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How many laser treatments does it take to remove a tattoo?

There are a lot of reasons for wanting to remove a tattoo. It no longer holds sentimental value, it is keeping you from getting a job, you made an impulsive decision, and many more.

No matter what the reason is behind wanting to remove a tattoo, laser tattoo removal is the most effective way to remove it. With all of the advances of the laser technology, it is possible to remove any tattoo regardless the color and location.

Different lasers are able to remove different colored tattoos safely and effectively. So how many laser treatments does it take to remove a tattoo?

Laser tattoo removal is different for each client because each person and their tattoo is unique. Because of this, it is not possible to predict the exact number of treatments that a given tattoo will require for complete removal.

This might be a frustrating answer, but at least what you can do, apart from using the best tattoo removal lasers available, is to set clear expectation.

Best on experience, most professional tattoos take around 6-12 sessions to completely remove- sometimes less, occasionally more. The reason of the broad range is that there are a lot of factors to take into consideration.

The number of sessions needed to remove a tattoo depends largely on the following factors :

  1. Skin type (lighter or darker)
  2. Ink colors ( plain black or vibrant colors too)
  3. Amount of ink applied (did the artist who made the tattoo press hard to apply a lot of ink deep or was it a gentle one?)
  4. The type of ink applied (professional ink or homemade pigment)
  5. Preexisting scarring from the tattoo process (did you heal well after the tattoo was applied or was it raised and scarred?)
  6. Immune system function (are you fit and healthy?)
  7. Tobacco use (is your immune system already busy clearing out other clearing particles?)
  8. After care compliance
  9. Laser technology used
  10. Experience and skill of the laser technician
  11. More other factors

Though lasers are helpful, efficient and effective when it comes to tattoo removal, there are a bunch of misconceptions about what they can and cannot do. Here’s what you should know about the laser process first before you willingly get that song lyric etched into your forearm or take the plunge to have something old removed.

#1. It’s safe to get laser removal done anywhere it is offered

It is important to make sure that laser removal is done by a professional, dermatologist to be exact.

With tattoo laser removal there’s a risk of bleeding, infection and scarring, all of which can be successfully treated but only under the proper care of a dermatologist.

#2. Laser removal is a simple, quick, reliable and easy solution to bad tattoo

The big misconception with laser removal is that people think it’s an eraser. But it is not that simple, it is a process. So at times when the question “how many laser treatments does it take to remove a tattoo” occurs in your head, the answer is that sometimes, complete removal of a tattoo can take one or two years, with treatments occurring every 6, 8 or 12 weeks.

It is not like you’re getting your eyebrow waxed, it is an invasive procedure that costs hundreds of dollars per session. Lasers remove tattoos by blowing up pigment molecules into tiny pieces which then are cleared away by an immune system response. Healing from laser treatment is not always a walk in the park or eating a piece of cake either. The laser breaks the skin’s surface so you have bleeding, swelling and pain after the removal treatment.

#3. It is not painful to have a tattoo removed

Basically, it is uncomfortable but bearable. Laser tattoo removal can be painless, but that’s usually because practitioners can give you a numbing agent first. The vast majority of tattoo removal providers offer some form of soothing to the skin during the treatment.

The patient’s health which is important do also affect the speed of removal. If a patient is young, physically fit and has a strong immune system they will more be able to stand the pain and tend to see result faster than an older, obese patient with health problem.

#4. Laser removal is safe for everyone

Not everyone is an ideal candidate for laser removal. According to Susan Bard MD, a board-certified dermatologist “removal is always going to be more difficult on patients with darker skin tone based on laser physics and the way the laser works.

It’s because the laser targets pigment that’s in the dye but at the same time it can also target the melanin on your skin. So, the darker your skin, the more complicated it will to utilize laser to remove the tattoo.”

Laser removal can cause burns and hyper pigmentation in darker skin tones.

#5. All tattoos are equally easy to remove

It is not, because not all tattoos are created equal. The amount of treatments you need depend on the size of the tattoo, the color, the location, what type of ink was used, your skin color and your skin’s ability to heal. Black tattoos are easier to remove than vibrant colored tattoos.

Green and blue tend to be more challenging and things like in yellow, white and purple are almost impossible to be removed completely. Different wavelengths in laser targets different color on skin. This is why multiple lasers are required for the successful removal of a multi-color tattoo, another reason to see a well-versed doctor for treatment.

If you have your laser removal done properly you should see 90% clearance on a tattoo. You can’t be sure to get a 100% clearance on a tattoo and that’s for a variety of reasons including the type of ink and if the tattoo was done by a professional tattoo parlor.

Professional tattoos tend to incorporate more colors and deposit more deeply into your skin, making it more challenging while amateur tattoos tend to be easier as they are often carbon-based, single color and placed more superficially.

The same goes for older tattoos where the ink is generally easier for the laser energy to break apart than fresh ink. A 20-year-old tattoo may take 2 or 3 treatments fewer than a 1-year old tattoo. The location of your tattoo is important because tattoo removal depends on the body to flush away the shattered ink particles, areas of the body with less circulation often take more time to show results. The toes, fingers, ears, nose are areas that may show slower results. And how about only to remove a part of the tattoo, can it be done? The answer is yes because lasers are very accurate and can treat small targeted area so you may remove only a portion of your tattoo as desired.

#6. If you had no reaction to getting a tattoo, you’ll have no reaction to get it removed.

It is possible to have a smooth healing process after getting your tattoo, but still a poor reaction to laser removal. For one laser can cause scarring and permanent skin discoloration that tattoos might not (aside from doing so in the obvious way of course).

Laser tattoo removal recovery is minimal. You might experience some discomfort around the treatment site but it should not inhibit you from daily activities. If you’re in the sun, you need to keep the treatment area covered to prevent sunburn so that the skin can heal properly. Your dermatologist will most likely provide you with tattoo removal aftercare instructions.

Alternatively, you may have had a bad reaction to the tattoo you’ve made and want it taken off. In this case, according to Dr. Bard, the worst thing you can do is laser tattoo removal, it breaks up the pigment and bring it to the lymph nodes which will cause a systematic reaction everywhere, which again can lead a patient to a risky life-threatening situation called anaphylaxis. Alternative removal methods for people with allergies include surgically cutting the tattoo out or removing it with an abrasive laser which remove the top layer skin.

So once you decide to undergo a laser tattoo removal and you’re not having any allergy problems you should not be worry because the side effects will be also minor.

It is also clear with all 6 points above that it will be always better that you meet a professional dermatologist who has experience with lasers first to discuss your health and skin condition. An expert tattoo dermatologist will provide you with the best treatment because they have a thorough understanding of what type of laser should be used based on the color and location of your tattoo and under their supervision your skin should heal completely within one or two weeks. To talk and discuss with friends or relatives who had have laser tattoo removal will also be good since their information and stories can give you some time to learn from their experience and the knowledge to make yourself sure whether you really need to take action with this laser removal thing or not.