Undeniably, tattoo removal costs quite a lot. The exact amount depends on the size of the tattoo, the type of the tattoo, and the tattoo removal option that you have chosen for removing your tattoo. Despite its high cost, tattoo removal should not be out of reach for anyone who can afford a tattoo. The price of tattoo removal cost will generally be just a little higher than the cost of the tattoo itself. Of course, tattoos themselves are expensive, so maybe that’s not good news to your ears. Whether you are removing a tattoo with a theme you no longer agree with, removing a tattoo to make room for more, or removing a tattoo simply to carry that blank canvas look again—here are all the things you need to consider with tattoo removal cost.
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Laser Tattoo Removal Cost
It stinks that after going through the trouble of sitting in some comfortable tattoo chairs, you end up needing to remove your tattoo. Sometimes, there’s no helping it, though. So let’s start with my favored method of tattoo removal. Laser removal is the most popular method of tattoo removal. It works by targeting the molecules of ink with special wavelengths of light (often, just incredibly intense pulses of light) that breaking the ink into pieces. There is a chance that the macrophages of your skin will just gobble up the ink again before it can be swept into the rest of the body, which means your tattoo will simply appear very faded. This is why most tattoos require multiple laser removal sessions.
These multiple sessions are the reason that laser removal costs so much. Depending on the size of the tattoo and type (black ink takes less time to dissipate than colored or lighter ink), the price can get more expensive. For laser tattoo removal cost, you could be looking at anywhere between $250-$850 per session. For smaller or medium-sized tattoos, the price range will be closer to $200 to $500. The number of sessions you need varies depending on a number of factors, which we’ll discuss below. If your skin is particularly healthy, you can even do several sessions in a row. Your doctor will end a session when they see that your skin is starting to take damage. It takes the skin about six weeks to heal from wounds, so skin care and health is vital before and after you get your surgery.
To lower your laser tattoo removal cost, here are some potential ways to keep your skin healthy. First, keep up on your vitamins. Vitamin A is best known for fighting wrinkles, but it also helps with the regeneration of the skin and its healing ability. This is the most vital vitamin when it comes to tattoo removal, so be sure to get your daily dose for several weeks beforehand! B3, C, E, and K are also crucial to healthy skin. Using sunscreen, chilling in the shade, and wearing protective clothing can also keep your skin looking healthy and young, although if you do this too much you might end up looking like a pale vampire. Smoking and drinking alcohol are also important factors to consider when trying to be healthy. While it might be difficult, cut down or cut off your substances when you plan on having tattoo removal done. This ensures that your immune system is strong and prepared for some crazy healing that will ensue after each session. If you want to know what sort of equipment your doctors and tattoo artist use, check out our tattoo chairs article (especially if you are an artist yourself).
It should be obvious that this type of surgery does cause a little pain. The pain has been described as an intense burn, such as touching hot metal or having hot grease sit on your skin. It is only a short-term pain though, so that alone shouldn’t dissuade you from the operation. Many people feel no pain at all. Whether you feel pain or not depends on your own tolerance, along with the doctor’s personal surgical methods. They can apply a numbing cream beforehand so that the region experiences no feeling for a short while.
Of course, there are several more tattoo removal options that aren’t nearly as expensive. We’ll be covering as many tattoo removal options as possible, to give you a wide variety of methods to consider when it comes to your tattoo removal cost. Since every person is different, there has to be a method that suits you especially!
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Tattoo Removal Cream
When it comes to tattoo removal cost, tattoo removal creams can be very tempting. The cost of a big container of Wrecking Balm from Walmart, Walgreens, or Amazon is only $40, and it covers quite a few sessions. However, I will have to recommend against using any sort of tattoo removal cream for the next few months, at least. These creams work by using acid to burn off the top layers of your skin. At best, the result is some scarring that might hide your tattoo—and at worst, it’s a large burn on your skin that creates complications down the road and simply blurs your tattoo into a monstrosity.
While there is a successful tattoo removal cream that has been shown to work in animal tests on some very cool-looking pigs, this cream is not available on the market. When it does become available, it will likely be prescription only. This is because the cream actually targets the lower level of your skin—where the macrophages and tattoo ink are—and the movement of those two things into the rest of your body might have some side effects that doctors would be looking for in the first stages of its use.
Again, I can’t emphasize enough—a few jars of tattoo removal cream might be cheaper than laser tattoo surgery, but it is completely ineffective and therefore a waste of money in the first place. I’m not sure if the cream is more or less painful than the tattoo removal cream, since it depends on whether or not we include the side effects. Sure, laser surgery hurts in the short term, but tattoo removal cream does serious damage in the long run.
