Tattoo Removal: How to, Costs, Before and After Pictures, and More (2023)

Considering getting some ink removed? There are several ways to approach tattoo removal:

  • laser removal
  • surgical excision
  • dermabrasion

Tattoo removal generally works, but some tattoos are much harder to remove than others. Older tattoos as well as stick-and-poke tattoos are easier to remove than newer ones, for example.

Some colors are easier to remove than others as well. These include:

  • black
  • brown
  • dark blue
  • green

Larger, more colorful tattoos are typically more time-consuming and expensive to remove than smaller, lighter, and less colorful ones.

Due to the risk of side effects, it may also be more difficult to remove tattoos if you have:

  • darker skin
  • a preexisting skin condition, like eczema
  • a health condition that affects the skin, such as herpes

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t remove your tattoo if any of this applies to you. It just means you may need to take a bit more time to find the best removal option for you.

When thinking about tattoo removal options, you’ll want to consider several factors, including:

  • cost
  • scarring risk
  • effectiveness
  • time commitment

Again, these factors will depend largely on the size, complexity, and condition of your tattoo, as well as your skin.

(Video) Laser Tattoo Removal - Before and After through all the stages

Here’s a quick look at how different types of tattoo removal compare to each other, followed by a more in-depth look at each.

MethodAverage costSessionsEffectivenessScarring risk
Laser removal$463 per session, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery7-10tattoo will be significantly lighter, but may not completely disappearlow, with proper aftercare
Surgical removal$200-$1,500, based on anecdotal reports1, though larger tattoos may require moretattoo will be completely removedhigh
Dermabrasionseveral hundred to thousands of dollars, according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery1varies from person to personvaries from person to person

Laser removal

Most experts consider laser removal to be the most successful and cost-effective way to remove tattoos. Often, lasers don’t completely remove a tattoo. Instead, they significantly lighten or fade it so it’s much less noticeable.

Today, most tattoos are removed with a Q-switched laser, which sends out energy in one strong pulse. This pulse of energy heats up the ink in your skin to dissolve it. You’ll need to receive a number of laser treatments over several weeks or longer to remove your tattoo. Older or less complex tattoos will require fewer sessions, while newer or more complex tattoos will require more.

If you have darker skin, you may want to consider Q-switched Nd:YAG laser treatment, which is less likely to change the color of dark skin than traditional Q-switched lasers.

In general, it takes about 7 to 10 sessions to remove a tattoo with laser treatment. You’ll have to wait 6 to 8 weeks between sessions for best results.

Following each session, you’ll want to follow any aftercare instructions you’re given. Usually, this will involve applying antibacterial ointment to your skin for several days. The ointment will help heal your skin and reduce the risk of infection. Change the wound dressing each time you apply the ointment.

For at least the next 2 weeks:

  • Keep the treated area clean and dry.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing.
  • Avoid exposing the treated area to direct sunlight.
  • Don’t pick at any scabs or blisters that form.

Laser tattoo removal typically carries a lower risk of scarring than other removal options, just be sure not to pick at the area as it heals, as this can increase your risk of scarring.

Surgical removal

Surgical removal, also called excision tattoo removal, involves cutting off tattooed skin and stitching remaining skin back together. 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.

Surgical excision is usually done in a plastic surgery office. You’ll be given a local anesthetic before the surgeon uses a sharp, knife-like instrument called a scalpel to cut away the tattooed skin. Then, they’ll stitch the remaining skin back together. The procedure itself can take a couple hours, depending on the size of the tattoo.

The healing process will last for several weeks. During this time, you’ll want to apply the prescribed or recommended ointment for several days to help heal your skin and avoid risk of infection. Keep the site clean and out of the sun for at least 2 weeks, and follow your surgeon’s aftercare instructions.

(Video) What's up with Pete Davidson's Tattoo Removal?? | Timeline & Cost Estimates


Dermabrasion involves using a sanding device to remove layers of skin to allow ink to leach out. Its effectiveness varies widely from person to person, making it a less popular option.

You’ll want to skip dermabrasion if you have very sensitive skin or a skin condition like eczema. If you take blood thinners, you may also have a higher risk of experiencing bleeding, bruising, and changes in your skin color following the procedure. People with darker skin may also have a greater risk of skin pigment changes.

During a typical dermabrasion session, a clinician will administer a local anesthetic to reduce any pain. They’ll use a high speed rotating abrasive device that sands off the top layers of the skin to let tattoo ink escape.

