Effective Treatment: How Long Does Laser Tattoo Removal Take?

Spring and Summer and just around the corner, and everybody is excited to get out of the house and explore! But if you have a tattoo you deeply regret getting, this time of year may fill you with apprehension rather than excitement. Don’t keep waiting until you’re comfortable in your skin to enjoy the bright and beautiful weather. Invest in laser tattoo removal, available at Satin Med Spa, in Charlotte, NC.

What Is Laser Tattoo Removal?

If you’ve ever considered getting a tattoo removed, you’ve probably heard of laser removal. It’s the most popular method to eradicate unwanted ink from your body. But is the only option? Let’s look at the ways you can choose to clear up your skin and see why laser is the most popular option.

Tattoo Removal Options

Laser Removal

This method of removal is the best way to get rid of an unwanted tattoo. It uses Q-switched lasers that release energy in powerful pulses. The skin is numbed before the treatment so the client doesn’t experience any pain during the session. You’ll need to go back for several sessions to get rid of your tattoo.

Surgical Removal

This method of tattoo removal literally removes the piece of skin with the tattoo. The skin is numbed with an injection of a local anesthetic. The skin with the tattoo on it is removed with a scalpel, and the edges of the skin are then stitched back together. Although this is a very effective way to remove that tattoo, it leaves behind a scar, and, it only can be done on small tattoos. This is because larger tattoos would require a skin graft.

Dermabrasion Removal

This method of removal is pretty outdated. Before the treatment, the skin is chilled until it is numb. Then, the tattooed skin is sanded down to deeper levels using a high-speed rotary device that has an abrasive brush attached. This helps the tattoo ink to leach out of the skin. This method has rather unpredictable results and less effective outcomes, so it isn’t a common choice.

How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?

Laser removal is by far the most effective and best option for getting rid of unwanted ink. But why is that the case?

The Basic Tattoo Removal Process

During a removal treatment session, the practitioner will guide the laser over the area of your skin that has the unwanted tattoo. When most of us think of lasers, we think of the continuous red light that comes from a laser pointer that a teacher might use during a lecture or that we might use to play with a cat. But this laser is quite different.

For one, the laser used in the removal process doesn’t always use a red light. Secondly, unlike the continuous laser light that comes from the lasers we’re more familiar with, the laser used for tattoo removal emits pulses of light energy. Each pulse of energy emitted from the laser penetrates the skin and then is absorbed by the tattoo ink. As the particles of ink absorb the laser light energy, they heat up and shatter into tiny fragments.

The pulses have to be fast enough that they heat up part of the ink particle but not the entire particle. By leaving part of the particle cool while the other part is hot, the opposing forces tear the ink particle apart. The short pulse of energy also is important because it works to destroy the ink without hurting the skin. Skin cells are much larger than ink particles, and it would take far longer to heat them up and damage them. So the short bursts of laser energy provide protection for the skin= and create a force that shatters the ink particles into tiny fragments.

After the ink particles are shattered, the body’s immune system slowly flushes the ink particles away from the location of the tattoo and to the lymph nodes, where they can be processed through the body. This leaves the tattoo looking lighter. The body’s immune system takes weeks to do its work after a laser session, so the tattoo will slowly lighten up over this period of time.

Q-Switched Lasers

Q-switching refers to a special kind of laser pulse creation. This kind of laser produces extremely powerful, brief pulses of energy that only last for a few nanoseconds. While there are other lasers that pulse, those pulses are far less powerful and far more long-lasting than q-switched lasers. Because the pulse is so brief, it allows practitioners to effectively shatter ink without damaging the surrounding skin tissue.

Targeting Tattoo Ink

You may have heard myths about how laser removal is only effective on black tattoos. This may have been true decades ago, but technological advancements have made these myths just that: myths. Tattoos come in every color imaginable, and all of them can be removed. It just takes a little adjustment of the q-switched laser.

You may not remember from middle school science how the reflectivity of objects leads to their visible color, so let’s have a little review. Most of the light we see, like that from lamps, includes all the colors of the spectrum, but it appears white to us. An object that is red appears red to the eye because it absorbs all the other colors in the visible light spectrum, but it does not absorb the red light.

Instead, it reflects red light, making it appear red to us. In the same way, if you have a red tattoo, the tattoo absorbs all the light in the spectrum except for red. And of all the colors it absorbs, it absorbs green the best, because it is on the opposite side of the color spectrum.

Working With Wavelengths

When you’re getting rid of a tattoo using laser energy, the idea is to have the ink absorb the laser. To do this with colored tattoos, the laser light has to be adjusted to the color that would best be absorbed by the color ink being treated. So, to get rid of a red tattoo, the best color to use is green. The 532 nm wavelength of a laser light looks visibly green, making this wavelength the best to use when treating a red tattoo.

Technicians who treat multicolored tattoos need to have access to a variety of wavelengths. The most commonly used wavelengths for laser removal are 1064 nm and 532 nm. These two wavelengths can treat over 95% of tattoos. As we already mentioned, the 532 nm wavelength treats red tattoos, and the 1064 nm wavelength is perfect for removing black or dark tattoos.

