How Many Sessions Does It Take to Remove a Tattoo?

The exciting night out, the love you thought you’d never lose, the saying that once resonated. You commemorated these moments with a tattoo and now, at a different point in your life, regret doing so. But you can get your skin back with laser tattoo removal, the safest and most effective way to shed unwanted ink. At Satin Med Spa in Charlotte, NC, we offer innovative technology to reduce the number of treatments needed.

How Many Sessions Are Necessary for Tattoo Removal?

Although this is the number one question of all patients, it’s also the most difficult to answer. So many factors go into tattoo removal that it’s impossible to predict, with accuracy, how many sessions you’ll need. A strong estimate is between five and 10 appointments, although you may need just slightly under or above this range.

What we can safely say is that, contrary to popular belief, tattoos don’t have to be permanent. Most can be completely removed with just a bit of patience; you’ll generally need to wait between six and eight weeks between sessions.

Patience Is Rewarded

More aggressive approaches increase your risks for adverse effects. But you won’t have to wait until the very end of treatment to see improvements. Your tattoo will, in fact, fade a little more after each session.

Even knowing this, however, many patients continue to wonder why treatments can’t be administered more closely together. First, we need to acknowledge that laser removal treatment depends upon your body’s natural healing processes. Once the ink fragments from your tattoo start to break up, white blood cells collect and carry them to the kidneys and liver for removal.

Nature Takes Time

This process doesn’t even start until a few weeks after treatment. It relies heavily on the strength of your immune system and skin quality, and if both are healthy, the process moves a little more quickly. But trying to squeeze sessions together can cause trauma in such a way that your tattoo may never be removed.

In addition, your skin needs time to recover after laser therapy. Foregoing this crucial period can expose you to irritation, discoloration, open wounds, and scarring. Keep in mind that healing varies between patients; we will monitor your progress at each session and adjust the time between to meet your skin’s needs without compromising your health.

Details of How Laser Works

This requires a basic understanding of tattoos. You already know an artist injects different pigments into the skin. What you may not know is that pigment stays below the skin’s surface so that even when epidermis layers slough away – as happens naturally and periodically – the tattoo remains.

Interestingly, when you see a tattoo, you’re looking at the picture that has formed below the skin’s surface. This means laser treatment must penetrate to these underlying tissues to be effective. Here is where the equipment used for your treatment becomes important. Our office employs the PicoSure laser system that delivers short pulses of heat rather than a steady stream.

Treatment Advantages

This technology is not only more effective but also more comfortable for patients. Each pulse emitted equals one-trillionth of a second. These short spurts split the pigments so that individual ink fragments can be flushed out of the body. In addition, we use multiple wavelengths to treat ink of all colors. The laser is designed to force high-speed energy into specific ink molecules.

The ink then shatters into smaller pieces. But this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We customize treatments on a personalized level, depending on the tattoo itself and your skin health. Thanks to advanced technology, the PicoSure requires fewer treatments over shorter periods of time. But care must still be taken in when and how subsequent treatments are administered.

Location Matters

We can remove a tattoo from almost anyplace on the body. The important note is that different areas may require different numbers of treatment. The face, for example, will likely need more sessions than the leg. This is a factor to keep in mind in considering the level of therapy you need.

Difficult Versus Easy

Another point is this: tattooed areas that are closest in proximity to the heart have the best circulation. This helps with the removal process, as a strong blood flow can help deliver crucial nutrients and carry away broken-down ink fragments. Conversely, areas that are farther from the heart and have less blood flow – such as the ankles – can be a little more difficult to treat. This doesn’t mean that the treatment won’t work, but can mean that additional sessions may be necessary.  

Factors That Impact Removal

Areas with strong muscle – such as the back – make for slightly easier removal. Muscle helps provide steady oxygenation, which skin needs as it continues to heal from laser treatments. The same is true of areas without a lot of fat, such as the neck, and areas that are always in movement, like the arms and legs.

But location is only one of the factors to consider in tattoo removal. Smoking, for example, impedes circulation, which in turn slows the delivery of oxygen to skin cells. The laser relies on oxygen to help break down ink pigments; without it, you may need more sessions. We therefore recommend that you stop smoking at least one month prior to your treatments.

