This is usually the first question people ask. It’s a good one too because the number of treatments is a factor in determining cost and how long you’ll have to wait to lose your tattoo.
The short answer is that we don’t know. It could be as few as 4 and more than 15 sessions – and there are never any guarantees of achieving full removal. There are a lot of variables. Below are the most significant determinants.
1) Ink Density
The amount of ink used in a given area is the most significant factor impacting how many treatment sessions will be required. Light shading may come off in just 1 or 2 sessions whereas areas heavily concentrated ink can take many more treatments. Tattoo artists often trace the tattoo with a heavy outline of ink so the edges often require the most treatments.
2) Skin Type
Skin type is a main factor in determining the appropriate level of power. Because the laser targets pigment, darker skin types require that lower settings (and thus more treatments) are necessary to minimize the risk of side effects.
People often don’t do enough research or ask the right questions about the laser technology. Many practices will use lasers that aren’t specifically designed for tattoo removal – and thus they will be less effective. Be sure the laser is a Q-switched Nd: YAG laser. Quanta and CynoSure are two major manufacturers of this type of laser.
Also note that while you should see some immediate results after treatment (regardless of the technology), the fading is a process. Once the pigment is shattered, the body’s immune system harmlessly processes it.
It’s counter-intuitive, but the darker the color, the easier it is to remove. Blacks and reds are often the easiest to remove while yellows, purples, greens, and blues can be more difficult. The 694 wavelength is best at dealing with the more stubborn colors – so if you have a colorful tattoo, be sure to ask if the laser your clinic is using has this wavelength.
Good circulation speeds up the fading process – so tattoos closer to the heart come off faster than those further away.
Don’t fear, all is not lost if your tattoo is further away from the heart. A good exercise regimen can make up for poor circulation.
Scarring can occur during the tattooing process. Scar tissue can obstruct the laser, resulting in less effective treatments.
All these factors combine to make it quite difficult to determine exactly how many treatments will be required. To give certainty on price, some clinics will offer a guarantee by quoting you a number and offering free removal sessions for anything beyond that. Be sure to ask your clinic what types of guarantees they offer before you sign up.
About the author: Cleighton DePetro is owner of Sempurna Restoration Clinic, a medical spa that specializes in laser tattoo removal in Chicago. Check them out at www.SempurnaClinic.com to learn more.