9 questions you've always had about tattoo removal, answered (2023)

  • Getting a tattoo removed can be a lengthy, somewhat uncomfortable process.
  • Every person's skin — and tattoo removal needs — are different. It can take multiple sessions to have a tattoo completely removed depending on where it's located, how big it is, what your skin type is, and which colors of ink are in the design.
  • No over-the-counter tattoo removal creams or ointments have been shown to work and they could cause you to experience rashes or burning, according to the FDA.
  • You probably don't want to use salt and water to remove your tattoo at home — you could end up with scarring and/or a bad infection, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
  • Visit INSIDER's homepage for more stories.

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Whether you're considering removing your ink or are simply curious, there's a lot to know about the tattoo-removal process.

INSIDER spoke to some experts to answer some of the most common questions people have about getting a tattoo taken off.

Where do you go to get a tattoo removed?

For your health, safety, and optimal results, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you go to a dermatologist for your tattoo removal.

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Removals are typically done using lasers that the FDA states should be used by or under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Per the FDA, visiting a dermatologist who specializes in tattoo removal is likely your best bet.

Although some tattoo shops and spas offer laser tattoo-removal services, only dermatologists have medical training in this area, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). And so, you may run a greater risk of experiencing negative side effects if your tattoo remover does not have appropriate medical training, per the AAD.

How long does it take to fully remove a tattoo?

9 questions you've always had about tattoo removal, answered (2)


Removing a tattoo will almost always take more than one visit to the removal specialist — sometimes it could even take dozens of sessions.

To figure out how many visits you'd need to get a tattoo removed, you should first consult a professional so they can review your ink and medical history, said Dr. Amy Derick, board-certified dermatologist and medical director of Derick Dermatology, a Chicago-based practice that specializes in tattoo removal.

"Number of treatments vary based on many factors including: age of tattoo, number of colors, size, etc. For picosecond-wavelength tattoo removal — which is considered a gold standard for tattoo removal — most treatments will require seven to 10 treatments six to eight weeks apart," she told INSIDER.

"The [total] number of treatments [also] depends on your body's ability to eliminate ink from the skin. This varies for everyone," added Dr. Debra Jaliman is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York, whose practice offers tattoo removal as a specialty.

Per Jailman, generally, the more colors in your tattoo, the more treatments you will need. In addition, these sessions must be spaced out (typically a few weeks apart), so the process can take quite some time.

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How much does it cost to get a tattoo removed?

Removing a tattoo can be costly depending on how many sessions you'll end up needing.In general, a single removal sessioncan cost around$50 to $500, but the price may vary depending on your tattoo and your location.

To estimate how many treatments you may require for your specific tattoo and skin type, you may want to referencetoolslike theKirby-Desai scale. Just keep in mind that the best and most accurate way to figure out how many sessions you'll need is to consult a professional.

Does getting a tattoo removed hurt?

How much the removal process hurts oftentimes depends on your individual pain tolerance — just like when you first got the tattoo you're having removed.

"Getting a tattoo is generally more painful than removing the tattoo. Uncomfortable — and there is a certain level of pain — but it's bearable. It feels like a small rubber band is snapping on your skin," Jailman told INSIDER.

That said, some areas may be more painful to have ink removed from than others. "On certain bony areas, like the wrists, ribs, and ankles, tattoo removal is more painful than on other areas of the body," Derick added.

Fortunately, there are some ways the process can be made to be even less uncomfortable, said Jailman. "The area is numbed with a topical numbing cream and a small chilling machine that blows cold air on the skin helps to keep pain at bay," she added.

Read More: What tattoo you should get, according to your zodiac sign

Are there any risks that come with getting a tattoo removed?

As with any medical procedure, there are some risks associated with tattoo removal.

"Individuals who have light-sensitive seizures, vitiligo, history of poor healing, or an active rash or injury to the area may not be an ideal candidate for laser," Derick told INSIDER. She said these individuals may be prone to experiencing more tattoo-removal-related side effects.