Tattoo Size

Another important consideration is the tattoo size. This may be redundant, but we like to remind patients that a large area of ink will need more removal sessions than a small area. Because of the laser’s power, we schedule each of your sessions for a limited amount of time. This means we’ll need more sessions to cover the surface space of a larger tattoo.

Tattoo Age

You’ve likely seen faded tattoos and instantly know they’re older than those with more vibrant colors. The former are easier to remove because they’ve already started to naturally break down. The ink will therefore lift more easily with laser treatment.

We know that sometimes, choosing to have a tattoo covered with more ink seems like a good idea, especially if it contains a formerly-important name or date. But we suggest you weigh your options. Laser removal can provide a permanent solution so the tattoo is completely gone; covering it doesn’t mean the tattoo isn’t still there.

Ink Color and Quality

Thick bands of dark color are naturally harder to remove than designs in lighter colors. You should therefore keep in mind that dark tattoos may require more sessions than, for instance, those done in pink. This is not a deterrent, but a way to understand the tattoo itself will impact the sessions you need.

The same is true of ink quality. Those done by a professional may need more attention than those done by a friend or acquaintance. Additionally, high-quality inks are created to settle into skin tissues for long-lasting results. But lower-quality inks, whether applied by a professional or not, aren’t as durable. They can therefore lift more easily.

Skin Tone

If your natural skin color is close to the inked pigment, you’ll see results more quickly. For example, brown ink on a tan complexion lifts more quickly than red on a porcelain-white complexion.

Again, we can treat all skin colors and all tattoo shades, but we want to alleviate your anxiety regarding the number of sessions you’ll need. It may take 10 treatments to remove your tattoo, whereas your brother may have only needed five. The reasons for this are many, so don’t feel like something is amiss. It’s simply the way in which lasers interact with different skin and tattoo combinations.

Best Aftercare Tips

You can help the removal process by taking some simple steps after your treatment. The first, and most strongly recommended tip, is to avoid the sun. You will likely hear this many times, but su
n exposure is unsafe, can prolong treatment, and may also disrupt your results. If you are going to be outside, wear sunscreen and cover treatment areas with clothing and bandages.

Delay and Then Resume Exercise

Physical activity is important to mental and physical health, but taking a day or two off is a good idea after laser treatment. Exercise induces the body’s inflammatory responses, which can also cause swelling. And, when you exercise, it goes without saying that you sweat. Both of these can irritate your skin, so it’s best to steer clear one day for smaller tattoos and two days for those that are larger.

It’s important to resume physical activity, however, because it stimulates the immune system. Specifically, it boosts white blood cells that attack foreign invaders, such as split fragments of tattoo ink. Even 30 minutes of walking each day can help speed along the healing process.

Watch What You Drink

In the healing process, water is important to:

  • Keep the immune system working efficiently
  • Increase kidney function to flush toxins
  • Aide in white blood cell movement
  • Maintain skin health

The healthier your skin is, the faster it responds to treatment. This is why drinking water and staying hydrated is so important. On the other hand, alcohol can impede the ability of your kidneys and liver to flush toxins from the body. The body recognizes broken ink particles as invaders, so we recommend you forego happy hour and drink water instead.

Skip Swimming

Also avoid spots like lakes, rivers, and hot tubs for at least a few days after treatment. They may contain bacteria that put you at risk for infection. If you do go, rinse your treated area with mild soap and clean water after. But it’s best if you can stay out of them altogether.

Busting Myths

Patients tend to worry laser treatments will scar their skin. The truth is that scarring and other skin damage are extremely unlikely. Also, don’t believe that removal creams you can buy from the store work the same as laser therapy. These products only sit at the surface, so they don’t reach the underlying tissues as necessary. Chemical-laden creams can also cause side effects like swelling and irritation.

Fresh Isn’t Always Best

Some patients believe fresh tattoos can be removed with just one laser session. We’ve already discussed why multiple sessions may be necessary; in addition, fresh tattoos have the most vibrant colors. This means you’ll also need more than one treatment to remove them.

Black Is Impossible to Remove

Just the opposite, an all-black tattoo is easier to remove than one with many colors. Black contains the smallest number of additives and most readily receives laser light. So don’t let the dark hue worry you.

Say Good-bye to Unwanted Ink

There’s no better time than now to start the tattoo removal process. If you plan on having multiple sessions, you’ll go into treatment as a well-informed patient. Call Satin Med Spa in Charlotte, NC, today to learn more.

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