Tattoos are no longer considered permanent and irreversible designs or marks on the skin. Dermatologic surgeons can safely and effectively use different techniques to successfully remove unwanted tattoos.
Learn more about treatment options for unwanted tattoos
Anyone considering getting a tattoo should consider the size, colors and location of the tattoo as well as other factors before beginning the process. The ASDS offers a short list of do’s and don’ts to consider before getting a tattoo that would help if and when the removal process comes along. Read: Do's and don'ts for tattoos.
Why remove a tattoo?
A variety of social, cultural and physical life changes influence the decision to remove tattoos:
- Allergic reactions
- Regrets about the decision
- Seeking or obtaining new employment
- Replacing one tattoo with another
What you need to know
- Professionally applied tattoos tend to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin at uniform levels. This uniformity allows dermatologic surgeons to use techniques that remove broader areas of inked skin at the same depth.
- Professional tattoos made with some of the newer inks and pastel colors may be difficult to remove entirely.
- Removal of homemade tattoos – often applied with an uneven hand – may be more difficult to remove.
- Deeper blue and black ink colors are particularly challenging.
- Newer tattoos often tend to be more difficult to remove than older ones.
- Complete tattoo removal is not always possible.
- Some level of scarring or skin color variation is a strong possibility.
- Tattoo removal is almost always done on an outpatient basis.
Tattoo removal do’s and don’ts
- Do choose someone qualified to perform tattoo removal procedures, such as an ASDS dermatologist.
- Do discuss with your doctor the reasons why you want your tattoo removed, and manage expectations.
- Do ask about any costs associated with the procedure. Tattoo removal is considered an aesthetic or cosmetic procedure in nature and generally not covered by medical insurance.
- Do follow all pre-and-post operative treatment procedures carefully; ask your doctor questions if anything is unclear.
- Don’t consider tattoo removal if you have certain autoimmune system disorders, pigmentation problems, active acne, warts, unstable diabetes, active rosacea or other undiagnosed lesions.
- Don’t forget to ask your physician about the risks associated with the procedure.
- Don’t attempt to remove your own tattoo or anyone else’s. It is dangerous and can lead to infections, serious health complications and even death.
- Don’t have a procedure performed in unsanitary conditions.
- Don’t ignore an infection. Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect any problems or experience considerable redness or soreness.
Tattoo removal expertise
In 2011, ASDS doctors performed nearly 100,000 tattoo removal procedures, up from the 86,000 performed in 2010. Because ASDS dermatologists are trained in a variety of the best and latest techniques, they can evaluate and select the best treatment choice based on the individual patient and the unique tattoo.
Tattoo removal questions to ask a dermatologic surgeon
(Download a Tattoo Removal Questionnaire to bring to your appointment)
- Which tattoo removal procedure is the correct one for me? (What are the options?)
- What is the estimated cost of the procedure?
- How long is one appointment?
- How often will I need to receive treatment to remove my tattoo?
- How far apart are the treatments?
- What are the common side effects or complications associated with the procedure?
- How can I prepare for the treatment/procedure?
- Does tattoo removal hurt?
- What are my pain management and anesthesia options?
- How long is the recovery time associated with my procedure?
- Do you have before-and-after patient images to help to prepare me for what to expect?
- Will someone walk me through the process before going in for treatment?
- What are the risks?
- What should I expect after the procedure is performed? (i.e., short-term and long-term effects; activity restrictions; expected recovery period)
General questions to ask before tattoo removals
- Is a doctor on site?
- Is the doctor board-certified in dermatology or in another specialty with equivalent training and experience?
- Was my medical history taken?
- Was I given an initial evaluation to determine if the technique or procedure is appropriate for my skin type?
- Did the doctor show me before-and-after photos?