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She also said that all individuals (especially those with darker skin tones) are at risk of experiencing hypopigmentation after laser tattoo removal."This is when the patient's normal skin pigment is removed by the laser process, resulting in white-looking scarring that is permanent. This is also known as a ghosting effect," Derick explained.

Jailman also pointed out that those who have sensitive skin and who are prone to allergic reactions may experience some issues when they have their ink removed. "You could have an allergic reaction as the laser breaks down the pigments in the tattoo," she added.

Some may also be at risk of experiencing more prominent scarring. "If you are prone to keloids (a type of raised scar), having a tattoo removed could be a problem. The scars from the area treated may definitely develop into a keloid," Jailman also told INSIDER.

Can all tattoos be removed?

9 questions you've always had about tattoo removal, answered (3)


Most of the time a tattoo can be removed — but with certain inks, it may not be possible to entirely remove your design.

"A true black-ink tattoo is by far the easiest to treat. In some cases, red ink can resolve easily as well," Dr. Will Kirby, board-certified dermatologist and chief medical officer for aesthetic-dermatology groupLaserAway. previously told INSIDER.

But, he said that colors like maroon, aqua, and teal can be resistant to laser removal. He also noted that some shades like yellow, orange, and brown may not be removed by laser treatment at all.

Do you have to do any special sort of aftercare for a tattoo that's in the process of being removed?

Derick told INSIDER that, just like with your initial tattoo, when you undergo removal you're creating an open wound that requires careful treatment to ensure you heal properly and avoid getting an infection.

"After a session, the technician bandages the area just like the patient will be expected to do at home for generally about one week or until the area is healed," said Derick."The patient changes this bandage every 24 hours after washing the area with a mild soap. Keeping the area bandaged keeps the tattoo out of the sun and allows for effective healing of the treated skin."

(Video) [Your Questions Answered] Tattoo Removal (cost, does it hurt, black skin, alternatives to lasers)

Those removing a tattoo can also expect to experience a bit of bruising, blistering, and scabbing, said Jailman. She said you should avoid picking scabs, cover blistering skin, and use ointment as recommended by your doctor.

If you're experiencing any reactions that seem abnormal to you (ie: you have a fever or your skin is severely swelling), you'll want to reach out to a medical professional.

Do tattoo-removal creams work?

Some special creams and ointments claim to help fade a tattoo by bleaching or peeling away layers of your skin to remove the ink, per Today. But there's a reason these creams sound too good to be true — they are.

At this time, the FDA hasn't "approved or cleared any do-it-yourself tattoo removal ointments and creams that you can buy online." Furthermore, the FDA warns that these creams can cause adverse side effects including scarring, rashes, and burning.

Can you really use salt to remove a tattoo?

You may have heard some people talking about using salt and water solutions to scrub away tattoos in a dated method called salabrasion — but this is potentially a very dangerous strategy, according to the AAD.

Scraping off the top layers of your skin and using salt to try to rid yourself of unwanted tattoos can lead to pain, scarring, and a serious infection, perthe AAD.

Read More:


Does tattoo removal leave anything behind? ›

It is very uncommon for a patient to scar from laser tattoo removal treatment when the proper laser protocols and patient aftercare are followed. If the skin already has irregularities such as scarring expect that to remain after laser tattoo removal.

What is the hardest tattoo to remove? ›

Tattoo Ink

Green is the hardest color to remove followed by light blue. Neon colors are also incredibly difficult to remove, and typically require multiple treatments with the Ruby laser. As a general rule, the greater the contrast between the color of the tattoo pigment and your skin, the better the result.

Does tattoo removal ever fail? ›

In some cases, tattoo removal can, and does fail, however the good news is that failure is completely avoidable when you know what to look out for.

Is tattoo removal ever successful? ›

Yes, lasers can remove tattoos completely. In fact, lasers are the safest, most effective tool to remove unwanted tattoos with. However, you may need to receive several sessions before the tattoo is removed completely.

