There are many variables that influence how many tattoo removal treatments you will need and we’re here to guide you through that process. At Vanishing Ink Tattoo Removal Clinic, we’ve specialised in removing tattoos since 2011 and are Sydney’s most experienced laser tattoo removal experts.
Whilst every client and every tattoo is unique, most professional tattoos will take between 5 and 10 treatments for complete removal and most amateur tattoos will need between 1 and 3 treatments. The number of treatments required to fade a tattoo for a cover up is far less and depends largely on the design of the new tattoo.
Most of the key factors that determine the number of treatments you will need are based on the characteristics of the tattoo and are therefore, beyond your control. The following sections will guide you in understanding the impacts that all of those characteristics can have on the likely number of treatments and duration of your tattoo removal experience.
The age of your tattoo is probably the single most influential factor in determining how many treatments you will need. In the case of older tattoos, your immune system has been attacking them for years and has removed more of the ink than it has in younger tattoos. That is why old tattoos will often appear faded and less “sharp” than newer tattoos, even before commencing treatment. Also, over time, the molecular integrity of the ink starts to break down so it becomes easier to treat with laser.
Newer tattoos will have more of the original ink intact and will take more treatments to remove. In the case of recent tattoos, the ink does not become a good target for the laser until the tattoo has fully healed across all layers of skin. Depending on the style of the tattoo, the healing time may be anywhere between 3 and 6 months. If you commence laser treatments before your tattoo is sufficiently healed, you will get minimal results and you will greatly increase your chances of side effects.
The placement of your tattoo is also one of the most influential factors in the number of treatments that you will need. Laser tattoo removal is reliant upon the body’s lymphatic and vascular systems for the dispersal and removal of the shattered ink particles. It relies on your white blood cells to pick up the ink particles and filter them out of your body via your lymph nodes and normal bodily waste processes. Some parts of the body such as the head, neck and upper torso enjoy better vascular and lymphatic presence than other body parts and will therefore respond more quickly to laser treatments than tattoos on other areas such as lower limbs, hands and feet.
The colour of your tattoo is another important determinant in the number of laser sessions you will need. Black ink is the easiest and fastest colour to remove because of its perfect absorption of the 1064nm (white) laser wavelength. No other ink colour has a perfectly opposite laser wavelength colour and therefore, no other ink colour is as efficiently absorbed and removed as black ink. Lighter ink colours like red, orange, yellow and pink are readily treatable with the 532nm laser wavelength and will generally take a similar number of treatments to black ink. Other colours such as blues and greens and purples are also readily removable with the 694nm (Ruby) laser wavelength but are generally much slower than black and lighter ink colours. Some lighter colours such as white or flesh tones will often respond very slowly and will require a greater number of treatments, or in some cases, may be impossible to completely remove. It is essential that you choose a clinic like Vanishing Ink that has the range of laser wavelengths that are required for successfully treating the wide variety of colours that may be present in your tattoo.
Until recently, there have been very few regulations around the world regarding tattoo ink components and disclosure of those components. Tattoo ink manufacturers have commonly utilised a wide range of ingredients like carbon black, bone black, ash, lead, chromium, iron oxide, titanium dioxide and even some types of plastics. These latter ingredients are designed to give tattoos added brightness or fluorescence or improved steadfastness against the sun. Unfortunately, some of these components do not respond well to laser and are difficult for our bodies to process due to particle size. In these cases, such inks may take many treatments to fully remove. Generally, the darker and less vivid tattoo inks tend to contain more simple components to break down, which are easiest to remove.
The biggest determinants of tattoo ink depth are tattoo artist preferences and settings. Some artists are known for their heavy outlines, whilst others can be quite light handed. Generally, the deeper the ink, the more treatments will be required.
Tattoo “blow outs” are an example of where ink has been applied too deeply and has spread into other layers and structures of the skin. In those cases, the outline that has caused the blow out will take more laser treatments to remove than usual. However, the residual ink that has spread beyond the tattoo is very easy to remove in 1 or 2 treatments.
