That tattoo that was such a great idea when you were eighteen and at the beach during spring break may not seem so smart when you are interviewing for a job after graduating from college. If you would like to have this reminder of a wild week in April removed, the best way to do it is with laser removal. There are other methods of removing tattoos, but lasers produce better results without scarring or a significant increase in cost. That’s not saying that laser tattoo removal cost is inexpensive, because it’s not, but it also isn’t exorbitant either.
Before getting the laser treatment, the plastic surgeon will evaluate your skin and the tattoo to determine which type of laser light to use. Skin condition and color, as well as the ink colors used in the tattoo are all factors in deciding which is the best type of laser light delivery. Each tattoo will have individual characteristics that will determine the number of sessions that will be required to completely remove the tattoo. These characteristics include the size of the tattoo, the colors of ink in the tattoo, the type of ink used, and whether the tattoo is old or new.
Those with fair to medium-fair skin who have dark ink tattoos applied lightly and close to their skin’s surface are the best candidates for laser tattoo removal. Laser light targets the greatest contrast, so a dark ink on lighter skin makes a more effective removal process and results in few removal sessions. Darker ink is also easier to remove because it absorbs more of the laser light. So is less dense ink which is closer to the surface. Laser light treatments are also more effective on individuals with darker skin who have tattoos with a variety of ink colors.
Effect of colors on number of laser sessions
The number of sessions needed to remove the tattoo will be determined primarily by the colors of the inks in the tattoo. Most tattoos have many different families of inks in their design and each of these families of colors need a different laser to remove them. Some tattoos can require as many as twenty separate sessions before they are completely removed. A tattoo with turquoise in the design is particularly difficult because there is no laser that effectively targets turquoise for removal. For most tattoos, it will take between six and twelve sessions to remove a tattoo completely and these treatments can be spread over months or even years. During each session, more of the tattoo ink is removed, leaving the tattoo lighter and lighter, until eventually it is gone or as gone as it is going to get.
Laser removal of the tattoo can be a bit painful, so the doctor will typically provide the patient some type of oral pain medication such as Tylenol and may apply a topical anesthetic cream to the site of the tattoo before starting the laser removal procedure. Each session will typically not last more than a few minutes, but the time can vary depending on the tattoo.
The laser light targets each ink and breaks it up into fragments. The laser light is designed to hit only the ink and not to touch any surrounding skin or pigment. There is a particular laser light spectrum for each particular color of ink with black being the easiest to remove since black absorbs the entire laser light spectrum. The rest of the colors require more targeted laser light pulses.
These laser light pulses pass through the layers of skin and are absorbed by the ink pigments in the tattoo which causes the ink to break into fragments. The body’s immune system removes the fragments through the blood system and works best in areas where there is greater circulation. This means it is easier to remove a tattoo on an upper arm than it is to remove a tattoo on a foot where there is less circulation.
Side effects are rare
There are rarely any side effects of laser tattoo removal, but a few have been noted and include blistering, loss of skin color, scabbing and infection. If scabbing does happen it will usually go away in two weeks and the skin will return to normal. There is rarely any scarring with laser tattoo removal.
Laser tattoo removal cost estimates range anywhere from $250 to $850 per session. Depending upon the number of sessions required the total cost could be upwards of $10,000. Laser tattoo removal is considered cosmetic surgery so the cost is not typically covered by insurance. If laser tattoo removal cost is out of your reach, talk with your doctor about a payment plan. Many plastic surgeons have in-house payment plans or financing options available and one of these may allow you to pay for the laser tattoo removal and spread out the cost.
What really matters is removing something you are no longer happy having on your body. Knowing the tattoo will be gone and having that peace of mind can be well worth the cost of removal. On the other hand you may wish to explore alternative means. It all comes down to how much you need to get rid of your tattoo and whether laser treatment is the appropriate one for you.