How do you hide tattoo removal? ›

Here's a quick look at the best makeups to hide your remaining ink between your tattoo removal appointments.
  1. Ben Nye Tattoo Cover.
  2. Tatjacket Premium Tattoo Concealer.
  3. Dermablend Professional.
  4. Kat Von D Lock-It Tattoo Concealer.
  5. Amazing Cosmetics Amazing Concealer.
  6. Make Up For Ever.
  7. CoverMark Tattoo Cover Kit.

Is tattoo removal better on old or new tattoos? ›

No matter when you got your tattoo, laser treatment can remove it. However, older ink is easier to remove than new ink, so you'll probably require fewer treatments if you're having an old tattoo removed than you will with a newer one.

What tattoos Cannot be removed? ›

These colours make it harder for the laser to distinguish between the skin and the ink. Other colours are that are particularly difficult, if not practically impossible to remove without a trace include light blue, purple, orange and yellow. Tattoo Size.

What kind of tattoos Cannot be removed? ›

Tattoos can now be targeted with lasers that remove the pigmentation without damaging the skin, meaning you can go back to your old ink-free look. Some tattoos are challenging to remove. These include things like metallic ink, light greens, light blues, and permanent makeup.

What is the most requested tattoo? ›

Insider spoke with a tattoo artist to find out about the most popular designs customers ask for. She said a lot of people come in asking for landscapes or flowers, tiny tattoos, and hearts. It's common for people to ask for matching tattoos or request designs honoring their pets.

How many sessions until a tattoo is removed? ›

The number of sessions needed to take away tattoos varies because of various factors such as colors, skin type, and size. Even so, most average patients require only 6-8 sessions. Notably, large tattoos often require ten or more sessions. Your body takes more than one year to remove the ink on the skin entirely.

How do you speed up tattoo removal laser? ›

Here we show you the ways in which you can speed up the tattoo removal process.
  1. Avoid exposing the treated area to the sun. ...
  2. Exercise regularly. ...
  3. Sleep well. ...
  4. Drink plenty of water. ...
  5. Eat more immunity-boosting foods. ...
  6. Don't smoke. ...
  7. Follow the aftercare advice. ...
  8. Keep to your appointment schedule.

How long after tattoo removal does it fade? ›

Depending on the skin type and inks used in a tattoo, temporary crusting and blistering may occur after laser tattoo removal. Tattoos will begin to fade within the first two to three weeks after treatment.

What type of tattoo is easiest to remove? ›

Black and dark green are the easiest colors to remove; yellow, purple, turquoise and fluorescent dyes are hardest to fade.

Can you're tattoo after removal? ›

How Soon Can You Tattoo Over Laser Removal? Once the tattoo removal process is completed, it's best to wait at least 6 weeks before getting a new tattoo on the treated area. Many artists will suggest waiting 6 months before receiving the cover up.

What percentage of people get their tattoo removed? ›

Tattoos & Tattoo Removal Figures

Of the 30% of Americans who have tattoos, it's estimated nearly 23% of that population experience tattoo regret. The 2020 U.S. census states our population is 329.5 million people.

Does aloe vera remove tattoos? ›

Applying Aloe Vera – Doesn't Work, At All!

Many people swear on aloe vera for natural tattoo removal. It is often mixed with yogurt and applied to the tattooed area daily, until the tattoo starts fading away. And even though painless and significantly less dangerous than sandpaper, there is simply no proof this works.

Does baking soda remove tattoos? ›

1) If your tattoo is fresh, don't follow those who said use apple cider vinegar or baking soda. This may work for experienced people, and some said it might bring the ink to the surface, but it will surely make your tattoo more irritated and opened – So what I want you to avoid is making your tattoo more obvious.

How does hydrogen peroxide remove tattoos? ›

All you need to do is use the exfoliation agents on your skin beforehand to soften up your skin a bit. After that, pour some 3% hydrogen peroxide on the dabbing cloth, place it on the affected area and leave for 10-15mins undisturbed.

