Is Laser Tattoo Removal Expensive? (And Other Removal Options)

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Getting a new tattoo is always an exciting moment in one’s life. But, what happens if the tattoo turned out terrible or you simply don’t like it. Well, there are few ways you can get rid of it, even though it is thought to be a permanent body artwork.

However, the removal options aren’t that abundant, and the majority aren’t even that effective and successful in tattoo removal. That is why the majority of people wanting to remove their tattoos go for laser tattoo removal. It is the most effective way for such a procedure. But, isn’t it like really expensive?

In the following paragraphs, we’ll take a look at your best tattoo removal option and see how much it will cost you. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Laser Tattoo Removal: Quick Overview

Laser Tattoo Removal
Image Credit: Saved Tattoo

1. What Is Laser Tattoo Removal and How Does It Work?

Laser tattoo removal is an effective way of using the photomechanical effect to shatter the tattoo particles and remove the specific pigment or ink in the skin. The lasers used for this procedure are known as the Q-switched lasers, which use infrared light at specific frequencies to target the tattoo ink.

The laser sends the infrared energy to the skin in one strong pulse or shock wave, so you can expect some weird sounds during the tattoo removal session. The energy targets the ink in the skin, even beyond the surface levels. It then heats the ink and dissolves the tattoo particles. But, how do these Q-switched lasers truly work? Here’s how;

  • The infrared light penetrates the skin to reach the tattoo pigment or the ink.
  • The tattoo absorbs the color of the laser light, but different tattoo pigments absorb different laser lights.
  • The laser provides pulse energy in a short shock wave.
  • The energy heats the tattoo, which causes the ink to dissipate into the surrounding skin.
  • Heat or energy waves must be very short to avoid burning and scarring of the surrounding tissue and skin.

Q-switched lasers are the only commercially available lasers able to do this procedure effectively. Unfortunately, tattoo removal is rarely done in one session. Depending on the type of the tattoo, it will for sure take several laser sessions to even start seeing effects.

2. Who Can Get A Laser Tattoo Removal?

Now, let’s start by saying that if you just got a new tattoo and you don’t like it, you’re not the best candidate for laser tattoo removal. Newer tattoos take time to heal and grow a new layer of skin before they can be treated by a laser. And, this can take up to 6 to 8 months.

So, who can get a laser tattoo removal?

Well, if there’s an older tattoo you want gone, you would be the best candidate for the procedure. Older tattoos are much easier to remove, especially if they’re medium or small and don’t have a lot of coloring and shading going on.

Note: if your tattoo is green, brown, black, or dark blue, the laser removal will be done much easier and faster. That is because these ink colors absorb the heat and energy from the red laser unlike other colors, which require other laser colors or do not respond to lasers at all (like the yellow color).

But, if your tattoo is larger and colorful, you’ll have a hard time removing the ink. It will take a lot of laser sessions (sometimes even more than 20), which would be time-consuming and incredibly expensive.

3. Who Should Not Get a Laser Tattoo Removal?

As we said, people with new, large, and colorful tattoos should avoid laser removal procedures. But, some other groups of people should also avoid laser tattoo removal for health reasons. So, you should not get a laser tattoo removal if you have;

  • Darker or sunburnt skin
  • Eczema or a skin condition
  • A health condition that affects the skin (like herpes)
  • A weak immune system

But, even though laser tattoo removal might not be for you, there are still other options to remove the tattoo without aggravating our disorder or condition. You can go for chemical removal, surgical excision, or dermabrasion, so long it doesn’t aggravate or flare-up your condition.

tattoo removal before and after
Image Credit: @hellotattoo

Laser Tattoo Removal Cost: Explained

4. So, Is Laser Tattoo Removal Expensive?

Now that we’ve learned more about laser tattoo removal, let’s look at some cost numbers. We can simply start by answering the question; yes, laser tattoo removal is very expensive!

Just like any skincare service, laser tattoo removal is a high-cost procedure, apart from few exceptions where the tattoos are really small and older, so few sessions are required.

In any other case, the price for one session can vary between $500 and $1000. In some cases, the price per session can go even over several thousand dollars. The price usually depends on the tattoo; how old it is, whether it is colored, and where it is placed on the body. The larger and more complex the tattoo and the placement, the higher the cost of the laser procedure per session.

For an average laser tattoo removal of 15+ sessions, you can expect to pay between $7000 and $15,000. Some studios do offer bundle payment options (you can get a discount for 5 sessions per bundle), or you can pay monthly, or over time.

5. Why is Laser Tattoo Removal Expensive?

Generally speaking, laser tattoo removal is mostly expensive due to the technology being used for the procedure. However, many other factors contribute to the high cost of laser tattoo removal, like;

  • Type of laser for the procedure – for example, if the laser studio is using nanosecond or picosecond lasers devices, which can cost up to $150,000, the laser removal itself will be much more successful, therefore expensive.
  • The quality of the service – the more reputable the studio and the higher the service quality, the more you will pay for the tattoo removal procedure. The staff at laser studios is often highly educated and experienced, and before the procedure, clients often receive medical checkups and consultations.
  • The tattoo itself – the tattoo can largely affect the total laser removal price. If the tattoo is large, dense, colored, or located somewhere difficult to approach, the procedure will require between 15 and 25 sessions, which can be a lot of money in the end.

6. Why Does The Tattoo Determine The Total Cost?

Well, the laser removal studios do have an established hourly rate. But, if a tattoo is small and of a certain color, it can be removed quickly, so you only have to pay for several sessions, often between 8 and 12.

However, other types of tattoos affect the pricing differently. For example, it will require more sessions if the tattoo is;

  • Large
  • Located somewhere difficult to approach
  • Located somewhere far from active blood flow
  • Colored in colors other than green, brown, black, and dark blue
  • Dense and has thick ink

If a tattoo is small, black, and located, let’s say in the bicep area, and has low density, you will require up to 12 sessions, which could cost up to $7000, on an estimate. But, if a tattoo is large, colored, has a high ink density, and comprises a full sleeve, for example, then you can expect up to 25 sessions and a final cost of up to $15,000, on an estimate.

7. What Should I Know Before Laser Tattoo Removal?

Here are some of the main factors to consider before you make an appointment and look at the tattoo removal cost;

  • Ask which laser technology is used for laser tattoo removal
  • Ask about the staff and how experienced or educated they are
  • Ask for consultation
  • Consider the size, the location, and the color of the tattoo
  • Ask about any hidden costs (including aftercare and follow-up sessions)
  • Ask about payment options
  • Ask about membership deals and delayed payment
  • Ask how many sessions you may require

Other Tattoo Removal Options and Costs

Surgical Tattoo Removal

After Surgical Tattoo Removal with a Scar
Image Credit: @majapilipovic

In case you are not a suitable candidate for a laser tattoo removal procedure, or you find it too expensive for your budget, you can try surgical tattoo removal. This procedure is less expensive than laser removal, but there are a few downsides to it as well. For example;

  • Surgical tattoo removal often results in a scar, since it comprises cutting away the tattooed skin and stitching the remaining skin back.
  • Surgical tattoo removal is preferable for small tattoos that are not placed somewhere complicated and difficult to approach.
  • It will take several weeks for the treated area to heal.
  • Surgical tattoo removal is not covered by insurance, since it is considered a cosmetic procedure.

If you’re worried about the scarring, you can mitigate the scar by following the surgeon’s aftercare instructions closely and regularly. Just keep the treated area clean and do not expose it to sun and heat. Apply the prescribed ointment and contact your surgeon in case of any signs of inflammation or infection.

The cost of surgical tattoo removal depends on factors like the size of the tattoo, and where it is located. So, for example, you can pay anywhere between $150 and $350 for the surgical removal of a small tattoo.

Dermabrasion Tattoo Removal

Another alternative to laser tattoo removal is dermabrasion. This procedure includes the removal of skin layers using a sanding device, to let the ink leach out.

Unlike laser and surgical tattoo removal, dermabrasion is not common for numerous reasons;

  • The results vary from one person to the other
  • It can only remove most of the tattoo, not the whole tattoo
  • It is not recommended for people with sensitive skin or skin conditions
  • It is not recommended for people with darker skin due to pigmentation changes

The cost of dermabrasion procedures depends on the size of the tattoo as well as the coloring. Therefore, the cost varies between several hundred and several thousand dollars. Because of this, we don’t think it’s the best tattoo removal option, since it can be just a pricey as other options, but less effective.

Covering The Tattoo With Another One

Tattoo cover up
Image Source: @kateblacktattoos

And finally, if none of the aforementioned options seem to work for you, we recommend one last thing; covering the tattoo you don’t like with another tattoo. This might be the most cost-friendly options, but you need to know a few things before embarking on this journey;

  • You can only cover a tattoo that has fully and completely healed
  • The final tattoo will be darker in appearance
  • The new design will probably be heavier
  • It will also be much denser and probably more detailed
  • You will need to find a tattoo artist specialized in tattoo cover-ups

When it comes to the cost, it often depends on the size of the tattoo and the fact that the artist has to come up with a new, custom design to fit the old tattoo. This can increase the price of the tattoo drastically, so you may end up paying more for the cover-up than the original piece. The price for small tattoos starts at around $100 and can go up to several thousand dollars. Even so, it is much cheaper than getting laser tattoo removal.

Also Read: 14 Best Cover-Up Tattoo Artists. Find The US Top Tattooers

Final Thoughts

The best way to prevent dealing with tattoo removal is to think hard about what you want from the tattoo and find someone who will do it properly. Some people want to save money, so they go to less experienced tattoo artists and then have to deal with tattoo removal which is far more costly.

But, if you’re left with a bad tattoo, we recommend you either go for laser removal or find a high-end professional and do a cover-up tattoo. These options seem to be most worthy of your money. Not to mention that laser removal can be paid monthly, which should fit your budget even better. For more information, contact your local laser removal studios and tattoo shops.

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