How to Remove Tattoos Safely and Permanently

How to Remove Tattoos Safely and Permanently

So you have a tattoo that you now regret. Maybe it’s an ex’s name, an ugly design, or simply something that no longer represents who you are. You’re not alone – tattoo regret is more common than you may think. According to research, 1 in 4 people end up unhappy with their ink. Luckily there are options for removing unwanted tattoos, ranging from laser removal to cover-ups.

The most effective method for tattoo removal is laser treatment, which works by breaking up the tattoo ink particles under your skin so your body’s immune system can remove them. On average complete removal takes 6-12 sessions spaced 6-8 weeks apart. Other options like dermabrasion, TCA cross, and cover-up tattoos may also help hide or remove old tattoo designs.

In this comprehensive guide you’ll discover:

  • Is laser removal the gold standard for removing tattoos?
  • What factors affect the cost and pain of laser tattoo removal
  • What is dermabrasion and does it work to remove ink?
  • Can you use TCA cross-chemotherapy to erase tattoos?
  • When are cover-up tattoos a good option?
  • Pros and Cons of Popular Tattoo Removal Methods
  • Real Patient Reviews on Tattoo Removal Methods

By the end, you’ll understand the most effective, safe, and affordable methods to erase your old tattoos.

Overview of Laser Tattoo Removal

For most people looking to remove a tattoo, laser treatments remain the gold standard. Laser removal works by producing short, concentrated pulsating beams of light that target and break up the tattoo ink in your skin. The pulses of laser light are selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment only, leaving the surrounding skin unharmed.

Once shattered by the laser energy, the ink particles are small enough to be absorbed and eliminated by your body’s immune system. The faded tattoo ink is removed from the skin through the lymphatic system.

How Many Laser Sessions Are Needed?

Complete laser tattoo removal requires multiple treatments. On average it takes 6 to 12 sessions spaced 6 to 8 weeks apart. However, the number of treatments depends on factors like:

  • Age of tattoo: The older the tattoo, the more sessions it could take. Ink fades slightly over time, making newer tattoos require fewer appointments.
  • Ink colors: Each color requires a specific wavelength of light. Black ink is the easiest to treat. Other pigments like greens, purples, and reds may need more sessions.
  • Depth of ink: If the artist applied ink deeply into thick dermis layers, it will take more treatments to fully penetrate and remove.
  • Location on body: Areas with better circulation and immune response like the face and neck remove ink faster.
Laser Tattoo Removal Cost

Laser Tattoo Removal Cost

The average cost per laser tattoo removal session ranges from $200 to $500. However, the total cost depends on the size of your tattoo and how many treatments you’ll need. Expect to pay:

  • Small tattoo (2 inch x 2 inch size): $1,000 to $1,500
  • Medium tattoo (6 inch x 6 inch size): $3,000 to $4,500
  • Large tattoo (Full back or ribs): $8,000 to $12,000

What drives the price up? These factors increase the total cost:

  • More sessions required: As we learned above, complete removal can take 6-12 sessions. Needing more visits significantly increases the total price.
  • Office visit fee per session: Some clinics charge an extra $50+ fee per visit.
  • Tip for service provider: Tipping your technician 15-20% is customary.
  • Ink colors needing different wavelengths: Colors beyond just black require specialized equipment to produce certain wavelengths of laser light. This could carry an added fee per session.

Laser Removal Side Effects and Pain

A common concern about erasing tattoos with lasers is the potential pain and side effects. Fortunately, there are some ways to minimize discomfort:

  • Numbing cream application: Topical anesthetic creams containing lidocaine can be applied 30-60 minutes prior to treatment. This will numb the outer layer of the skin.
  • Injection of numbing agents: For deeper numbing, the technician can inject lidocaine directly into the tattooed area. This completely blocks pain signals.
  • Cooling device: Many laser machines have integrated cooling systems that blow cold air onto the skin during and after pulses. This soothes the area helping ease the sting.

Patients describe the sensation as a rubber band snapping or a hot prickly feeling. It generally only causes mild to moderate pain and discomfort.

Common side effects include redness, swelling, blistering, peeling skin, pinpoint bleeding, and temporary scabbing or crusting for a few days as the skin heals. Rarely, some people may have an allergic reaction or get an infection, which clears quickly with medicine.

Always see an experienced medical provider to ensure proper protocols are carefully followed for your safety.

Pros and Cons of Popular Tattoo Removal Methods

Removal MethodProsCons
Laser Removal– Gold standard treatment
– Completely removes ink when done properly
– Works on many colors and tattoo depths
– 6-12 repeat sessions needed
– Most expensive method overall
– Can cause temporary pain, blistering
Dermabrasion– Minimally invasive
– Good for small, surface-level tattoos
– Damages skin so scarring risk
– Does not remove ink deeply anchored in dermis
TCA Cross Peels– Low cost per treatment 
– Enhances natural peel skin regeneration
– Causes irritation and swelling 
– Multiple treatments often needed
– Avoid on sensitive skin
Cover Up Tattoos– Single-session treatment
– Sparing natural skin removal
– Original tattoo must be simple, small, and faded
– Larger design required to fully cover
Dermabrasion to Remove Tattoos

What About Dermabrasion to Remove Tattoos?

Dermabrasion uses a rapidly rotating device to essentially sand the top layers of skin, removing the surface-pigmented tattoo ink. After wound healing, the treated area will be tattoo-free.

It’s best suited only for superficial tattoos that were done poorly so the ink rests in the upper skin. Dermabrasion can also lighten and soften older or blurry small tattoos. However, it cannot remove ink anchored deep in the dermis making it less effective overall versus laser treatments. It’s also not effective at erasing multi-colored tattoos.