Why does it take so many sessions to remove a tattoo? ›

The laser will remove each the tattoo ink layer by layer; this is a process that will take multiple sessions to accomplish. The laser is used to break up particles of the ink; the pigment is then gradually removed by the body's own immune system.

What hurts worse tattoo or removal? ›

Rest easy — while laser tattoo removal can hurt, chances are it won't hurt as much as getting the tattoo did. Tattoo removal pain is comparable to the pain of a bad sunburn, and the laser pulses feel like a rubber band snapping against your skin.

Does your skin look the same after tattoo removal? ›

One of the most common questions we get during our laser tattoo removal consultations is, “will my skin go back to normal?” And if this is something you've wondered too, we have good news for you. For the most part, yes, your skin will go back to “normal”!

What is the hardest color to tattoo? ›

The hardest color to tattoo is white. The tattooist must highlight and apply the white ink numerous times for the color to be visible. Unfortunately, white tattoos fade quickly, and it is almost impossible to remove them, so you would have to go for more than ten laser tattoo removal sessions.

Are older tattoos harder to remove? ›

The age of your tattoo is a factor in how easy it is to remove. Older tattoos do tend to be removed more easily because they have typically already had some fading over time. For this reason, older tattoos will often take fewer sessions to remove than a newer tattoo would.

Can a tattoo be 100 percent removed? ›

Surgical removal

It's the most invasive method of tattoo removal, but also the only guaranteed way to completely remove a tattoo. It's often less expensive than laser removal, but it will always leave a scar. As a result, it's usually only done on smaller tattoos.

Are tattoos 100 percent removable? ›

Answer: 100% clearing`

While we cannot assure 100% clearing of tattoos, we do see this in many people. Variability is density and depth of ink used and how your body is able to absorb and remove the ink. The laser's job is to break up the ink particles small enough for your body to do this effectively.

What are the risks of tattoo removal? ›

The potential risks of tattoo removal include, but are not limited to:
  • Infection.
  • Poor wound healing.
  • Possible need for further surgery.
  • Skin discoloration that may be permanent.
  • Suboptimal aesthetic result.
  • Unfavorable scarring.

What happens after first session of tattoo removal? ›

The most common observable effects that you may experience after your first treatment include mild swelling across the treated area, as well as some redness. Other symptoms may include a tingling sensation similar to a sunburn, mild skin discolouration, itching or mild blistering.

Is it better to wait longer between tattoo removal sessions? ›

In fact, we recommend waiting for a minimum of 6-8 weeks between treatments so that your skin has adequate time to heal and repair. Plus, this can give us a better look at how your body is responding to the laser. Truthfully, the longer you can give between sessions, the better off you'll be in the long run.

Why does my tattoo look darker after laser removal? ›

Tattoo ink will often oxidize which is what happens to white ink when laser treated. The white pigmentation turns into a darker pigment because the laser breaks the particles apart into tiny fragments which oxidize with the light exposure and the tattoo often turns into a light brown or blue shade.

Why is my tattoo raised after laser removal? ›

After treatment, it is normal to have blisters, swelling, raising of the tattoo, pinpoint bleeding, redness, and temporary darkening. These common post treatment symptoms subside after a few weeks.

What is R20 tattoo removal? ›

The R20 laser tattoo removal method is an innovative approach to treating unwanted tattoos. Through a sequence of a series of treatments spaced 20 minutes apart, multiple laser treatments may be performed in one day.

Should you pop blisters after tattoo removal? ›

Aftercare instructions for blistered skin will generally involve the following guidelines: Avoid popping the blisters, since this can increase the risk of infection. Keep the bandage on your skin for a full 24 hours, or whatever length of time your dermatologist specified.

Where does the ink go in tattoo removal? ›

After the laser-removal process, which Doft notes, typically works best on darker, older tattoos, the ink is recognized as waste within the lymphatic system and discarded via either sweat, urine, or fecal matter.