Other popular wavelengths in the tattoo removal process are 755 nm and 694 nm. Both of these wavelengths are visibly ruby, meaning that they are the best wavelengths to use for removing blue and green inks as well as shades of teal, turquoise, and lime green. The 694 nm wavelength is also good for removing black inks that have been resistant to other wavelengths.

How Long Does Laser Tattoo Removal Take?

One of the most frustrating things about tattoo removal is that there isn’t an easy answer to this question. When you first have a consultation with your removal professional, they will give you an estimate of how long the removal will take. This estimate is usually from about 12 to 18 months, but that’s only an estimate. The length of time it takes depends on many different factors.

It would be wonderful if you could get your tattoo zapped and instantly it’s gone. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Most tattoos require five to 10 treatment sessions to completely get rid of the unwanted ink, but again, that’s an estimate. Some tattoos might be gone in as few as three sessions, while others could take 15. As the removal process continues with your technician, they should be able to give you a more accurate estimation after having observed how quickly your body rids itself of the ink.

Why Wait?

You might be impatient and want to schedule another session two weeks after the first, but sessions need to be spaced out at least six weeks apart. If you go in for another session before six weeks have passed, you won’t be helping your tattoo disappear faster. This is because of the layers of the skin. Not all the tattoo’s ink can be shattered in one treatment session. When you get a tattoo, the tattoo machine injects ink into different depths within the dermis.

When you are treated by lasers, the light can only reach the shallowest layers of ink. Think of how visible light works: you can stand in front of a lamp and that light will hit you. But what if someone steps in front of you? They will block the light from reaching you, and instead, you will be in the shadow. The shallowest layers of ink effectively work as a shadow over the deeper layers. The laser reaches the shallowest layers of ink, and those layers block the laser light from reaching any deeper.

It takes the body at least six weeks after laser treatment to clear away all the shattered particles of ink. So, if you go in before then, the ink particles that have already been shattered will not be cleared and will absorb the laser energy. They already are shattered, so they don’t need to absorb more laser energy, and the particles will cast a shadow over the lower levels, keeping the laser from reaching the ink particles that need to be shattered. Going in for another laser session before six weeks have passed is a waste of time and money.

What Affects the Length of Time Required to Remove a Tattoo?

The reason that there are only estimations about how long tattoo removal takes is because there are many factors that can affect this.

Skin Tone

On average, darker skin tones take a lot longer to successfully be cleared of tattoo ink. This is because skin tone can affect the length of time it takes for a laser to penetrate the dermis. Low-frequency wavelengths on dark skin tones can cause scarring, hypopigmentation, or hyperpigmentation. To combat this, technicians use a higher frequency wavelength to avoid damage, but this is less effective for tattoo removal. Because of this, it takes longer to remove.

Ink Quality and Type

We’ve talked about how the color of ink affects tattoo removal, but the quality and type of ink matter, as well. Some compounds in ink, like beryllium, are harder to remove with a laser. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be removed, just that it may require more sessions.

Tattoo Location

The location of the tattoo has a huge impact on the body’s ability to remove the shattered ink particles. We’ve already talked about how the immune system and lymph nodes are essential for tattoo removal. Areas of the body that have a large blood vessel and lymph node count are the easiest to remove tattoos from.

The blood vessels help the white blood cells attack the shattered particles and drag them to the lymph nodes. But, if your tattoo is in an area of the body where there are significantly fewer lymph nodes and blood activity, this is going to happen more slowly. Basically, the lower down on the body a tattoo is, the harder it is to remove because of the low blood and lymph node count.

Skill Level of Tattoo Artist

When you get a tattoo, a needle goes through your skin, which obviously causes some level of damage to your epidermis and dermis. If the tattoo artist is less skilled, it’s likely that the tattoo resulted in some level of scar tissue formation, even if it isn’t visible to the eye. Scar tissue can create a barrier that makes removing the tattoo more difficult.

Immune System

When you get a tattoo removed, your immune system does most of the work. A healthy immune system can remove destroyed ink effectively. But if you deal with autoimmune issues or other problems that make your immune system less than healthy, it will take your body longer to remove the ink particles.


Research has shown that smoking can have a huge impact on your body’s ability to get rid of the ink particles, so much so that it can reduce your chances of successful tattoo removal by up to 70%. If you really want to get rid of your unwanted tattoos, you need to make sure that you are not smoking.

Age of Tattoo

As tattoos age, they sink deeper into the skin and begin to degrade. This is why tattoos can appear faded as they age. Generally, an older tattoo will take fewer sessions to remove than a new one because it has already begun the degradation process.


Getting a tattoo is a big decision, and so is the choice to remove a tattoo using laser treatment. After all, it’s a really big commitment. But if you have a piece of ink that you want off your body, it’s time to take that leap and make that commitment.

Don’t spend another summer season hiding your unwanted tattoo under your clothes. Let yourself enjoy the feeling of the sun on your skin without feeling like you have to hide. There’s no better time to invest in yourself and invest in laser tattoo removal. For more information on tattoo removal, or to schedule a consult, call us at Satin Med Spa, in Charlotte, NC.

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