How does tattoo removal work?
Think of tattoo removal as breaking up the pigment from the inks into smaller particles to help your body naturally remove it. When you get a tattoo, ink is deposited into the dermis of your skin and triggers an inflammatory reaction. Your immune cells hone in on the reaction and notice the ink sitting there. Cells in our body called macrophages eat the pigment but because the particles are too large the color just sits there. Tattoo laser works by targeting the pigment in ink to break it up into lots of tiny pieces. This makes it possible for your macrophages to finally get rid of the ink. (It’s almost like having a large rock right in the middle of a construction project- you can try hacking away at it to get it down into smaller pieces to move but it will take forever. If you blast the rock into lots of tiny fragments with a smaller surface area for each fragment, it’s easier to move all of the tiny little pieces a lot quicker!)
Each tattoo removal session is usually around 15-30 minutes and its best to space these apart. I usually recommend at least 6 to 8 weeks between sessions. With this in mind it can be a process that takes 6 to 12 months to see complete removal. It’s important to space the sessions apart for adequate time to heal as well as to give your body a chance to also continue to fade out the tattoo.
What is the ballpark cost for tattoo removal?
The cost of tattoo removal will vary based on the size of the tattoo and, sometimes, the colors as certain colors can require more treatments. In general, a tattoo the with an area around the size of the bottom of a can of soda that is mostly blues, blacks, and reds will cost about $300 per session and take somewhere between 3-6 sessions to remove.
What to know before considering removal?
It hurts. I do numb our patients but it’s hard to get larger surface areas numb enough to avoid any discomfort. Most of our patients have told me that it hurt more to remove than to get in the first place.
There is healing time after. It’s important to keep the area moist and covered to minimize the risk of scarring and infection.
You may lose some of your own pigment in those areas leaving a faint lighter outline of where the tattoo was. With smaller or finer tattoos this is less of an issue. However tattoos with wider lines or hazier edges can often lead to hypopigmentation where the tattoo once was.
Green can be difficult color to get remove without access to the right device. There are a lot of clover tattoos and Philadelphia Eagles tattoos in my area. The green can be so difficult to remove while the rest of the colors fade that the faint green hue that remains can look like a faint bruise afterwards.