Repeating dermabrasion in the same spot runs the risk of permanent scarring since the abrasion reaches deep into the middle dermis layer with each pass.

The cost for dermabrasion runs from $200 to $1,000 per treatment.

Proper aftercare is crucial as well to allow skin to heal optimally. This involves keeping the raw open wound moist and uninfected as new skin reforms which takes 7-14 days.

What About At-Home Tattoo Removal Methods?

You may come across do-it-yourself tattoo removal products sold online or in stores that claim to erase ink. Most experts advise avoiding these methods as they can burn, scar, and irritate without fully removing the tattoo.

Common at-home products to be wary of include:

  • Tattoo removal creams: Contain chemicals like TCA (trichloroacetic acid) or hydroquinone that lighten skin. However skin irritation and blistering is common.
  • DIY dermabrasion tools: Rotary grinders that promise to sand off tattoos. High risk of infection and scarring.
  • Laser removal machines: Affordable devices seem tempting. But the low power output cannot fracture tattoo particles. Instead the laser burns top layers and leaves discolored patches.

Rather than attempting removal yourself, consult a dermatologist or plastic surgeon that specializes in tattoo removal for the best results.

Using the TCA Cross Tattoo Removal Method

The TCA cross technique applies a chemical peel to literally peel layers of skin cells away and lift ink along with it. Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is commonly used because of its high efficacy in removing epidermis layers. After cleaning and prepping the tattooed area, the provider swabs TCA acid on the skin in a crisscross grid pattern. The acid begins reacting and strips off the top skin layers.

Within minutes frosting and white bubbles appear as the freezing acid penetrates deeper while adhering to ink pigments. After rinsing off acid, the tattoo begins flaking away over the next week. Tattoo ink trapped in the dermis emerges as new skin reforms during healing. Further TCA cross sessions can be done after 6 weeks to lift more embedded pigment.

The cost per session ranges from $100 to $300 with a professional medical application. A number of treatments depends on the tattoo size and layers of skin that regenerate.

Best Candidate Tattoos: Works well for older ammonia-based ink tattoos that react strongly to acid peels. The method struggles to remove deeper and modern healed ink. Side effects are temporary stinging, irritation, swelling, and potential scarring if the acid reaches too deeply. Proper TCA training is vital to control depth and prevent scars.

Overall TCA peels offer a lower cost option for fading and removing old or light tattoos. Results cannot match medical laser removal though since TCA does not fully shatter tattoo particles like laser pulses.

Can You Cover Up Old Tattoos?

Instead of removing a tattoo completely, another option gaining popularity is getting a cover up tattoo to hide the existing design. Creative tattoo artists can work camouflage magic to completely mask the old artwork with a fresh larger tattoo. This spares you from spending months and money removing ink.

Covering up undesirable tattoos presents challenges compared to applying fresh body art on blank skin however. The artist must work with the colors, shapes, and scarring already present around and within the old tattoo. Layering new designs over existing tattoos can cause a “black blob” effect if not done properly. Finding an artistic and inventive tattooer skilled at cover-ups is key for the best results.

Ideally look for these traits for cover up success:

  • Bigger original piece: The cover-up must be larger to fully hide what lies beneath. Tiny tattoos surrounded by empty space make overlap tricky.
  • Fading original piece: Fully saturated dense black tattoos are harder to conceal versus faded greyish tattoos.
  • Simple original design: Large black tribal bands or basic shapes disguises easier under vibrant colorful new illustrations.

Based on the tattoo size, expect the price to start around $200 ranging up to $500 or more.

The advantage of cover-up tattoos is only a single session is required so costs stay reasonable relative to 6-12 sessions of laser removal.

Conclusion – Safest Tattoo Removal Requires Patience

Removing a tattoo completely takes patience and perseverance as it can be a lengthy process. Laser removal remains the gold standard – but requires 6-12 repeat visits costing thousands based on ink color and tattoo size. Dermabrasion, TCA peels, and cover-ups offer alternative cost-saving options best suited for faded or shallow tattoos. Attempting do-it-yourself removals often leads to scarring or incomplete results so medical consultation is advised.

Hopefully, the thorough information above gives you clarity on the pros and cons of methods to erase or hide tattoo regret. While laser removal entails an investment of time and money, when done properly by an expert, unwanted tattoos can be removed safely and entirely.

Real Patient Reviews on Tattoo Removal Methods

Hearing about real experiences with tattoo removal can help give you an idea of what to expect. Here are first-hand reviews from patients on some of the most common removal methods:

Laser Tattoo Removal Reviews

Mary, 32, large black script tattoo on lower back – “The laser sessions were a bit uncomfortable but not terribly painful, especially with the cooling device. It took 9 treatments spaced 8 weeks apart but now my back is ink free. Very happy with the results.

John, 29, blue and red sleeves on both arms – “Working slowly through laser removal of my colorful sleeves. It’s taking more sessions because green and purple pigments are stubborn. Wish I had known this going in but the clinic offered a discount on multiple treatments upfront to save money. Arms are over halfway faded after 5 visits so far.

Dermabrasion Tattoo Removal Reviews

Sarah, 28, small amateur wrist tattoo – “I had a home-done tattoo on my wrist removed through dermabrasion. The procedure itself with the abrasion tool was painless due to numbing cream but the week of healing was pretty gnarly. Scabbing and ooze lasted days longer than I expected. Thankfully Aquaphor kept it moist so there should be minimal scarring.

TCA Cross Tattoo Removal Reviews

Chris, 40, old blurred tattoo on shoulder – “Working on removing an ugly tribal tattoo I got when I was a teen. I’ve done 4 TCA cross sessions so far and the ink is finally close to gone. Way cheaper than laser but the acid burning sensation was intense during the procedure. The results have been worth it though.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *