Different tattoo removal options

Different tattoo removal options

If an embarassing or visible tattoo is holding you back, you do have removal options. Although painful and expensive, there are effective methods worth examining.

By Cortney Philip

Being stuck with an embarrassing or visible tattoo can keep you from getting the job you want or just make you feel bad about yourself. If a tattoo is keeping you from projecting the image you want others to see, you do have options for removal. Tattoo removal is not a cheap, painless, or quick process by any means, but if you feel that you absolutely must get rid of the tattoo, these are the choices you have. As with any medical procedure, discuss these choices with your doctor and your tattoo artist to find the best method for you.

Laser Removal

Laser removal is the most common means of getting rid of an unwanted tattoo. A laser is used to send pulses of highly concentrated light to break up the ink underneath the top layers of your skin. The laser goes right through the top layers because skin cells are made up of mostly water and melanin, but the larger ink particles absorb the laser’s energy and break into smaller pieces. Your immune system sends scavenger cells to carry off the ink particles, which are now small enough to be dealt with in this way.

Different wavelengths of light are used to treat different colors. Dark blue, red, and black inks are most easily removed. Green, light teal, sky blue, and yellow are the most difficult colors for laser removal. Even after your tattoo has been removed, color variations may remain. There is no guarantee that laser removal will be one hundred percent effective for your tattoo.

Laser removal can be quite painful, and most patients are treated with a local anesthetic gel before the procedure. Blisters and scabs appear on the skin after treatment, and scarring is a possibility. Sessions are scheduled anywhere from three weeks to three months apart, depending on the clinic and how quickly your skin heals afterward. Most tattoos require from one to ten treatments; the average is one to four for home-done tattoos and five to ten for professional tattoos. Treatment session cost anywhere from $250 to $850, and a large and colorful tattoo may cost thousands of dollars to get rid of.

Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL)

Intense Light Pulse Therapy is the newest and most effective technology used for tattoo removal. IPL works in the same way as laser removal, except a special gel is rubbed on the skin and a wand is used to emit the light pulses. It is also less painful and requires fewer treatments. Unfortunately, it carries a much heftier price tag than laser removal, which is why IPL has not yet replaced traditional lasers. Prices vary, but one clinic charges ten dollars per pulse of light used.


Dermabrasion, salabrasion, and excision were all previous methods used to remove tattoos and have been pretty much eliminated by laser technology. However, in an extreme case in which laser/light removal is not an option, it might help to know about some older medical practices of tattoo removal.

Dermabrasion is exactly what it sounds like. The tattooed area is sprayed with a numbing solution, and a grinding tool is used to create abrasive friction that takes off the top layers of skin. Not only does the procedure cause the skin to peel and bleed, it is also very painful and often proves ineffective. Plus, there is always the risk of infection.


Salabrasion is a centuries-old technique and is just like dermabrasion, except a salt-water solution is applied to the skin before it is abraded.


Excision is the surgical removal of a tattoo. A local anesthetic is injected, and the tattoo is cut out of the skin. The surrounding skin is then sewn back together. While this would obviously work best for small tattoos, large tattoos can also be excised. The middle part of the tattoo is removed first. After the skin heals, the surrounding areas are cut out until the tattoo is completely gone. Skin grafts are often needed for large tattoo removal. This procedure carries a risk of infection and a very high risk of scarring.

Tattoo Removal Creams

A tattoo removal cream is a cheap way to attempt to remove a tattoo yourself. Unfortunately, they don’t really work. There is some evidence that some creams may fade a tattoo when used over several months, but if a tattoo removal cream truly worked, we’d all know about it by now.

Saline Tattooing

Some tattoo artists will tattoo a saline solution over your unwanted tattoo to fade it. Saline tattooing works best with older tattoos and generally just causes fading (if anything). Fortunately, the procedure is harmless and relatively inexpensive. Although it may be hard to find a tattoo artist willing to do this for you, it is a good way to make covering up a tattoo easier.


If you can live with having a tattoo where your tattoo already is, you might want to consider a cover-up instead of a removal. A cover-up tattoo is much less painful and expensive that any of the removal options and won’t take months of your time. Some tattoo artists even specialize in cover-ups. You are limited, however, in what you can do with a cover-up tattoo. You can only cover dark inks with dark inks, and any part of your skin already tattooed will still be tattooed. Also, cover-up tattoos can really only be done once.

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