Bamboo tattoos and professionally hand-poked tattoos also tend to be deeper than tattoos applied by machine and take more treatments to remove.
Amateur tattoos applied by machines are generally not as deep as professionally applied tattoos and can be removed in fewer treatments.
Old-school style backyard tattoos are generally very shallow and sparse are easily removed in 1-3 laser treatments.
The design of your tattoo has the biggest impact on ink density. Some tattoos are simply outlines and contain no fill at all. Sometimes the fill is only light and is done with shading needles whilst other artists prefer more solid fill and use outlining needles. In the case of black and grey tattoos, shading is generally not very dense at all and can usually be removed in 1 – 3 laser treatments.
Cover up tattoos or tattoos that have been “touched up” usually contain greater ink density and will take more laser treatments than single layer tattoos.
Amateur tattoos tend to be more basic in design and usually don’t have the ink density of professional tattoos. In most cases therefore, amateur tattoos will take fewer treatments to remove.
Lighter skin colours generally respond more quickly to laser treatments than darker skin. Darker skin contains more melanin, which is recognised by the laser as just another pigment to treat. So, in order to avoid impacting on the natural colour of the skin, we use lower laser settings for darker skin tones. Despite needing more treatments, it means that we can still remove tattoos from dark skin, without causing any pigmentation issues. The lighter your skin, the fewer the treatments you will require.
Previous Treatments / Pre-existing Scarring:
Unfortunately, not all lasers are created equal and there are still many clinics using inferior technology and practices. Similarly, not all laser operators are specialists and even a decent laser can be dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced operator.
Treatments at such clinics are not only likely to be ineffective, but are also likely to cause scarring and textual change to the skin, which will make the tattoo harder to remove, even with a good laser in the hands of an experienced operator.
Sometimes amateur or inexperienced tattoo artists may create scarring during the application of tattoos, when the ink is placed too deeply or the needle is moved too quickly across the skin. This often results in a tattoo that appears raised and glossy in parts, slowing down the removal process and leading to a greater number of treatments likely being required.
Fortunately, at Vanishing Ink, we have a lot of experience in treating tattoos like these and are usually able to complete such removals that have been started elsewhere at inferior clinics. We have invested in the Quanta Fractional Laser to assist in circumstances like these, which helps to break down any existing scar tissue, to facilitate the removal of the residual ink and to improve the final condition of the skin.
One of the few aspects of your tattoo removal experience that you can control is your health. The ink removal process is reliant on your immune response, so the healthier you are, the better it works.
Smoking is one habit in particular that has been shown to inhibit the tattoo removal process. The immune system of smokers is already working overtime to remove the toxic components of any smoke that has been inhaled and therefore, cannot be as effective in removing the shattered ink particles created during laser treatments. If you smoke, your tattoo will take a greater number of treatments to remove.
Overall however, if you maintain your weight and health as best you can through good diet, regular exercise and plenty of hydration, you will speed up the tattoo removal process and reduce the number of treatments that you are likely to need. We see this consistently in the results of our clients.
Your choice of clinic:
The second but most important variable in the tattoo removal process that you can control is your choice of clinic. As you have seen in this article, there are many variables that impact on the number of treatments that your tattoo is likely to need. Every client and every tattoo is unique and there is no “one size fits all” approach to tattoo removal.
When you partner with Vanishing Ink for your tattoo removal journey, we will provide you with a realistic and honest calculation of the number of treatments that you will need for your removal goals, at your very first free visit. If you then complete that maximum number of treatments and your tattoo ink is still visible, we will provide free additional laser tattoo removal treatments for a period of up to one year following your last paid treatment.
You need to choose a clinic that has great quality technology and lots of experience, with a long track record of results and happy customers. At Vanishing Ink, you can rest assured that you are getting such a clinic. We’ve specialised in removing tattoos since 2011 and are Sydney’s most experienced laser tattoo removal experts. We encourage you to take a look at our gallery of completed before and after photos and to read our reviews on Facebook or Google.
Call or email us with any questions you may have or to arrange a free consultation and tattoo assessment. You can be ink free sooner and easier than you think.