Many people choose to have decorative tattoos in youth but live to regret this decision. Options for tattoo removal include surgical excision, dermabrasion, and laser.

Surgical excision is best employed for small tattoos on loose skin but always leaves a scar.

Dermabrasion involves sanding the skin with a rotating wire brush and may leave a scar or a pale area. There is a possibility that the tattoo may still be visible even after several treatments. The results seen by dermabrasion depend on how deeply into the skin layers the tattoo ink was injected. The deeper the injection, the less likely that dermabrasion will have good results.

Laser removal has become the treatment of choice. Tattoo Removal lasers target tattoo ink and rapidly heat it. Heat causes ink to expand and break up into smaller particles. These smaller particles are more easily absorbed by the body.

Each treatment will likely cause mild discomfort, similar to a small rubber band snapping against skin. Most patients can tolerate the mild discomfort when it is within a small area. When a larger area, like a full arm or back is being treated, the discomfort may interfere with the procedure. Discomfort can be minimized using ice, sedatives, pain medications, or injections of local anaesthetic. Talk with your surgeon about ways to minimize the discomfort if this is an area of concern for you.

Necessity of multiple treatments.

Each laser targets a different family of colours. To completely remove a family of colours, two to four sessions may be required. Because most tattoos are comprised of multiple colour families, several lasers may be required. Many other factors determine the number of treatments necessary.

Tattoos obtained in a tattoo parlour are difficult to remove as professional tattoos are typically deep, dark, and made with complex ink. Homemade tattoos vary in their difficulty of removal based on the type of ink used and the depth they were placed. New tattoos are more difficult to remove because they have a higher concentration of ink than old ones. Turquoise tattoos are particularly difficult to remove, because no laser effectively targets that colour. Red, white, and flesh coloured tattoos are also troublesome, as they may turn black after laser treatment.

The total number of treatments necessary cannot be established with certainty at the outset. The common range is between six and twelve. Treatments may be performed every 1-2 months, or may be spaced over several years. The tattoo will begin to fade one week after each treatment and will continue to fade for several months. Some choose to save money by discontinuing treatments before the tattoo is completely removed. Others pursue laser therapy until there are no detectable signs of the tattoo.

Some people choose to over-tattoo (cover-art) to hide an undesirable tattoo. These patients should expect more laser treatments to completely remove both tattoos.