No matter how good an idea it seemed at the time a large proportion of those who get tattooed live to regret it. The reasons given to doctors for the change of heart are varied but often they relate to life changes that have occurred in the ten years or so since first getting the tattoo.
If you are considering having your tattoo removed you will want to know what your options are.
Tattoo Removal Procedures and Costs
At one time tattoo removal involved the injection of bizarre substances into the tattoo itself such as lime, wine and pigeon poop. Thankfully today there are other less noxious options available but it is worth noting that tattoosare made by inserting indelible ink under several layers of skin. In order to get your tattoo off, those layers of skin are going to have to be sanded, lasered or excised.
Dermabrasion Tattoo Removal
($2,300 to $4,000)
Dermabrasion works by ‘abrading’ away the layers of skin that contain the ink pigments much like a sanding tool will remove old varnish from a tabletop. As the layers of skin slough away, taking with themthe colored inks, new skin grows back in its place, the tattoo becomes fainter or is removed altogether.
Dermabrasion is classed as a surgical procedure and should only be carried out by a licensed plastic surgeon. The costs vary from state to state and of course, will depend on the size of the area that has to be treated. You can estimate the cost at $200 to $300 per dermabrasion treatment and an overall cost of $2,300 to $4,000.
There is no question that dermabrasion is painful and expensive and has been far exceeded in popularity by Q-laser tattoo removal.
Q-Switched Laser Tattoo Removal
Laser is probably the most common method of tattoo removal chosen at the moment. Light pulses from the laser effectively fade the tattoo by breaking up the ink pigments within the cells of your body which are then flushed away by the body’s immune system.
The laser will remove black color pigment fastest while green/blue pigments take longer. Even after a consultation at which the doctor can examine your tattoo to see the size, complexity and colors used, he or she will not be able to guarantee that your tattoo will be removed within a specified timeframe. You should expect somewhere between 5 and 15 treatments altogether.
Laser Tattoo Removal Prices
($150 - $12,000)
Some doctors or technicians charge for tattoo removal per square inch and others charge by time. There is almost always a minimum charge per visit and most clinics will offer some form of package discount.
Laser Tattoo Removal Per Square Inch
Dr. TATTOff clinics charge $49 per square inch for the first 5 square inches. The price goes down thereafter to $25 per sq. inch for 6-10 inches and $15 per square inch for anything above 11 inches.
- Removing a 3 inch square tattoo = $147
- Removing an 8 inch square tattoo ( 5 x $49) + (3 x $25) = $320
Laser Tattoo Removal Per Session Time
Smaller tattoos may be treated in less than 15 minutes per session but the clinic will still charge for use of the equipment, professional fee for consultation, bandage and after care. This makes the average fee per session $100.
Tattoos with a much larger surface area might take an hour to cover and this would cost considerably more. The highest per session fee we found was $3,000 although that was way out of the ordinary. A more standard per session fee for a large tattoo is about $1,500.
- Small tattoo at $100 per session for 8 session = $800
- Large tattoo at $1,500 per session for 8 sessions = $12,000
Excision Tattoo Removal
($900 to $3,000)
If the tattoo is small and there is sufficient surrounding skin, the tattoo can be excised by a plastic surgeon and then the wound stitched together. This would usually be done in only one or two sittings under local anesthetic. It will leave a scar but is a relatively quick and low cost method of tattoo removal.
At Home Tattoo Removal Kits
($50 to $250)
There are a few over-the-counter tattoo removal kits available. They do not all work in the same manner. Some like Nuviderm and Inkbusters use an acid chemical to burn off the top layers of the skin; others like Wrecking Balm use the principle of dermabrasion in a home kit. Yet others like Tat B Gone and Tattoo Off rely on fading the ink pigments.
While these may be seen as low cost methods of tattoo removal there is no scientific proof that they work at all and the active chemical in a few of them is suspected of being carcinogenic.
Free Tattoo Removal
A few laser surgery clinics offer a free tattoo removal service to ex-gang members and those from low income households. The Houston D-Tag program is one of the most successful.
As Dr. Micheal V. Kelly, II, M.D., who donates a significant portion of his time to this initiative says, “…everyone makes mistakes and these youngsters shouldn’t have to wear theirs for the rest of their lives.”
Tattoo Removal Tip: If you want to get rid of a tattoo for a special event like a wedding but are otherwise quite happy to keep it, you might want to consider some of the specialized tattoo cover up creams that are on the market nowadays. They come in different shades and do a good job of concealing even large, multicolored tattoos.
Last Updated: Mar 29, 2012