Laser Tattoo Removal: How Many Treatments Will It Take?

By Daniel Friedmann, MD April 5, 2019 No Comments

tattoo removal sessions required

All tattoo removal patients share one common question: “How many treatment sessions will it take to remove my tattoo?” The number of sessions a patient will need directly impacts the time and cost of moving forward to remove the unwanted tattoo. Understanding what will be required is an essential part of determining if laser tattoo removal is right for you.

Laser Tattoo Removal Requires Multiple Treatments

It’s very important to understand that removing a tattoo will require a series of treatment sessions spaced out over time. Tattoo removal is dependent on the patient’s immune system, which works to absorb and expel ink pigment after it’s “fractured” by laser energy. The type of laser technology used to remove the tattoo also makes a difference in the number of treatments. More advanced picosecond technology that has been introduced in recent years is typically quicker at removing tattoos than older laser technology.

Average Number of Treatments

The average tattoo will require anywhere between 6 to 12 treatments using the PiQo4 laser. Since these treatments are completed 4-8 weeks apart; it could take up to a year before some patients realize complete removal. We advise patients to use this as a simple “baseline”; some tattoos will come off faster or take longer to fully remove, depending on tattoo characteristics and each patient’s immune system.

While this may sound like an extremely long time, that is actually a significant improvement compared to older Q-switched lasers which often require 20 or more treatments that are spaced 4 to 8 weeks apart.

Factors That Determine How Many Treatment Sessions You’ll Need

The number of treatments needed to successfully remove a tattoo can differ dramatically due to tattoo size, location, color and density of tattoo ink, among other factors. For a detailed discussion on factors that determine tattoo removal success see this post.

Here’s a list of variables to consider when determining how many treatment sessions will be needed:

  • Tattoo Age: Older tattoos are quicker to remove than newer ones.
  • Tattoo Size: Smaller tattoos tend to require fewer treatments sessions.
  • Ink Color: Black ink responds quicker to treatment compared to colored ink.
  • Skin Color: Generally speaking, patients with lighter skin respond to treatment more quickly. Additionally, patients with darker skin tones often require lower laser settings in order to avoid damaging the skin.
  • Amount of Ink: Professional tattoos usually have a higher density of ink and may take significantly longer to remove.
  • Tattoo Location: Some areas of the body like the feet or lower legs have limited vascular supply, resulting in the need for more treatments.
  • Smoking: Studies have shown that smokers experience a 70% lower efficacy in tattoo removal compared to non-smokers.

Get a Consultation Prior to Treatment

Each and every tattoo removal case is unique since every patient (and every tattoo) has different characteristics that influence the number of treatment sessions needed for full removal. Answering the question “How many treatments will I need” is impossible without analyzing the tattoo in person, which is why we offer complimentary consultations.

 


Daniel Friedmann, MD

Daniel P. Friedmann, M.D. is a fellowship-trained, board-certified dermatologist and phlebologist at Westlake Dermatology and Clinical Research Director of the Westlake Clinical Research Center. He has presented nationally on photorejuvenation, noninvasive fat reduction, radiofrequency devices, up-to-date techniques in photodynamic therapy, the management of stretch marks, and the treatment of hand, chest, and facial veins.


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