Tattoo Removal Options

Laser tattoo removal before and after. Beautiful young woman with tattoo on her back

Tattoos are intended to be permanent as the ink is applied under the first layer of skin, but there are some circumstances when you might want a tattoo removed. Maybe you have a painful reminder of the past or have outgrown something you got when you were young and want it off your body. New and improved technology has made effective removal a reality, but it isn’t a decision you should make without being informed. Consider the various tattoo removal options available to you and decide which one is appropriate for your situation.

Laser Removal

Laser tattoo removalis the most common option. It works by using a very concentrated light that breaks up the particles from the ink into much smaller fragments, allowing your immune system to eliminate them. The laser rays need to be specific to the pigments of the ink. It is more effective for removing dark inks such as blacks or blues but has difficulty with targeting lighter colors or pastels. Older tattoos are easier than new ones to remove due to the age of the ink and natural factors that may have lightened your tattoo such as long sun exposure.

The process requires several treatments, with approximately seven weeks between treatments. Your tattoo should get lighter over time and best results are seen about eight weeks after the last treatment. The number of sessions you’ll need will depend on the colors and size of your tattoo. It is an uncomfortable process and most patients use a topical anesthetic to make it a bit less painful. Ice can be applied after to ease discomfort. The pain has been compared to snapping a rubber band against your skin repeatedly. Overall cost depends on how many sessions are needed to remove the tattoo. Scarring and lighter or darker pigmentation of the area where the tattoo was are potential side effects.


While laser removal is by far the most effective method, certain pigments such as shades of green and white don’t respond well to lasers and need alternative methods for removal. Dermabrasion uses a rough-edged wheel to “sand” down the upper layers of the skin. It causes the skin to bleed and the damaged skin is replaced by new skin growth. A local anesthetic is used to numb the skin and the doctor removes the upper layers of the skin, covering the area with gauze after. It is an outpatient procedure that requires multiple visits to the doctor afterward to check on progress. Side effects can include redness, scarring, swelling, or increased color in your skin tone. It is typically only effective for small tattoos.

A tattoo can have special meaning, be a beautiful work of art or show off parts of your personality. Unfortunately for some, they can also be a mistake that was done without proper consideration, no longer fits their interests, or can be tied to painful memories. Know that there are options for removal to make the tattoo a thing of the past so you can move on and enjoy the look of your de-inked skin.

What You Need to Know Before You Get a Tattoo

Closeup hands wearing white gloves working tattoo needle on persons skin

You want to try something new this year and have been considering the concept of body art. Here are eight things you should know before making an appointment with a tattoo artist and visiting your local parlor.

  1. Age Requirements Prevail
    Laws prohibit minors from getting permanent body art. There is no such thing as having your parents sign a permission slip so that you can have the tattoo of your choosing. You must be 18 years or older to have your favorite image or phrase inked into your skin.
  2. Bargain Hunting is Bad
    Remember that a tattoo involves the artist grinding a needle dripping with ink into your skin. You want to make sure that he understands every aspect of the process, which includes sterility. Some creatives who offer discounts are beginning their journey in the industry and may not see the need to use a new pack of needles after every use. Such lack of knowledge or concern can lead to infection and significant health problems. It is best to search for an artist who is both reasonable and proficient rather than someone who just offers steep discounts.
  3. The Parlor Speaks Volumes
    An edifice with overflowing trash bins, bloody towels, and a stench that turns your stomach is a clear indication of the type of care the artist will invest in the health of your open wound. Just as you would expect a hospital to look and smell pure, you should also expect your tattoo parlor to be spotless.
  4. Session Times Vary by Design
    A small name stamp can take anywhere from five to 30 minutes for an artist to complete. A large tattoo, on the other hand, may require more than one session as the design’s complexity may take several hours to finish.
  5. A Tattoo Design Should Never be Spur of the Moment
    Laser surgery makes it easier to cover up unwanted tattoos in this day and age. It is important, however, to note that such operation is expensive and may leave a permanent mark that denotes your mistake. You are especially at a disadvantage if you are among the many who cannot afford laser surgery. You, like the others, will have to invest in a replacement tattoo to cover up the design that does not satisfy your fashion needs. The heartache of reversing a bad tattoo design is why you should take extra care when deciding on a style. Consider the design for several months before giving an artist the green light to operate.
  6. Give Your Tattoo Time to Heal
    New ink jobs take at least two weeks to heal. You should not plan on prematurely showing off your design as such anxiousness can lead to infection due to excessive exposure to the sun.
  7. Touch Ups are Common
    A tattoo is much like hair coloring in that touch ups are necessary for the look to remain fresh. The good news is that you probably won’t need to invest in a tattoo touch up as often as you would hair coloring retouches since ink fades as skin layers shed, which is much slower than the hair growth process.
  8. Pain is Inevitable but Not the Same
    There is a degree of pain associated with every tattoo. How much or little distress, however, depends on the placement of the body art. Tattoos located in areas where the skin is thinner, such as near the wrist, come with more pain than those carved out on the leg where the skin is thicker.