What kind of scar does tattoo removal leave? ›

The lasers used in tattoo removal procedures have been specifically developed to only travel to a particular depth in your skin (the layer where the ink and pigment are). Unless you have an unassociated history of scarring (such as keloid scarring), you shouldn't have to worry.

What happens when a tattoo is removed? ›

The instant the ink is deposited under your epidermis, the white blood cells carry off the smallest of the ink particles and gather around the larger ones. Over time the pigments fade, breaking down into smaller and smaller particles beneath your skin.

What happens after tattoo removal? ›

Redness, swelling, slight blistering, a little itching, and raised areas are extremely common and should be expected after treatment. The skin will feel tender and sensitive at first. It should take a maximum of two weeks for all of these responses to treatment to subside.

How long after tattoo removal does ink fade? ›

Depending on the skin type and inks used in a tattoo, temporary crusting and blistering may occur after laser tattoo removal. Tattoos will begin to fade within the first two to three weeks after treatment.

How many sittings are required for tattoo removal? ›

Depending on the size and colors used in the tattoo, more than one sitting may be required. For large ones, up to 6 to 8 months may be required for complete removal. A minimum of 4 weeks gap is required between two sittings, allowing sufficient time for the skin to heal.

Can laser tattoo removal cause heavy metal poisoning? ›

Cases of blistering and rashes are common during tattoo removal, but recent cases have shown the deposition of carcinogenic compounds from the process as well [23] . Caution should be exercised with tattoo removal as heavy metal poisoning from the pigments is also plausible.

How do you speed up tattoo removal laser? ›

Here we show you the ways in which you can speed up the tattoo removal process.
  1. Avoid exposing the treated area to the sun. ...
  2. Exercise regularly. ...
  3. Sleep well. ...
  4. Drink plenty of water. ...
  5. Eat more immunity-boosting foods. ...
  6. Don't smoke. ...
  7. Follow the aftercare advice. ...
  8. Keep to your appointment schedule.

Can you're tattoo after removal? ›

How Soon Can You Tattoo Over Laser Removal? Once the tattoo removal process is completed, it's best to wait at least 6 weeks before getting a new tattoo on the treated area. Many artists will suggest waiting 6 months before receiving the cover up.

Can you still see a tattoo after laser removal? ›

Occasionally, it is possible to see a tattoo, even after laser treatments. This may indicate that you require more treatments. Some patients who intend to get another tattoo over top only want to see some fading of their tattoo. Laser tattoo removal can also achieve this.

How long after tattoo removal do you see results? ›

Final Results After One or Two Years

The timeline of this treatment varies greatly from person to person, but most patients need between six and twelve sessions to completely remove a tattoo. Given the time in between each appointment, this means that you can see your final results within one or two years.

How does skin look after tattoo removal? ›

Redness, tenderness and swelling typically subside within a day or two post-treatment. Blisters usually appear within 24 hours of treatment. Scabs, bruising, and blistering may take up to a week or longer to heal. You should avoid picking scabs and taking care of blisters; otherwise, scarring can happen.

Why is my tattoo raised after laser removal? ›

After treatment, it is normal to have blisters, swelling, raising of the tattoo, pinpoint bleeding, redness, and temporary darkening. These common post treatment symptoms subside after a few weeks.

How do I prepare for a tattoo removal session? ›

Preparing For Your Laser Tattoo Removal Treatment
  1. We ask that you are freshly showered or bathed with completely clean skin, without lotions, oils, creams or fragrances of any kind before coming in. ...
  2. Avoid sun exposure to the treatment area, and do not use UV tanning beds at all for four weeks before treatment.

How do I prepare for tattoo removal? ›

Make sure you eat a full meal and drink plenty of fluids before your treatment. Some clients can become lightheaded and dizzy when they haven't eaten. Another tip would be to try and cut down or cut out completely smoking habits. Smoking actually slows down the healing process and can cause complications.


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