Usually, this is done during one procedure at a cosmetic surgeon’s office. The length of time the procedure takes depends on the size and color of your tattoo. Larger tattoos with many colors may take more than an hour to treat.

The treated area will likely feel painful and raw for several days after the procedure

Full recovery can take 2 to 3 weeks. The pinkness or discoloration of the treated area usually fades in 8 to 12 weeks.

As you recover, your clinician may advise you to:

  • Apply an ointment to prevent infection.
  • Avoid direct sunlight for 3 to 6 months after the procedure.
  • Apply sunscreen to the site every time you’re outside.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing on the site until it heals.
  • Avoid soaking the site in water as it heals.

Some people experience scarring from dermabrasion treatments. You can reduce scarring by:

  • using the prescribed ointments
  • wearing sunscreen
  • avoiding the sun
  • using anti-scarring oils and creams, after the treatment site has fully healed

After treatment, dermabrasion may cause:

  • changes in skin color, such as lightening, darkening, or blotchiness
  • infection
  • redness or discoloration, swelling, and bleeding
  • scarring

To prevent these complications, be sure to follow your clinician’s aftercare instructions. Make sure the clinician has proper licensing and good reviews, too (more on this later)

What about home treatments?

(Video) Laser Tattoo Removal Session 9 with BEFORE & AFTER Photos

Tattoo removal creams and chemical peels are the most widely available and least expensive option. There’s a reason why: There’s no solid evidence that they work.

At best, they might slightly lighten a tattoo, according to anecdotal reports. At worst, they can result in a serious chemical burn.

Due to the high risk of skin irritation and allergic reaction, experts don’t recommend using DIY tattoo removal creams to get rid of your tattoo.

If you aren’t trying to go tattoo-free, it might also be worth considering getting a cover-up tattoo.

A cover-up can be a cost-effective, quick option for disguising the tattoo you already have. This method is a good option if you don’t like the design of your tattoo but wouldn’t mind another tattoo.

When you ask a tattoo artist to do a cover-up, they’ll work with you to design a tattoo that can be used to hide what you already have.

This may involve creating a design with heavier lines, more shading, or unique shapes. Many tattoo artists are quite skilled at creating new designs to hide unwanted tattoos.

After you agree on a design, your tattoo artist will apply the cover-up just as they did your original tattoo.

Finding a specialist

(Video) Laser tattoo removal with before and after pictures

Regardless of the tattoo removal method you choose, finding a qualified specialist is key for both safety and effectiveness.

It’s best to start by talking with a licensed dermatologist, ideally one who specializes in cosmetic procedures. They can guide you toward the best option for your circumstances. If needed, they can also refer you to a surgeon or other medical professional who can do the procedure.

If you’re in the United States, you can search for dermatologists in your area using the American Academy of Dermatology’s finder tool.

Tattoos are a common yet permanent body decoration. For people who no longer want a tattoo, there are different ways to remove it.

Tattoo removal methods vary in cost, efficacy, and recovery time. Knowing your options can help you make a decision about tattoo removal that’s right for you and your budget.


Does tattoo removal remove 100 %? ›

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.

What it looks like after a tattoo is removed? ›

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.

How much money does it take to remove tattoo? ›

On average, the tattoo removal cost in India is Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 1,00,000. The exact cost will be different for each person depending on various factors.

How many sessions did your tattoo removal take? ›

Although it is not possible to predict the number of sessions required for complete removal, most patients generally need 6 – 8 sessions. Larger tattoos may take 10 treatments or more. To make sure the skin heals properly in between each session, our administrative staff schedules appointments 6 – 8 weeks apart.

Is tattoo removal really worth it? ›

Yes. Laser tattoo removal works. Results vary from person to person, but regular tattoo removal sessions reduce tattoos significantly. It can even make them disappear entirely.

Does tattoo removal leave a scar? ›

How you treat your skin, and its condition, affects tattoo removal as much as when you got the tattoo. Though most people find that there's little to no scarring from the process, it does happen. More frequently occurring in those with darker skin tones, scarring can come about due to a loss of pigmentation.

Will my skin go back to normal after tattoo removal? ›

Yes. Your skin should go back to normal following laser tattoo removal. We can remove most tattoos completely, and following aftercare instructions will help your skin heal and return to a healthy and ink-free state.

