27 Aug 2019
August 27, 2019

How Long Does It Take To Remove A Tattoo?

Tattoo Removal Averages 10-12 Treatments

Since opening in 2012 we’ve done thousands upon thousands of tattoo removal treatments, refined our protocols and learned a lot.  With years of experience, we are confident in stating that most (not all) tattoos can be removed in about 10-12 treatments, however it’s not a simple, blanket statement.  There are some exceptions and considerations when choosing full tattoo removal.

Before and after 8 laser tattoo removal treatments

This client achieved full removal in 8 treatments, beating the average of 10-12.  Some clients require 14+ and the information listed in this article will explain why.

What Are Some Considerations For Full Tattoo Removal?

Not every tattoo on every person will be ideal for full removal.  Utilizing the Fitzpatrick Scale skin color types are assigned a numerical value for classification  Those with skin types I-III will be more suited to full removal while some skin types III and mostly all skin types IV-VI will be strongly advised against seeking full removal due a risk of hypopigmentation, or the depletion of melanin making the skin lighter than the baseline of the surrounding area.

Tattoos that are cover-ups, or re-done, or touched-up are also not suited for full removal.

Tattoos that are scarred from when the tattoo is done may not be suited for full removal.

Certain colors and pigments can often shift in color or intensity during removal and may remain that way.

Large pieces, bigger than a standard sheet of paper that are heavily saturated, such as full coverage half sleeves, chest pieces and back pieces are also not always recommended for full removal due to the amount of pigment in the skin.

Older tattoos do not always fade faster than new tattoos, read this article to learn more.

The location of the tattoo will factor into how quickly or slowly pigment fades; Tattoos on the torso will typically fade slightly faster when compared to tattoos on the extremities.

How Long Will Tattoo Removal Take?

On average, approximately three years from the first treatment to the last treatment.  The time between treatments will vary based on skin type assessment and tattoo ink saturation, location on the body and overall health and wellness of the client are also factors.  Nicotine smokers are encourage to quit.

Removing a tattoo is a slow, long process. We also realize that life happens with rescheduled appointments due to inclement weather, accidental sunburn, family emergencies and illness. We have factored life’s unexpected circumstances into the three year time frame estimate.

If you’re seeking full tattoo removal and live outside in the summer, our office will generally stop treatments around April or May and resume them in September or October as we ask that you refrain from being in the sun or heat and avoid swimming for 10 days after each treatment.  Those who take summers off because of working outside or lifestyle choices will have a bit more time added onto the three year time frame.

Can I Do Tattoo Removal Treatments At Shorter Intervals?

In short, no.  Tattoo removal works on the immune systems ability to remove fractured pigment particles from a laser treatment.  What’s done in the office is fracturing pigment particles, the time between treatments is necessary to achieve maximum results.  The protocols we’ve refined will vary client to client, as a general guideline treatments will start out at a minimum of 8-10 week intervals.

Will The Tattoo Be Fully Gone?

Possibly, but 100% clearance is not guaranteed.  For most clients, 90-95% pigment eradication is where we consider the tattoo to be fully removed.  Tattoo ink is still unregulated, how it reacts to treatments and the immune systems ability to process it out vary tattoo to tattoo, person to person.  Results will vary.  90-95% pigment eradication will mean that most people who have never met you before, who are sitting across from you at dinner or in line at the grocery store probably won’t know you had a tattoo.

A best friend, co-worker, significant other or family member may still spot very small, extremely faded flecks of pigment remaining after your last treatment.  This is referred to as ghosting and is considered to be an acceptable level of removal for most clients who are candidates for full tattoo removal.

Fully Removed Tattoo

This is an example of what we consider full tattoo removal.  The client received 12 treatments over a 41 month period.  While some pigment can still be seen in the after photo, anyone who didn’t see the before would be hard pressed to notice anything on this clients back.

Which Laser Is Best?

There is no best laser.  Our office proudly uses Cynosure’s Medlite C6 and PicoSure, both are outstanding lasers and serve different purposes based on the ink colors, saturation and skin type of each client.

Tattoo removal cost is the same regardless of which laser is used, our experienced staff have only one goal, results.  Because each tattoo is different, it’s not uncommon for us to switch lasers at alternating office visits or use both at one office visit.

What Color Inks Can’t Be Removed?

Yellow is nearly impossible to remove, as is any color that yellow has been added to or is a base color of.  Because tattoo inks are unregulated, much like makeup, there are no standard protocols or sources for the pigments used. Additionally, tattoo artists will often mix two or more colors to achieve the desired look.  Many greens often have a yellow base or yellow has been added to them.

White tattoo ink will often naturally turn a light cream to creamy yellow over time, this is due to the titanium dioxide in the ink.  During laser treatments, white tattoo ink can often turn a dark creamy to near brownish-black color.  White is commonly used to lighten colors on the fly as tattoo artists mix and match to best get the tones right for the tattoo.

If your tattoo has white or yellow in it, please be aware that it will likely stay forever, possibly turn darker.

Treating any color ink besides black on clients who are Fitzpatrick Skin Type IV-VI is also not recommended, as hypopigmentation will almost certainly occur.

What Are My Other Options?

An option to having a tattoo removed would be to have it faded for a cover-up tattoo.  80%+ of our clients are having an average of 2-5 treatments done in order to achieve enough fading to make virtually any cover-up tattoo work.  This is a great option for anyone who an excessively large, well saturated tattoo or a piece that’s already a cover-up. Moreover, if your tattoo contains yellow, a derivative of yellow, white, or for Fitzpatrick Skin Types III-VI where full removal is not ideal due to hypopigmentation, cover-up tattoos make great options.

Tattoo Fading to Cover-Up

Due to the size and saturation of this large back piece, treatments were done one segment at a time with the tattoo being divided into four total segments.  Two tattoo removal treatments were done on each segment for a total of eight treatments spaced out over approximately 26 months.  The client then started having the full back piece covered which took approximately 60 hours by Doug Sparks.

* Note, the photo used in the headline of this article is actual before and after photographs, the only Photoshop work was to cut each side in half and add text.

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