Tattoo Design Trends for 2017

asian girl with sun and moon tattoo

Whether you are deciding to get your first tattoo or have plenty of ink and are hungry for fresh inspiration, taking a look at the latest design trends is a great way to get ideas for your own designs. Here are eight of the tattoo design trends expected to be hottest in 2017.

  1. Morphing Tattoos
    With these panoramic design, one tattoo seamlessly blends into another to create a larger piece, such as a full back or sleeve. This is ideal for the tattoo aficionado who wants to create a more cohesive look and make a big statement.
  2. Minimalist Designs
    While not exactly a brand new trend, minimalist designs will continue to proliferate in 2017, thanks to the many celebrities who have stepped out with this look. Minimalist icons and geometric shapes are also a common choice among those who are getting their very first tattoo, or those who work in a job where they need their ink to be as unobtrusive as possible.
  3. Continuous Lines
    Famous German-Iranian tattoo artist Mo Gangi pioneered this style, which consists of a design such as a face or landscape made from one smooth, solid black line. This style has been spotted here and then but has minimalist appeal that is expected to make it one of the biggest tattoo looks of 2017.
  4. Mandala Designs
    These intricate, geometric designs can be either round or shaped like a lotus flower, and typically come in black line or vivid jewel tones. The mandala tattoo is often chosen to represent or commemorate a spiritual journey.
  5. Blackwork Tattoos
    Only for the truly committed, these tats cover an entire body part or section of skin in heavy black ink. While this look makes a dramatic statement, it’s impossible to cover or remove, so perhaps this choice is best left to those for whom ink is an integral part of lifestyle. Blackwork tattoos might be a 2017 trend, but it’s actually a style that dates back to ancient Polynesia.
  6. Sun Designs
    Sun tattoos are a favorite that has its roots in Aztec tribal art, but this classic look is set to see a revival in 2017. Geometric, stylized suns are expected to get a boost in line with the ongoing popularity of minimalistic tattoo styles. Designs that combine the sun, the moon, and other celestial items are also expected to soar.
  7. Double Exposure Tattoos
    Challenging to master but stunning when done correctly, these black and gray tattoos are meant to mimic the other-worldly look of a photograph that’s been double exposed. Invented by New York City tattoo artist Bang Bang, this technique is likely to capture the hearts of even more artists and clients in 2017.
  8. Vivid Colors
    In seeming contrast with the popularity of black linework, ink colors that truly pop are set to see a resurgence in 2017. These larger than life brights will show up in photorealistic tattoo images as well as in color blocking on the ever popular geometric tattoo looks.

What to Do If You Don’t Like Your New Tattoo

man with tattoo

Although options exist for tattoo removal, in most cases your new ink is a permanent part of your body. So what do you do when you’re unhappy with your brand new tattoo? Whether it’s an artist error or the piece just didn’t come out like you expected, here are the steps to take if you’re experiencing post-tattoo remorse.

Give it a Bit of Time

Instant tattoo regret is more common than you’d expect, especially since it’s such a big decision. Assuming the design is well-done and true to your original request, wait a week or two to allow yourself to get used to this big change before making any other big decisions (like laser removal). In addition, many tattoos don’t look exactly like they are meant to look until the healing process is complete. To facilitate this process, make sure to follow the shop’s instructions to avoid infection, damage, or fading. In some cases, you’ll start to love the new ink once it ceases to be such a surprise each time you look in the mirror.

When to Say Something Right Away

In most cases, a tattoo artist will welcome the chance to fix a tattoo that didn’t come out quite like you expected. If you don’t feel comfortable going to the same artist, however, let the owner of the tattoo shop know. He or she wants you to be happy with your completed work of art, and will likely assign another artist to ensure that you are satisfied with the finished ink. After all, your body art is a direct advertisement for their shop.

Be Polite

When approaching your tattoo artist with negative feedback, be courteous and respectful while clearly communicating the aspects of the tattoo that you’re unhappy with. In most cases, customers must OK the tattoo art before it goes onto their arm, so if something went awry during the inking process the artist definitely wants to know about it.

Considering a Cover Up

If you’ve already talked to the shop and they are unable to satisfy your requests to change the tattoo to your liking, you have a few options to consider. Depending on the type of tattoo and the location on your body, an artist who specializes in covering up tattoos may be able to render your unwanted ink into a truly gorgeous design.

Removal Options

If you are soured on the idea of tattoos completely, getting it removed might be your best bet. Bear in mind, though, that removal can be painful, is often expensive, and doesn’t always completely remove the ink. It can also result in scarring. Laser removal, the most popular kind, uses intense bursts of heat to lighten the dye, often rendering the tattoo invisible after a number of sessions.

The best course of action? Develop an open dialogue with your tattoo artist before you go for permanent ink, and make sure that you’re happy with everything about the proposed design (size, placement, and colors) before moving forward with the permanent inking process.