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.
In general, it takes about 7 to 10 sessionsTrusted Source 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.
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.