Tattoo Removal: How to, Costs, Before and After Pictures, and More (2022)

Considering getting some ink removed? There are several ways to approach tattoo removal:

  • laser removal
  • surgical excision
  • dermabrasion

Tattoo removal generally works, but some tattoos are much harder to remove than others. Older tattoos as well as stick-and-poke tattoos are easier to remove than newer ones, for example.

Some colors are easier to remove than others as well. These include:

  • black
  • brown
  • dark blue
  • green

Larger, more colorful tattoos are typically more time-consuming and expensive to remove than smaller, lighter, and less colorful ones.

Due to the risk of side effects, it may also be more difficult to remove tattoos if you have:

  • darker skin
  • a preexisting skin condition, like eczema
  • a health condition that affects the skin, such as herpes

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t remove your tattoo if any of this applies to you. It just means you may need to take a bit more time to find the best removal option for you.

When thinking about tattoo removal options, you’ll want to consider several factors, including:

  • cost
  • scarring risk
  • effectiveness
  • time commitment

Again, these factors will depend largely on the size, complexity, and condition of your tattoo, as well as your skin.

(Video) Laser Tattoo Removal - Before and After through all the stages

Here’s a quick look at how different types of tattoo removal compare to each other, followed by a more in-depth look at each.

MethodAverage costSessionsEffectivenessScarring risk
Laser removal$463 per session, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery7-10tattoo will be significantly lighter, but may not completely disappearlow, with proper aftercare
Surgical removal$200-$1,500, based on anecdotal reports1, though larger tattoos may require moretattoo will be completely removedhigh
Dermabrasionseveral hundred to thousands of dollars, according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery1varies from person to personvaries from person to person

Laser removal

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.

If you have darker skin, you may want to consider Q-switched Nd:YAG laser treatment, which is less likely to change the color of dark skin than traditional Q-switched lasers.

In general, it takes about 7 to 10 sessions 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.

For at least the next 2 weeks:

  • Keep the treated area clean and dry.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing.
  • Avoid exposing the treated area to direct sunlight.
  • Don’t pick at any scabs or blisters that form.

Laser tattoo removal typically carries a lower risk of scarring than other removal options, just be sure not to pick at the area as it heals, as this can increase your risk of scarring.

Surgical removal

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.

(Video) What's up with Pete Davidson's Tattoo Removal?? | Timeline & Cost Estimates


Dermabrasion involves using a sanding device to remove layers of skin to allow ink to leach out. Its effectiveness varies widely from person to person, making it a less popular option.

You’ll want to skip dermabrasion if you have very sensitive skin or a skin condition like eczema. If you take blood thinners, you may also have a higher risk of experiencing bleeding, bruising, and changes in your skin color following the procedure. People with darker skin may also have a greater risk of skin pigment changes.

During a typical dermabrasion session, a clinician will administer a local anesthetic to reduce any pain. They’ll use a high speed rotating abrasive device that sands off the top layers of the skin to let tattoo ink escape.

Usually, this is done during one procedure at a cosmetic surgeon’s office. The length of time the procedure takes depends on the size and color of your tattoo. Larger tattoos with many colors may take more than an hour to treat.

The treated area will likely feel painful and raw for several days after the procedure

Full recovery can take 2 to 3 weeks. The pinkness or discoloration of the treated area usually fades in 8 to 12 weeks.

As you recover, your clinician may advise you to:

  • Apply an ointment to prevent infection.
  • Avoid direct sunlight for 3 to 6 months after the procedure.
  • Apply sunscreen to the site every time you’re outside.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing on the site until it heals.
  • Avoid soaking the site in water as it heals.

Some people experience scarring from dermabrasion treatments. You can reduce scarring by:

  • using the prescribed ointments
  • wearing sunscreen
  • avoiding the sun
  • using anti-scarring oils and creams, after the treatment site has fully healed

After treatment, dermabrasion may cause:

  • changes in skin color, such as lightening, darkening, or blotchiness
  • infection
  • redness or discoloration, swelling, and bleeding
  • scarring

To prevent these complications, be sure to follow your clinician’s aftercare instructions. Make sure the clinician has proper licensing and good reviews, too (more on this later)

What about home treatments?

(Video) Laser tattoo removal with before and after pictures

Tattoo removal creams and chemical peels are the most widely available and least expensive option. There’s a reason why: There’s no solid evidence that they work.

At best, they might slightly lighten a tattoo, according to anecdotal reports. At worst, they can result in a serious chemical burn.

