If you discussed your tattoo with anyone before having it done, in all likelihood someone will have asked you if you’re really sure, and reminded you that tattoos are for life.
But there is good news if you no longer want your ink: the idea that they’re for life isn’t strictly true because tattoo removal can, for many, be a really effective treatment nowadays. Whether or not it works well depends on several factors including the colour of your skin, the hue of the tattoo ink used, and how old the tattoo is.
If you’re contemplating removing yours, here are the answers to all your questions...
How effective is tattoo removal?Successful tattoo removal hinges on a few different things. The most important element is that you’ll need repeated sessions – up to 10+, so it’s worth considering the cost before booking – to fade a tattoo. The safest and easiest process involves a laser which will break down the ink, after which it is absorbed and eliminated by the body. That said, several colours like greens and blues don’t fade as well because the laser doesn’t affect them in quite the same way. Equally, lasers don’t work as well on all skin tones, so do ask your practitioner about how your skin tone might affect results.
Will removing my tattoo hurt?This of course depends on your individual pain tolerance level, and just as accounts of how much having a tattoo in the first place hurts vary, it’s the same for removal. Those in the know say that removal tends to be less painful than getting a tattoo, and can be likened to a snap on the surface of skin.
Bear in mind that the area of removal also has a significant effect on how painful the treatment is – anywhere with less fat and a higher concentration of nerve endings near the surface like wrists or ankles is going to hurt more than areas like the arms or thighs, though it is standard procedure for a topical numbing cream to be applied, which should help with the pain.
Where should I go to have my tattoo removed?Use the same process as you would with any cosmetic procedure. Start by booking a consultation, during which you should ask how many of these procedures they’ve done, what the aftercare entails, what they’d do if complications arose, and how high they think the chances of success in your case are.
As always, look for a practitioner who has been trained and who has plenty of experience in the field or who has, in this case, specialised in tattoo removal.
Do I need to know anything else before I go to have my tattoo removed?Make sure you haven’t been in the sun catching a tan or applied self tan directly before you have a tattoo removal laser session as it might tamper with results.
Before you go in, your practitioner will shave the area of removal to ensure it is hair free, and afterwards your skin may be red or bleed slightly, so make sure you ask your practitioner for aftercare advice. Keep the area clean, cool, and avoid sun exposure post-treatment.
Note that you shouldn’t have a tattoo removed if you’re pregnant, and will need to wait until after giving birth before planning removal sessions.
You should also be aware that the process isn’t a quick one. Given that you'll need multiple treatments with breaks in-between, it might be eight to ten months of consistent laser sessions to reduce the appearance of or to erase your tattoo.
Are there any risks associated with tattoo removal?No treatment is entirely risk-free, though the risks if you have tattoo removal administered by a professional are minimal and mostly centre around efficacy – i.e. you may not be left without any sign of the tattoo having been there.
Additionally, there is a small risk of skin colour changing temporarily – and for some permanently – in the area. If you are prone to vitiligo or keloid scars, raise this with your practitioner before starting the course.