Laser tattoo removal – how many treatments will I need?
So you’re tired of looking at that fading blur on your ankle. Was it a dolphin, a tribal mark, maybe someone’s name? Even if you can’t remember why you decided to get “inked”, deciding to start laser tattoo removal treatments is a big deal so congrats! One of the biggest questions people ask us is “how many treatments it will take?”.
General guidelines are between 5-15 treatments but here is no one right answer as every tattoo is as unique as a snowflake.
Here are some general guidelines:
- INK COLOR: Typically green, blue, and black inks are easier to remove, while red, orange, yellow, and white inks are progressively more challenging. Removing the more difficult colors requires technology using multiple laser wavelengths. At Inkfree, MD we have not one but two different lasers which can target ALL ink colors.
- TATTOO AGE: Older tattoos are prone to pigment fading and may be more easily removed compared to newer tattoos.
- SMOKING: Those who smoked regularly will need more treatments compared to their non-smoking counterparts. This lower success rate is most likely related to smoking’s direct effects on wound healing.
- SKIN COLOR: Tattoo removal is more effective for individuals with lighter skin. Because lighter skin does not significantly absorb laser light, most of the laser energy is focused on the tattoo pigment. In contrast, dark skin siphons a portion of laser light from the tattoo. Also, most laser operators use lower energy settings on patients with darker skin types, as they are more susceptible to unwanted side effects.
- LOCATION: Tattoo removal is harder in areas that have a limited vascular supply and slower healing. Thus, tattoos on the feet, lower legs, or hands require more treatments than tattoos in areas like the chest or back.
- AMOUNT OF INK: The amount of ink used is another parameter that affects laser tattoo removal. Professional tattoos have a greater density/volume of pigment that resides deeper in the skin. On the other hand, amateur tattooing is usually uneven, superficial, and done with dramatically less ink.
- LAYERED: Layered tattoos, cover-ups are difficult to remove and require significantly more treatments than singular tattoos. Most tattoo ink is translucent, meaning it is necessary to use darker ink tones to cover previous tattoos. Since the new layer is larger and darker (and layering increases the overall volume and density of ink), full removal can be very difficult.
The Bottom Line:
The best way to estimate the number of treatments is to receive an in-person consultation by a qualified and experienced laser technician or physician. These guidelines should provide you with important context for that consultation. If these items are not considered or discussed, you should probably look elsewhere. All tattoo removal consultations at Inkfree, MD are free. Schedule yours today!