Maybe you got your tattoo the day you turned eighteen. Maybe you were a rebel and got it before that. But now you’re a 30-year-old man and you’re wondering why you have a Tasmanian devil on your left calf. You could try to laugh about it, but some tattoos are so prominent—or get so much commentary from other people—that you want the thing gone. Question is, can you fully erase a tattoo? How long will it take, how much will it hurt, and how do you avoid becoming a horror story like the tattoo removal cream burned off the skin? If you’re thinking about making your ink disappear, here are the facts you need first.
THERE’S NO HOME REMEDY
There are creams, balms, and magical potions that promise to lighten or erase a tattoo. Don’t bother. There are no real scientific studies or research behind these claims. Laser is the safest, most effective, FDA approved method to remove unwanted tattoos.
NOT ALL LASERS ARE CREATED EQUAL
Your only option is a laser, but there are different types. Nanosecond aka Q-Switch lasers have been used for many years—they deliver pulses of light in nanoseconds. But now there are lasers that deliver light energy even faster (in picoseconds - trillionths of a second), which allows 30-40% more ink clearance; such as the Enlighten Laser currently employed by Newhope Laser Skin Care.
The best way in deciding the best treatment options and pricing is to consult with a laser specialist. Thorough visual examination is required to determine tattoo size, ink type|depth|saturation|color|skin type|your overall health. You might require from just 1-3 up to over 10 treatments, costing anywhere from $200-$600 per treatment. The tattoo when you got it might have been $400, but the removal could be $2,000."
BLACK & GREY VS COLORS INK
Color tattoos are notoriously hard to get rid of and while it’s possible to get rid of color tattoos, expect the treatment number to be 40-50% more than black and grey ink. Let’s hope you didn’t get a tattoo of Elmo.
IT WILL ONLY HURT FOR A SECOND.
If you get your laser treatment in a doctor's office—and you should, it will start with anesthetic such as topical numbing cream, a shot lidocaine injection, or skin cooling cryotechnology.
Here’s how one patient describes treatment.
"You put on protective eyewear to protect your eyes, you lie down, then the physician numb the target area up with frigidly freezing air, and it's over in the time it would take you to trace the tattoo with a pen.” The pain is very tolerable with the scale anywhere between 2 to 6, where 10 would be the worst pain ever.
DON’T MIND THE SMELL OF BURNING HAIR.
Please, please shave the area to be treated unless you want to smell burning hair during your tattoo removal treatment.
FOR ONCE, HAVING PASTY SKIN COULD BE A GOOD THING.
When the laser light energy passes through your epidermis (skin) to reach it’s intended target (ink), it’s being absorbed by our body defense mechanism (melanin). Melanin is what gave us our hair color and skin tone; the darker the skin tone, the more light energy the melanin could absorb. That’s why dark skin tone people could stay out in the sun longer without getting sunburned. With lighten skin tone, the melanin either absorbs very little or none of the laser light energy, thus allows more tattoo ink pigments to be broken down and flushed out by the body’s immune system. More ink removed = less treatments = money saved.
YOUR KNUCKLE TATTOO IS HARDER TO REMOVE THAN YOUR TRAMP STAMP.
The farther your tattoo is from your heart, the harder it is to get your body to digest the ink after it’s been broken down. Areas that are more vascular are easier, such as the face area is easier than the trunk, which is easier than the buttocks or upper arms. Hardest are the hands, feet, ankles.
PROFESSIONAL TATTOOS VS HOMEMADE
If you paid for the Picasso of tattoo artists, with lots of bright vivid colors, expect to hang around your doctor’s office for a while! If you got your tattoos from Friday the 13th special, or from a friend with a safety pin—you should feel thankful.
If it's a professional tattoo, rotary or coil machines allows tattoo artists to deposit high quality, vivid tattoo ink much deeper beneath the skin, creating more saturated tattoo, thus requires more treatments to remove. If you got a tattoo in jail and your cellmate did it with soot, it’s a lot easier to get rid of since there is way less ink to be removed.
THERE ARE WAYS TO SPEED UP TREATMENT.
Prior to FDA approval of pico lasers technology such as the Enlighten, it wasn't unusual for people to undergo tattoo removal for a year or more. Anywhere from 10 to 20 sessions wouldn't have been an uncommon scenario. Now we can reduce that number to half with pico laser tattoo removal technology.