What You Need to Know About Tattoo Removal

That pretty butterfly on your wrist or the family crest on your bicep—complete with menacing eagle—seemed like a great idea in college. But sometimes, people have tattoo regret. Maybe you’ve outgrown the tattoo, maybe you never really liked the artwork, or maybe you just want to lighten your tattoo and have something different done over top. Whatever your reasons, here are the answers to your top questions about laser tattoo removal.

After getting a tattoo, how long do I have to wait before getting it removed?
You need to wait until the skin is fully healed, which is a minimum of eight to 10 weeks after placement of the tattoo.

Are all tattoo removal machines the same?
When it comes to tattoo removal, pico second lasers are state-of-the-art technology. This means that the laser fires every one trillionth of a second. This creates an intense waveform that is able to penetrate the skin and break up the underlying ink. Compared to previous lasers, the pico second laser is like hitting the ink with a sledgehammer rather than a regular hammer.

How much does tattoo removal cost?
The cost per treatment varies and depends on a lot of factors. Generally the session is approximately $450 for a business card size tattoo. The bigger the tattoo, the higher the cost per treatment.

How many treatments are needed to remove a tattoo?
The number of treatments varies, depending on factors, such as colour, depth of ink and type of ink used. Also, generally, brighter colours are much harder to remove.

Will the tattoo completely go away?
In some cases, you may not be able to completely remove the tattoo, and you may be left with a small white hue or a very faint outline of the tattoo.

How long does the procedure take?
Depending on the size of the tattoo, the treatment can be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.

What is the hardest colour to remove?
The hardest tattoo colours to remove are the bright colours such as red, yellow and green. Standard tattoo machines generally only have one wavelength, and that wavelength is usually specific to darker colours such as the blacks. The new pico second lasers generally have two separate wavelengths—one specifically for darker colours and one specifically for the brighter colours. This leads to better clearance of the tattoo with fewer treatments.Can I just have my tattoo faded to prepare for a new one on top?Yes, if you don’t want to completely remove the tattoo, the laser treatment can also be used to fade the tattoo.

Does it hurt?
The procedure is very quick and most people find that it’s no worse than when the tattoo was originally applied. It is generally tolerated well.

Will my skin blister after a tattoo removal treatment?
With newer pico second technology, the chance of complications, including a burn, is significantly reduced.

Do I need to avoid the sun after a tattoo removal treatment?
It is recommended that you avoid sun exposure for two weeks prior and two weeks after having the treatment. It is always a good idea after the treatment to keep the area out of the sun and apply a good sunscreen.

How soon after a treatment can I go back to the gym?
You should avoid heavy exercise and sweating for approximately 48 hours after tattoo removal treatment.


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About the Author

Dr. Sean Rice

Dr. Sean Rice

Dr. Sean Rice, B.A.(Hons), M.D.,M.Sc.,F.R.C.S.C., is a renowned plastic and cosmetic surgeon, a leading authority on age management and is widely recognized for his published articles in Canadian and international medical journals. Dr. Rice is frequently called upon to share his expertise as he trains other surgeons in cutting-edge techniques as well being invited to […]

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