Dermabrasion Tattoo Removal: Does It Work? Cost, Pain, Results

Dermabrasion Tattoo Removal

Dermabrasion can successfully remove tattoos, but typically requires multiple treatments over weeks or months to fade ink. Results vary based on tattoo color and longevity. While generally safe when properly performed, dermabrasion poses risks of infection, scarring, and pigment changes.

This article will examine how dermabrasion removes tattoos, its effectiveness, procedure details, costs, pain levels, risks and side effects, expected results, and tips for finding a qualified dermabrasion specialist.

How Does Dermabrasion Work to Remove Tattoo Ink?

Dermabrasion utilizes a rapidly rotating instrument to abrade the outer layers of skin, removing unwanted tattoos in the process. As the high-speed device sands away the epidermis, ink particles trapped in the dermis layer are gradually eliminated as skin heals.

While dermabrasion can break down stubborn tattoo pigments, full removal requires repeat treatments to entirely fade artwork. On average, between 5-10 sessions spaced 4-6 weeks apart are needed to see significant clearing.

Ancient forms of dermabrasion date back over 3,500 years. Early civilizations used abrasive salts, plants, and tools to smooth scarred or tattoed skin. While once fell out of favor due to scarring risk, modern dermabrasion is much safer utilizing advanced technology, anesthetics, and aftercare.

What Factors Impact Dermabrasion Tattoo Removal Effectiveness?

How successfully dermabrasion eliminates tattoos depends on several criteria:

  • Ink Color – Darker pigments like black, blue, and purple fade best. Brighter greens, oranges, yellows, and reds may resist removal.
  • Tattoo Age – Newer ink responds better as particles reside closer to the skin’s surface initially.
  • Tattoo Size – The larger and deeper the artwork, the more treatments needed.
  • Tattoo Location – Areas with thicker skin like the arms, back, chest, and legs remove easiest. Ink on hands, feet, or joints proves more stubborn.
  • Aftercare – Properly caring for abraded skin during healing is vital to avoid complications that impair results.

In general, dermabrasion performs well erasing small, amateur tattoos obtained recently. Just temper expectations removing elaborate, professional designs, especially those applied years prior.

Type of TattooAverage # of Sessions
Small, 2 years old3-5
Medium, 2-5 years old6-8
Large, 5+ years old8+

Step-By-Step Dermabrasion Tattoo Removal Procedure

The following outlines what to expect during a standard dermabrasion session:

  1. The patient and dermatologist discuss goals and manage expectations. Potential risks are explained and consent forms signed.
  2. The area undergoing treatment is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Eyelid protectors may shield eyes.
  3. A topical anesthetic gel or injection blocks sensation. For large tattoos, general anesthesia or conscious sedation may be utilized.
  4. The high speed dermabrader sands skin at preset abrasion depths ranging from light to deep exfoliation. Mills rotate at over 20,000 RPM!

5.neutralized and a protective ointment applied. Bandages help guard the raw wound as it regenerates new skin.

  1. Over 4-6 weeks the treated area scabs over and fresh skin emerges. Repeat sessions continue eliminating ink trapped deeper within dermal layers.
  2. After all treatments conclude patients follow wound care instructions to properly heal skin and minimize scarring. Use of scar gels, sun protection, and compression garments may be advised.

With proper anesthetic, the 30-60 minute dermabrasion procedure proves relatively comfortable. Some localized stinging, tingling, or burning could occur when abrasion reaches deeper ink pockets.

What Does Dermabrasion For Tattoo Removal Cost?

Costs for dermabrasion tattoo removal vary depending on several factors. The number of sessions needed to fade away tattoos makes a major impact, with each visit ranging from $200 to $500. Removing extensive artwork spanning the entire back or sleeve area gets very expensive because it requires more treatments. Larger tattoo pieces also take more time per session to treat, inflating procedural fees.

