The Tattoo Removal Process

By Marisa Ramiccio. May 7th 2016

Despite your friends’ warnings, you did it anyway. You got a tattoo on your chest – a giant flaming heart with your special someone’s name on it. The only problem is that your special someone is no longer yours. Now you’re stuck with a painful, and faded, reminder of the past that you’d do anything to get rid of.

Well, you certainly aren’t alone. Some reports estimate that 45 million Americans have tattoos and about 17 percent of them regret getting them. The good news for both them and you is that there are a few different options for getting rid of a tattoo. This guide will give you a basic rundown of the tattoo removal process.

Can My Tattoo Be Removed?

The short answer is – yes, but in reality, tattoo removal can be a tricky and complicated process. The majority of the process depends on certain variables such as:

  • The age of the tattoo
  • The location of the tattoo
  • The size of the tattoo

For instance, if you have a tattoo that covers your entire back, that’s going to take a lot more time to remove than a small tattoo on your wrist. A newer tattoo will be more difficult to remove than an older, faded tattoo because the ink is still somewhat fresh.

It’s also important to know that, in some circumstances, a tattoo cannot be completely removed. In other words, there is a possibility that your skin won’t look exactly like it did before you got inked; some traces of the tattoo may be left behind. Here are some other things that you should know about tattoo removal before deciding on it:

  • It can be painful – Although getting the tattoo may have been painful, some say the removal feels even worse.
  • It can be time-consuming – In most cases, it takes multiple sessions of the chosen procedure to get rid of the tattoo.
  • It gets pricey – Because you’re charged per session, the more sessions you have, the pricier it will be.

[Related – Tattoo Health Risks: Precautions For Getting Inked]

If you’re undeterred by the stipulations, it’s time to decide how you want to remove your tattoo.

Options For Tattoo Removal

When it comes to tattoo removal, you have a few different options. They are:

Laser Removal – This is probably the most commonly used procedure. As the name suggests, a laser is used to break up the ink of the tattoo, which is just below the top layer of skin. Once the ink is broken up, your immune system will step in and clear the bits of ink away. The procedure requires multiple sessions; depending on the size of the tattoo, you may need up to 10 sessions. Each session can cost anywhere from $250 to $850.

Intense Pulsed Light Therapy – Similar to laser removal, IPL, as it’s more commonly called, uses a high-intensity light to break up the ink. This method, although not as commonly used as laser removal, is said to be more efficient and less painful than the laser procedure. However, it’s also more expensive. Some spas that offer IPL charge up to $10 per pulse. With multiple pulses given each session, the cost can quickly add up.

Dermabrasion – During this procedure, the first two layers of skin will basically be sanded off. The skin will be numbed, so there shouldn’t be any pain during the procedure. However, afterward the skin may feel raw, so it will need to be covered in ointment and bandages for up to 10 days. Dermabrasion may also be done in multiple sessions that can cost $200 to $300 per session.

Surgical Removal – Since surgical removal means cutting the tattooed skin off, this options is best for tiny tattoos. There are two main types of surgical removal: excision and cryosurgery. In excision, the tattooed skin is cut away with a scalpel and then the gap is sewn together with stitches. The area is numbed beforehand and in cryosurgery, which is similar to excision, the area is frozen before the surgery. Both procedures can cost hundreds of dollars.

If these procedures sound too painful or too costly or too time-consuming, you may be tempted to try a do-it-yourself treatment such as a tattoo removal cream. However, these creams take several months to produce results and usually cost more than a hundred dollars for a few months’ supply. Although they may not cause pain, they can irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction. If you’d really rather try a tattoo removal cream, consult with a dermatologist first.

Risks And Results

With any medical procedure, there are risks, most of which are minor. They include:

  • Scarring or other skin damage
  • Skin discoloration
  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction

[Related – 10 Common Causes Of Skin Discoloration]

Some concern has been raised over the side effects of laser procedures. Researchers believe that laser treatment may result in the formation of carcinogens and other toxins from certain pigments in the tattoo. These carcinogens may have a negative effect on the lymph nodes, a potentially serious side effect if proven.

That said, no risk is ever without reward. After several months of treatment, your tattoo should be mostly, if not completely, gone. There may be some traces of ink left behind, but your former flame’s name will no longer be emblazoned on your chest.


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