Due to the high risk of skin irritation and allergic reaction, experts don’t recommend using DIY tattoo removal creams to get rid of your tattoo.

If you aren’t trying to go tattoo-free, it might also be worth considering getting a cover-up tattoo.

A cover-up can be a cost-effective, quick option for disguising the tattoo you already have. This method is a good option if you don’t like the design of your tattoo but wouldn’t mind another tattoo.

When you ask a tattoo artist to do a cover-up, they’ll work with you to design a tattoo that can be used to hide what you already have.

This may involve creating a design with heavier lines, more shading, or unique shapes. Many tattoo artists are quite skilled at creating new designs to hide unwanted tattoos.

After you agree on a design, your tattoo artist will apply the cover-up just as they did your original tattoo.

Finding a specialist

(Video) Laser Tattoo Removal Session 9 with BEFORE & AFTER Photos

Regardless of the tattoo removal method you choose, finding a qualified specialist is key for both safety and effectiveness.

It’s best to start by talking with a licensed dermatologist, ideally one who specializes in cosmetic procedures. They can guide you toward the best option for your circumstances. If needed, they can also refer you to a surgeon or other medical professional who can do the procedure.

If you’re in the United States, you can search for dermatologists in your area using the American Academy of Dermatology’s finder tool.

Tattoos are a common yet permanent body decoration. For people who no longer want a tattoo, there are different ways to remove it.

Tattoo removal methods vary in cost, efficacy, and recovery time. Knowing your options can help you make a decision about tattoo removal that’s right for you and your budget.


How much money does it take to remove a tattoo? ›

The average price for laser tattoo removal is $423. For a large piece of art, the cost can reach $4,000 or more. Insurance will not cover tattoo removal, but some community programs offer free removal if you qualify.

What is the best way to get tattoo removal results? ›

8 Tips to Speed Up Your Tattoo Removal Journey
  1. Avoid exposing the treated area to the sun. ...
  2. Exercise regularly. ...
  3. Sleep well. ...
  4. Drink plenty of water. ...
  5. Eat more immunity-boosting foods. ...
  6. Don't smoke. ...
  7. Follow the aftercare advice. ...
  8. Keep to your appointment schedule.

Can you get a tattoo 100% removed? ›

Yes, lasers can remove tattoos completely. In fact, lasers are the safest, most effective tool to remove unwanted tattoos with. However, you may need to receive several sessions before the tattoo is removed completely.

Does drinking water help tattoo removal? ›

It is recommended that you begin drinking plenty of water in the weeks leading up to your first tattoo removal treatment. The water in your body plays a key role in cell regeneration. Your skin cells will regenerate faster with proper hydration, which will enable the skin to break down the ink in your pigment faster.

How much does it cost to remove a 3 inch tattoo? ›

Some companies charge $10–25 per inch for removal. Someone removing a 36-square-inch tattoo might pay $400 for a session, whereas someone with a 4-square-inch tattoo might pay $175. Usually, the more inches you pay for, the less you pay per inch.

Does tattoo removal leave a scar? ›

How you treat your skin, and its condition, affects tattoo removal as much as when you got the tattoo. Though most people find that there's little to no scarring from the process, it does happen. More frequently occurring in those with darker skin tones, scarring can come about due to a loss of pigmentation.

What's the hardest tattoo color to remove? ›

Tattoo Ink

Green is the hardest color to remove followed by light blue. Neon colors are also incredibly difficult to remove, and typically require multiple treatments with the Ruby laser. As a general rule, the greater the contrast between the color of the tattoo pigment and your skin, the better the result.

How do I prepare my skin for tattoo removal? ›

Avoid lotion, perfume, and other cosmetics, particularly on the area to be treated. The area to be treated during a laser tattoo removal session should be clean, shaven and unadorned. There's no need to moisturize your skin prior to treatment, as that has no impact on how the skin will accept the laser.

What should I wear after tattoo removal? ›

Keep it bandaged with sterilized gauze. Don't apply any other creams or makeup to the treated area within the first few days. You can remove the bandage after three days, but keep the area as clean and dry as possible. You may also apply Vaseline, Aquaphor, or hydrocortisone cream to moisturize the area as it heals.

Why is my tattoo removal not working? ›

Depth of ink

The further into the dermis the ink has penetrated, the harder it is to remove. This is why high-quality professional tattoos often take longer to remove than amateur efforts, as professional tattoo artists will penetrate the dermis more deeply and use more ink.

Do tattoo removal creams work? ›

Tattoo removal creams don't work and can cause serious skin reactions that result in permanent skin or tissue damage. These creams shouldn't be used as an alternative to FDA-approved treatments. Plenty of reputable tattoo removal services exist that can provide you with safe, effective treatments.