More experienced dermatology specialists who perform tattoo removal also often charge higher rates than general practitioners. If using anesthesia like general anesthesia or IV sedation during the dermabrasion sessions, there are also additional anesthesia fees per treatment that can add hundreds of dollars per visit. Aftercare products like antibiotic ointments, medicated gels, special non-stick bandages, and compression garments to promote healing also accumulate over the weeks of recovery between treatments.

On average, plan to budget around $1000 just to start removal process for a small tattoo expected to be erased in approximately 3 shorter 30-45 minute treatment sessions spaced 4-6 weeks apart. In comparison, large back pieces or full arm sleeves requiring 8 or more sessions with deeper abrasion levels could end up costing $5000 or higher. So while per session dermabrasion generally remains cheaper than laser removal alternatives, the potentially higher number of visits needed to fully fade ink means costs still quickly escalate. When choosing between tattoo removal methods, be sure to weigh costs against convenience and timing factors.

What Level of Pain Does Dermabrasion For Tattoo Removal Cause?

Patients describe dermabrasion pain as:

  • During procedure – A 2-4 on the 10-point scale. The anesthetic numbs effectively, causing minor discomfort during abrasion.
  • Healing – Some lingering soreness equivalent to a mild sunburn. Discomfort peaks a few days post-treatment before gradually easing.
  • Risk of infection – Open wounds can invite bacteria causing swelling, oozing fluid, pus, redness, and fever requiring antibiotics. Proper aftercare minimizes infection probability.

With localized anesthetics, dermabrasion proves largely tolerable for smaller tattoos. Larger multi-hour treatments may require sedation options. Smart tattoo placement also reduces discomfort treating areas low in nerve endings.

What Are The Risks and Side Effects?

Dermabrasion tattoo removal poses some risks when the skin is abraded. Infection is most common as bacteria can enter open wounds. Follow aftercare instructions to prevent infection and complications. Other potential side effects include scarring, skin discoloration from the loss of melanin cells, and incomplete fading. Those prone to scars or with darker complexions face higher risks. While rare for small tattoos, choose an experienced, certified dermatology provider to minimize risks. Faint scarring is often still preferred over conspicuous tattoos by most patients. Discuss concerns thoroughly during consultations.

What Results Can You Expect From Tattoo Removal Dermabrasion?

Visible improvement occurs gradually over repeat treatments as accumulating skin abrasion breaks down ink particles trapped deep within the dermis. Small tattoos less than 1-2 years old fare best, with complete removal possible within 5 shorter sessions. Larger or older tattoos see success but require more visits for satisfactory fading.

Avoid unrealistic expectations that multi-color sleeves or designs decades old instantly vanish. Permanent makeup also only lightens partially since pigment integrates deeper into facial skin. Be strategic in removing less elaborate sections first. Clearing names, numbers, or smaller elements alone improves existing tattoos by concealing ex’s identities or customizing unwanted flashes.

Tips For Finding a Dermabrasion Tattoo Removal Specialist

When selecting a dermabrasion tattoo removal provider, first verify proper board certification from either the American Board of Dermatology or the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology. Next, scrutinize additional qualifications like specialty training completed in the dermabrasion equipment used at the clinic and the technician’s experience level performing removals.

Ask direct questions about how many tattoo removal cases the office completes annually and the types of tattoos previously treated to gauge their niche expertise. Request to see before and after photos of actual patient results with tattoos comparable to yours. Get complete cost breakdowns accounting for total projected sessions needed and any prepaid packaged pricing. Beware of offices pushing prepaid packages over simple pay-per-visit. Finally, inquire if complimentary touch-up laser removal is included if the dermabrasion treatment fades your tattoo incompletely.

Vet each prospective dermatology clinic thoroughly and choose a practitioner properly equipped for your specific tattoo removal needs, as their expertise and experience level directly impact the safety risks and results achieved.


While dermabrasion tattoo removal demands more treatments than laser methods, it provides a less costly alternative to erasing unwanted ink. Just carefully weigh benefits vs limitations based on your tattoo size, colors, age, and location. Thoroughly research clinics, ask all necessary questions, and set realistic expectations regarding the process to achieve success in removing body art over time using this skin

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