It used to be tricky getting something permanently stamped on you—what if you change your mind two days, one week, or five years later? These days, people take it for granted that they can always get it removed if they need to. It’s true, but it’s a bit more complicated than walking into a clinic and having them rub it off. There are lots of factors to consider, not least being the price tag.
So how much does tattoo removal cost? The price can range from $100 to over $4,000. It depends on the size, depth, color, age, and location of the tattoo, as well as the type of removal procedure needed. Obviously, large tattoos take more work than small ones and therefore cost more. Tattoos done at a parlor may also be harder to remove because they use more complex inks and go deeper into the skin. Older tattoos, where the body has absorbed most of the ink, are fairly easy.
Color is where it usually gets tricky. Contrary to belief, dark colors such as blue and are the easiest to remove with laser surgery because they contrast more with the skin. Red and flesh tones can turn dark after treatment, and turquoise can be particularly difficult. If you have a full-color tattoo, you may need different types of treatments to get the best results.
There are three commonly used tattoo removal methods: laser surgery, dermabrasion, and excision. Laser tattoo removal cost runs from $100 to close to $1,000, making it the cheapest of the three methods. However, as mentioned above, some colors can be hard to remove and require multiple sessions (as many as 20), and even so, there may still be some discoloration after.
Dermabrasion involves freezing the top layers of the skin and “sanding” the colored areas. Needless to say, it’s a little invasive and will cause a bit of bleeding and scarring. It works best for shallow tattoos, as skin can’t be scraped too deep without posing safety issues. For small, deep tattoos, excision may work best—it involves removing the skin where the tattoo us and sewing the edges together. Scarring is inevitable in this procedure, but scars will heal completely provided the right post-op care is provided. Costs are $1,500 to $2,000 for dermabrasion and $500 to $1,000 for excision.
Some over-the-counter products have been offered for the purpose, although by definition a topical tattoo removal cream cannot effectively reach several layers below the skin’s surface. Studies have shown significant fading in tattoos where the cream was applied, but complete removal may not be possible.