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Other Tattoo Removal Options
There are some doctors who will surgically remove parts of your skin that were inked. They normally only do this in a medical emergency, such as an allergic reaction towards the ink or a terrible skin infection, so it will be difficult to find one who would do it in a non-emergency situation. If you do, the price will depend on what kind of surgeon they recommend for the procedure. It will probably cost about the same as laser tattoo removal. Unlike laser tattoo removal, it is guaranteed to remove the tattoo in the first go. In the case of a poor or inexperienced surgeon, it might leave a scar behind. This is arguably better than laser therapy, which inadvertently ages your skin much faster than it should.
Tattoo abrasion is also a popular practice and has the bonus effect of exfoliating your skin. It is sometimes called dermabrasion, although it should be noted that the term dermabrasion also describes a surgical method of sculpting the top of the skin—which is not what the tattoo removal process entails.
With dermabrasion, you seek out natural ways to age your skin and tattoo. This is not recommended by any doctor, nor is it recommended by me, but it is an option if you are aiming to take care of your skin on your own. It is more like sanding your skin than treating it, depending on what techniques you use. Using sandy or salty water, wash the tattooed area thoroughly until it feels a little raw. Continue to do this over the weeks, months, or years that it takes to wear a tattoo down. If you are too avid, you will end up exposing too much skin and causing injury to yourself.
To try and prevent this, you can use lotions on the area afterward that have alcohol as an ingredient (to disinfect the area) as well as crucial vitamins for your skin. Anything that advertises itself as containing vitamin A or E should be a good lotion to use as follow up. Many eczema lotions will also work with treating the sore rash, along with lotions from Burt’s Bees in particular (okay, this last one isn’t proven fact, but I wanted to feature it because it is relatively scentless, uses natural ingredients, and has worked pretty well for me).
Unfortunately, dermabrasion only targets the top of your skin and will not touch the tattoo beneath all those layers. This means that, while cheap, it is the least effective way of removing a tattoo. If it’s any consolation, though, that area of your skin will be squeaky clean and smooth.
There is another alternative to laser tattoo removal called Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (or IPL). It uses intense light to target all layers of your skin, and not just the bottom. Dark ink absorbs the light best and the aftermath will have you flaking off scary-looking flecks of black skin for a few weeks after each session. IPL is not recommended by any doctor for the sheer fact that it causes burns to the upper layers of the skin, alongside the lower layers. Instead of letting the damaged layer dissipate into the body, it exposes your lowest layer and opens the area up to a potential infection. The downtime between each session is longer because the skin must heal a little bit more, and the chances of scarring after these procedures are almost certain. On top of that, IPL is even pricier than laser tattoo removal, so it is not worth pursuing if you are trying to cut down on tattoo removal cost.
If you are ever recommended IPL removal by a doctor, go out of your way to find a new one. While IPL may have been an accepted treatment in the past, laser removal is much more effective, costs a little more, and has fewer side effects or risks of infection after the procedure.
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How Much Does Tattoo Removal Cost
Laser tattoo removal cost per session ranges between $250-$850, and the exact amount of sessions you will need is impossible to tell before you begin your sessions. The location, density of ink, and location on the body can make it more or less difficult, and the most important factor—your immune system—is impossible to gauge from the surface of your skin. For amateur tattoos, you can expect about 5 sessions on average, while more professional tattoos will take about 9 sessions on average. The difference in quality really does go a long way towards the permanence of your tattoo. Again, your immune system is the major player when it comes to tattoo removal—so stop smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages during your tattoo removal sessions to give it a little boost!
For tattoo removal creams, you can expect to spend at least $150 combined for all the containers of cream you will need before you start seeing results. The cost of healing your skin after your treatment will be far higher, even without weighing in complications like allergic reactions or horrible infections, so I don’t recommend it at all.
Abrasion therapy is the cheapest option of all, although it only speeds up the natural process of fading your tattoo and can age your skin much faster than you would like. It will be years—maybe even decades—before you see your efforts pay off, so I don’t recommend this if you are seriously trying to remove your tattoo.
With all of these options, it’s difficult to decide based on tattoo removal cost alone. When considering a procedure, be sure to weigh in the efficacy, long-term side effects, and your personal living style before you weigh in the cost. A little extra money for some piece of mind and safety is worth it, in the long run. Thankfully, every type of tattoo removal option involves sessions, so you don’t have to pay upfront for all of them. Going to see a surgeon or a doctor will give you an even better cost estimate than what we have here. After all, every person is an individual with different needs, and every tattoo has a different size, shape, and design to consider.