Do tattoos come back after removal? ›

Fortunately, the answer is no. Once a tattoo is removed it's gone for good. If you only do a partial removal, the tattoo will not start to return either.

Can you get tattooed again 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.

Is it cheaper to remove or cover tattoo? ›

Weigh up time, cost & result

Combining Laser Tattoo Removal with a new cover-up tattoo will increase the amount you spend overall. However, it could reduce the time it takes to get the tattoo that you ultimately want, as it makes the job easier for the artist.

How much does it cost to remove a 2 inch tattoo? ›

Some companies charge $10–25 per inch for removal. Someone removing a 36-square-inch tattoo might pay $400 for a session, whereas someone with a 4-square-inch tattoo might pay $175. Usually, the more inches you pay for, the less you pay per inch.

Is tattoo removal painful? ›

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. Cringe-worthy, yes, but tolerable.

Are older tattoos easier to remove? ›

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.

How many sessions does it take to remove a black tattoo? ›

This depends on the age, colors, size, and location of the tattoo. Larger tattoos may require between eight and 10 removal sessions. Smaller tattoos may require between five and seven removal sessions. However, some tattoos can take as few as two treatments or as many as a dozen sessions.

How long does tattoo removal take to heal? ›

Your skin will likely be pale or pink as the scabs separate from the skin. Complete healing usually takes about six to eight weeks. Here are some suggestions that you should follow after a tattoo removal session. Your skin is likely to experience some frosting in the area where the treatment took place.

What are the disadvantages of tattoo removal? ›

What are the possible side effects?
  • The tattoo removal site can become infected.
  • There is a slight chance that the treatment can leave a permanent scar. ...
  • Some degree of skin discoloration is possible. ...
  • Cosmetic tattoos, such as lip liner, eyeliner and eyebrows may get darker after initial laser treatments.
25 Sept 2020

What hurts more tattoo or removal? ›

Does Tattoo Removal Hurt More Than Getting Tattooed? People have different levels of pain tolerance—and anxiety about pain—but laser tattoo removal feels less painful than getting tattooed. Many people compare the pain of tattoo removal to the discomfort caused by a sunburn.

Can all black tattoos be removed? ›

Black ink is the easiest to remove completely, followed by green and blue which can be a little more difficult. Pigments such as purple, yellow and white are the most difficult to remove completely. In order to successfully remove a bright, multi-coloured tattoo, different laser wavelengths are required.

How can I speed up tattoo removal? ›

8 Tips to Speed Up Your Tattoo Removal Journey
  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.

Do tattoo removal creams work? ›

The bottom line. Tattoo removal creams don't work and can cause serious skin reactions that result in permanent skin or tissue damage. These creams shouldn't be used as an alternative to FDA-approved treatments. Plenty of reputable tattoo removal services exist that can provide you with safe, effective treatments.

Why does the skin look weird after tattoo removal? ›

Hyperpigmentation. During laser removal, pulses of different light wavelengths are used to remove the tattoo ink. However, it can also affect your skin's natural pigment or melanin. A consequence of this is known as hyperpigmentation, which are essentially patches of darkened skin.

What happens after first tattoo removal session? ›

Redness, tenderness, and swelling typically subside within a day or two following treatment. Blisters usually appear within 24 hours of treatment; sometimes the blisters are very large and may look alarming – this is completely normal. Scabs, bruising, and blistering may take up to a week or longer to heal.

How often can I get tattoo removal? ›

Your body takes more than one year to remove the ink on the skin entirely. Between the sessions, you need to take breaks to heal your skin and give the immune system time to flush the tattoo ink. The minimum recommended wait time between laser sessions is six weeks.

How can I remove a tattoo at home? ›

But can you really remove tattoos at home? No, you cannot. To successfully remove a tattoo, a treatment needs to do one of the following things: Cause the body to absorb and eliminate the ink from the skin.

Can permanent tattoo be removed permanently? ›

Tattoos are meant to be permanent, and complete tattoo removal is difficult. Some degree of scarring or skin color variation is likely to remain, regardless of the specific method of tattoo removal.

Why does it cost so much to remove a tattoo? ›

The cost of Tattoo Removal can be considerably more than the original cost of having the tattoo done. The cost difference is associated with the Medical Doctors oversight, the high cost of the lasers used in the process as well as the fact that the average tattoo takes multiple treatments to remove.