Do older tattoos removed easier? ›

The age of your tattoo is a factor in how easy it is to remove. Older tattoos do tend to be removed more easily because they have typically already had some fading over time. For this reason, older tattoos will often take fewer sessions to remove than a newer tattoo would.

How long after tattoo removal does it fade? ›

Depending on the skin type and inks used in a tattoo, temporary crusting and blistering may occur after laser tattoo removal. Tattoos will begin to fade within the first two to three weeks after treatment.

How long does it take tattoo removal to heal? ›

Your skin will likely be pale or pink as the scabs separate from the skin. Complete healing usually takes about six to eight weeks. Here are some suggestions that you should follow after a tattoo removal session. Your skin is likely to experience some frosting in the area where the treatment took place.

Is it rude to ask tattoo price? ›

Not at all! It's actually a good idea to ask to make sure you can afford it. Also, don't make the mistake of thinking that just because it is a small tattoo that looks simple it will be cheaper. Most tattoo artists where I live charge by the hour, with the minimum payment being 1 hour.

Is 200 an hour too much for a tattoo? ›

On average, tattoo artists charge $100 to $250 an hour, although in certain cases, high-profile tattoo artists charge more. Consider how in-demand your prospective artist is, based on factors such as their number of Instagram followers as well as awards given to the studio or artist, which can help determine rates.

How much does it cost to remove a 6 inch tattoo? ›

Although the amount that it will cost to remove your tattoo will vary from person to person, you can generally expect to pay roughly $200 to $500 per treatment. This is just a general average, so make sure that you consult with our experts to determine the exact cost for you.

What are the side effects of tattoo removal? ›

What are the possible side effects?
  • The tattoo removal site can become infected.
  • There is a slight chance that the treatment can leave a permanent scar. ...
  • Some degree of skin discoloration is possible. ...
  • Cosmetic tattoos, such as lip liner, eyeliner and eyebrows may get darker after initial laser treatments.
25 Sept 2020

Will skin ever be the same after tattoo removal? ›

After you have completed all your sessions to remove your tattoo at New Look Laser Tattoo Removal in Houston, your skin should get back to its normal self. Most of our clients only need three to six months after their final laser treatment to get their skin back to its original form.

What does skin look like after tattoo removal? ›

Redness, tenderness and swelling typically subside within a day or two post-treatment. Blisters usually appear within 24 hours of treatment. Scabs, bruising, and blistering may take up to a week or longer to heal. You should avoid picking scabs and taking care of blisters; otherwise, scarring can happen.

› Skin › Tattoos & Piercings ›

From cost to aftercare, we break down the important measures to consider before getting laser tattoo removal. Learn more inside.
Are you the not-so-proud owner of some regrettable ink and considering tattoo removal? Welcome to the club. I have four (five, if you count the one on my back a...
Presenting a guide on tattoo removal, including DIY tattoo removal at home (which we don't recommend). Our advice is to stick with lasers!

Is it worth getting a tattoo removed? ›

Is it worth getting laser tattoo removal? Yes, it is worth getting laser tattoo removal if you want a tattoo removed completely. But it's only worth it if you pay for (and attend) all sessions. It may take several to remove the tattoo entirely.

Is tattoo removal painful? ›

Rest easy — while laser tattoo removal can hurt, chances are it won't hurt as much as getting the tattoo did. Tattoo removal pain is comparable to the pain of a bad sunburn, and the laser pulses feel like a rubber band snapping against your skin. Cringe-worthy, yes, but tolerable.

Can tattoos be removed? ›

Tattoo removal is often done as an outpatient procedure with local anesthesia. Common techniques for tattoo removal include laser surgery, surgical removal and dermabrasion.

Can permanent tattoo be removed naturally? ›

Another effective way of naturally removing tattoos is by using sand powder and mixing it with aloe vera to create a paste mixture. Take about 1/4 cup of sand powder and aloe vera gel, combine them to create a gooey paste, and apply it multiple times a day over your tattoo until it vanishes.


1. Tattoo Excision - Before and After - Live Surgery
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2. Laser tattoo removal - progress photos
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3. My Laser Tattoo Removal Experience | UPPER ARM, Pain, Cost and WHY I'm removing it!
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4. Laser Tattoo Removal - Sessions 10-12 Update
5. My Experience with Laser Tattoo Removal 💥 FAQ & Vlogs
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6. Laser Tattoo Removal Before and After Photos
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