecond pulses of energy that targets the ink.
What Are the Alternatives to Laser Removal?
While laser tattoo removal is the most common way to get rid of something no longer wanted, there are several other options.
This method of tattoo removal is painful and involves removing layers of skin where the ink is sitting. It is most often described as a “sandpaper” effect that leaves your skin raw, irritated, and open to infection. Dermabrasion more often then not leads to a scar worse than the tattoo itself.
This involves freezing the skin around the tattoo with liquid nitrogen. After that, a special light is used that causes the skin to start to peel. It is another painful method that sometimes requires a local anesthetic and can also lead to scaring. It is typically meant for smaller tattoos and several sessions are required even then.
Acid or Chemical Peels
Acid peels or injections are supposed to fade tattoo ink by dissolving the skin around it, usually with dangerous chemicals. It can cause serious damage to your especially when bought online and done without a professionals help or opinion.
Creams are similar to acid peels in that they use chemicals to fade and dissolve the skin and ink in it. This option isn’t always the most effective. The best cream that I’ve found is this one, which has some promising reviews (Amazon link). I’ve never personally used this cream though.
Cover-ups are another option, also risky. Cover-ups require a detailed, skilled, and talented tattoo artist to hide your old tattoo with a new one. There are several things to keep in mind when getting a cover-up. It will definitely be bigger than the original tattoo, it will most likely have to be more detailed and more complex than your original tattoo and your artist may still ask you to have several sessions of laser removal of the old tattoo.
Potential Side Effects of Tattoo Removal
- Redness and swelling
- The darkening or lightening of skin called hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation, this usually corrects itself within 12 months after treatment has finished
- There is always of risk of infection to the area
Will Insurance Cover Tattoo Removals?
Most likely not. Tattoo removal is typically considered a cosmetic procedure and cosmetic procedures are not covered by insurance companies because they are not medically necessary.
However, if you find that your tattoo interferes with your daily life or holds you back from getting a job or furthering your career, you may be eligible for financial help from non-profit groups.
There are several organizations that make it their mission to help pay for tattoo removal. This would be ideal for anyone with gang-related or prison tattoos, markings or tattoos forced on human trafficking or other abuse victims and sometimes tattoos done on minors.
Things to Keep In Mind About Laser Tattoo Removal
- It takes time, so be patient. Even under the best circumstances, you will need more than one session for a tattoo removal, and you have to allow time in between sessions to allow the skin to heal.
- It is going to be expensive, mainly for the reason above.
- Results are going to vary depending on many factors.
- Professional tattoos are typically easier to remove than home or prison tattoos, although this has been debated.
- Do your research on recommended doctors or clinics in your area.
- To get the best results, follow the aftercare instructions exactly.
Getting laser tattoo removal is the best option for getting rid of an unwanted tattoo. Especially with today’s lasers and technology. While it is expensive, it is the safest and gives the best results.