Skin Care Cosmetic Procedures Tattoo Removal

Because many people who get tattoos come to regret them, tattoo removal surgery is a common procedure. Whether you have a faded tattoo that has been distorted with time or you simply have a tattoo you dislike, getting your tattoo removed can boost your self-confidence and your self-image.

Regardless of your reasons for wanting to remove your tattoo, be sure to thoroughly research the procedure so that you have realistic expectations.

Tattoo Removal: Types of Procedures

Like other cosmetic procedures, tattoo removal can be performed in a variety of ways, depending on the:

  • Area being treated
  • Color of the tattoo
  • Depth of the tattoo’s ink
  • Size of the tattoo.

Based on these factors, you doctor can recommend that you undergo one of the following types of tattoo removal procedures:

  • Excision: In excision tattoo removal, doctors cut the tattooed skin off of the body. While excisions of smaller tattoos require that the remaining surrounding skin be sewn together, larger tattoos removed by excisions require a skin graft (using skin from another area of your body) to fill the gap of missing skin.
  • Dermabrasion: By grating off the top layers of tattooed skin, doctors effectively scrape the tattoo off the skin. As a result, tattoo removal patients undergoing dermabrasion will have extremely sensitive, inflamed, red skin at the affected site for at least a few months.
  • Laser: Using a focused laser beam, doctors can adjust the intensity of the laser to bleed out different colors of tattoo ink. Unlike the other types of tattoo removals, the laser method is relatively painless, usually causing only mild sensitivity, similar in sensation to that of a mild sunburn.
  • Salabrasion: As one of the oldest methods of removing tattoos, the salabrasion type of tattoo removal describes a procedure in which saltwater is used to sand off the tattooed skin. Because this antiquated type of tattoo removal is painful and generally causes scarring, it is rarely used today.

Once you have chosen a cosmetic surgeon whom you trust, talk over the pros and cons of the various options to choose the right tattoo removal procedure that’s right for you.

Regardless of the type of tattoo removal procedure you choose, keep in mind that you will likely have to undergo multiple sessions to fully remove the tattoo. Also, keep in mind that, in some cases, skin beneath the tattoo will have a permanent shadow or outline of the tattoo. Consequently, to ensure that your expectations of the results are realistic, ask your doctor about the number of tattoo removal sessions you will need as well as about the degree to which the procedure will get rid of the tattoo.

Tattoo Removal Side Effects and Complications

The complications you will experience after getting your tattoo removed will depend on the procedure you choose, the number of treatment sessions you undergo and the current health of your skin. However, the following are some of the common tattoo removal complications people experience:

  • General skin irritation
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Permanent skin discoloration
  • Redness
  • Scabbing
  • Scarring
  • Sensitivity
  • Skin infections.

While some of these side effects will subside as soon as your skin fully recovers from the procedure, others, such as scarring and skin discoloration, are permanent. However, remember that many of the newer tattoo removal procedures, including laser tattoo removal, result in minimal complications.

Your doctor can evaluate which complications you are most likely to experience.

Costs of Tattoo Removal

As with other types of cosmetic procedures, the cost of tattoo removal will depend on the:

  • Experience or reputation of your doctor
  • Location in which you get the procedure done (Tattoo removals in Beverly Hills, California, are likely to be more expensive than those in Kansas City, Kansas.)
  • Number of sessions you need for full removal
  • Size of the tattoo being removed
  • Type of procedure you choose
  • Whether or not anesthesia is used.

While one treatment session will generally cost between $100 and $500, most patients need five to 10 sessions to fully remove the tattoo. Because tattoo removals can get costly, make sure you understand the number of sessions you will need before starting any course of treatment for tattoo removal.

Non-Surgical Tattoo Removal

Some people may be wary of undergoing surgical procedures to remove their tattoos. There are other do-it-yourself options that may fade your tattoo. These creams are formulated to bleach the skin, with the goal of lightening the tattoo and the surrounding skin.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration actually recommends that consumers not use do-it-yourself tattoo removal products, since you may experience side effects even with these topical methods of removal, including skin irritation and allergic reactions. In addition, this method has been proven to be quite ineffective, since tattoo ink is below the top skin layer.

Resources Staff. (n.d.). Tattoo removal. Retrieved November 8, 2007, from the Cosmetic Surgery Web site:

Gibson, L. (2009). Tattoo removal cream: Does it work? Retrieved April 7, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: Staff. (2008). Tattoo removal creams. Retrieved April 7, 2010, from the Tattoo Health Web site:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Staff. (2008). Think before you ink: Are tattoos safe? Retrieved April 7, 2010, from the FDA Web site: