This might be the number one question we are asked. It’s definitely in the top five. Unfortunately, there is no quick one-size-fits-all answer to this because there are so many variables involved.
Let’s start with how tattoos work in the first place. Depending on how long ago you first got your tattoo, you may or may not recall these details:
A specialized needle punctures through the outer layer of skin, or epidermis. It then deposits ink in the second layer of skin, the dermis. The epidermis regenerates itself roughly every 27 days, but the dermis remains stable, which is why tattoos are permanent, although there is usually some fading over the years.
Now that you understand how your tattoo came to be (and more importantly – came to be permanent), it will make sense when we explain how tattoos are removed. Lasers are necessary to remove tattoos because they can reach the dermis with pulses of light energy. These pulses of light energy heat the ink and break it into small particles which are then flushed out by the body’s immune system.
Although it would be convenient if your tattoo could be removed as quickly as the idea to get it in the first place appeared, it simply isn’t possible to rush the process. We will be able to give you an idea of the approximate number of sessions you will need at your initial free consultation, and we guarantee that we will be completely upfront and transparent with all of our answers for you.
The average number of sessions necessary for complete tattoo removal is 6-10, although it can be more than 10, depending on certain factors, which are described below.
Factors affecting the number of tattoo removal sessions needed:
It stands to reason that the bigger the tattoo, the more sessions you will need with the laser. Some people may be regretting an ex’s initials that are no bigger than a quarter; others may be rethinking an entire multicolored sleeve or a surprised Pikachu covering their entire back.
Some colors are easier to remove than others. This is because different color dyes respond differently to the pulses of light energy. Blacks and dark grays are easiest to remove, followed by reds and dark yellows. The most difficult colors to remove are neons, light blues, and light greens.
- Where you got your tattoo originally:
This is important because tattoos from professionals take longer to remove than most amateur tattoos because the ink was injected deeper into the dermis. It is also likely that more ink was used at the time.
- Age of tattoo:
Tattoos tend to fade and lose their vibrancy as they age. This is because over time the immune system’s macrophage cells gradually absorb and then disperse the ink. Also, tattoos that are exposed to the sun also tend to fade because the ink molecules are gradually broken down by UV frequencies. Faded tattoos have fewer ink molecules for the laser to pulse, so may take fewer sessions to remove.
- Location of the tattoo:
It’s in Denver, right? Just kidding – we mean the location of the tattoo on your body. Tattoos on fatty tissues closer to the heart can be removed more quickly than those on bonier areas. The increased circulation and immune system activity in the torso can mean a shorter healing time in between sessions as well as the possibility of fewer sessions.
- Your skin type:
Lighter skin doesn’t absorb the laser light as much as darker skin, so more laser energy is directed to the pigment. Skin color is characterized as falling between I (white and very fair) and VI (black, doesn’t burn, tans easily) on the Fitzpatrick Type. Generally, the darker the skin, the more sessions will be needed to remove the tattoo.
Darker skin tones can sometimes become darker than surrounding skin after laser tattoo removal (this is called hyperpigmentation). Another risk is that the spot where the tattoo was can end up lighter than the surrounding skin (this is called hypopigmentation). We prevent both of these by being less aggressive with our treatments, so the entire process takes longer.
Often people go back to have their fading tattoo touched up so that they can recapture the vibrancy from when it was a young and fresh tattoo. In other cases, people may revisit the tattoo studio after a period of time to have their original tattoo turned into something else. This is called a cover-up and always calls for more ink. Tattoos with layers or cover-ups take more sessions to remove.
- Your immune system:
After the laser breaks up the ink molecules, your immune system flushes them out of your body. Understandably, if your immune system isn’t working properly, this can take longer. Factors that can weaken your immune system include sickness, smoking, too much or too little exercise, lack of sleep, an unhealthy diet, alcohol consumption, and the use of recreational drugs or medications.
Sometimes tattoos, especially amateur tattoos, can cause scarring. It is more difficult to remove tattoos with these types of complications.
With all of these factors to consider, how soon until we have a better estimate of how many sessions will be needed?
After 3 sessions (or in some cases, even 2 sessions), we will have a much clearer idea of how quickly your tattoo is fading and how many sessions you will need in total.
How far apart are the sessions?
Generally, we space the sessions 6-8 weeks apart, but you can take a break for longer than that if you wish. It won’t hurt your results. In some cases, you may need longer spaces in between sessions so that your skin heals completely and the ink that was shattered at your previous appointment has a chance to be removed by your body.
Every person and every tattoo is different, so ask our experts!
When you’re ready to look into laser tattoo removal, it’s important to find a professional and expert technician you trust. Before you commit to anything, you can come in for a free consultation here at Ink-B-Gone, the leading laser tattoo removers in Colorado.
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