Does a coverup tattoo cost more? ›

Keep in mind that a cover up tattoo might cost more than the same design on a fresh patch of skin. This cost is because the artist will need to strategically plan the design and the types of ink they used based on the original tattoo, which will take more labor and more time.

Can you cover-up black ink tattoo? ›

Can You Cover Up a Dark Tattoo? With the help of an artist experienced with cover ups, any old tattoo can be upgraded to a more vivid design. You'd either work with the current tattoo as a base layer for the new, or you fade the tattoo with lasers to make “negative space” for the new design.

Is it rude to ask tattoo price? ›

Not at all! It's actually a good idea to ask to make sure you can afford it. Also, don't make the mistake of thinking that just because it is a small tattoo that looks simple it will be cheaper. Most tattoo artists where I live charge by the hour, with the minimum payment being 1 hour.

How big of a tattoo can be removed? ›

If you have a very large tattoo that you'd like to have removed, you probably have a lot of questions—like whether removal is even possible. Fortunately, laser tattoo removal can remove a tattoo of any size.

Is 200 an hour too much for a tattoo? ›

On average, tattoo artists charge $100 to $250 an hour, although in certain cases, high-profile tattoo artists charge more. Consider how in-demand your prospective artist is, based on factors such as their number of Instagram followers as well as awards given to the studio or artist, which can help determine rates.

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.

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.

What color 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.

What were 3 old tattoo removal techniques? ›

Historically, the removal of undesired tattoos included destructive techniques such as dermabrasion, salabrasion, chemical destruction, cryosurgery, electrosurgery, and surgical excision.

Which tattoo removal laser is best? ›

The best laser for tattoo removal is a picosecond laser. Picosecond lasers remove tattoos more quickly and completely than older-style Q-Switch lasers. While Picosecond lasers can remove nearly any color ink, there's no single model that takes care of everything.

Does tattoo removal remove all the ink? ›

While ink absorbs light–and therefore energy–at the laser's spectrum, causing the ink particles to shatter into smaller pieces, the skin does not, leaving it completely unaffected even as the tattoo is obliterated, with the remnants naturally swept away by the body's own processes.

Can black tattoos be completely removed? ›

Black ink is the easiest to remove completely, followed by green and blue which can be a little more difficult. Pigments such as purple, yellow and white are the most difficult to remove completely. In order to successfully remove a bright, multi-coloured tattoo, different laser wavelengths are required.

Is it possible to remove a black tattoo? ›

Yes, but unfortunately nobody can guarantee the complete removal of every coloured tattoo until their laser has begun working on the ink. At the very worst, we are able to remove 80-90% of even the most difficult colour, which for many people is enough for them to consider the process a success.

How many tattoos can you get removed at once? ›

On the average, amateur tattoos can mostly be removed in 5 or 6 treatments, professional tattoos take more sessions to achieve removal (6-12 or more). Depending on the size and location of the tattoo will impact whether all the ink is treated in one session or split into multiple sessions.

Why is my tattoo removal not working? ›

Depth of ink

The further into the dermis the ink has penetrated, the harder it is to remove. This is why high-quality professional tattoos often take longer to remove than amateur efforts, as professional tattoo artists will penetrate the dermis more deeply and use more ink.

What color tattoo Cannot be removed? ›

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.

What tattoos can't 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 hurts more tattoo or tattoo removal? ›

Does Tattoo Removal Hurt More Than Getting Tattooed? People have different levels of pain tolerance—and anxiety about pain—but laser tattoo removal feels less painful than getting tattooed. Many people compare the pain of tattoo removal to the discomfort caused by a sunburn.

What tattoos are hardest to remove? ›

Laser tattoo removal works when the color in the ink absorbs the energy from the laser. Different colors of ink absorb color differently. Specifically, lighter colors like white, yellow, light blue, and pink are the most difficult to remove, as are green, red, and neon colors.

What type of tattoo is easiest to remove? ›

Typically, black, green, and blue are the easiest tattoo pigments to remove. On the other hand, whites, reds, yellows, and oranges are more difficult. Though it's not impossible, it can take longer and more sessions to erase these tattoos. The age of your tattoo is another factor to consider.

Can lemon juice remove tattoos? ›

Lemon and Salt

Salt is rich in sodium and chlorine, and lemon juice has bleaching properties. Salt penetrates deep into the skin and helps the ink to fade out, and the vitamin C in lemon juice replenishes the skin. Therefore, this is a great way to remove a permanent tattoo with lemon juice.


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