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The Personal Costs of Tattoo Removal


Updated April 29th, 2020

Sometimes people do things that they later regret. Sometimes these things are tattoos.

I was at a different place in my life when I received the tattoo, placed the name or face of someone from my distant past on my body, and no longer believe in the tattooed words I was wearing on my skin. I was among the 25 percent of U.S. tattoo wearers who have regretted the decision to get inked.

Ye Olde Tattoo Removal.

I discovered that the evolution of removing tattoos has undergone several industry improvements. There was a time when any tattoo you placed on your body was considered permanent. 

 I considered dermabrasion for removing tattoos. A doctor told me that during this skin exfoliating procedure, he would use a rotating instrument that acts like a sander to get rid of the outer layers of skin. This is considered a surgical process and is commonly used for people who are trying to get rid of acne scars, fine lines around the mouth, skin damage from the sun, age spots, previous surgery scars and uneven skin textures. I cringed when he said that dermabrasion is sometimes painful and requires an anesthetic.

It appears I could have taken a chemical approach to tattoo removal and used trichloroacetic acid, or TCA, to get rid of the top layer of skin. The idea of excision made want to scream. While the team of experts explained how well this procedure works with smaller tattoos, I totally checked out.

Laser Tattoo Removal

So I was like the 30 percent of tattooed U.S. citizens who needed to explore some options. I started consider lasers, which break up the ink colors in tattoos by using a high-intensity light beam. My tattoos were black, so this would be easy. Black ink can absorb all laser wavelengths so black tattoos are the easiest to treat. Doctors use different lasers for other pigment colors.

Before choosing this option, I needed to decide if I had the patience to see it through. Several treatments would likely be required. Technicians said the exact number differs from person to person and depends on your age, the colors and size of your tattoo, the pigment in your skin and the depth of the tattoo.

I knew I also needed to be prepared for the delay between my initial consultation and the actual procedure. Although I would not likely get any anesthesia to numb the area, I wanted to be mentally ready for some discomfort.

On the day of the procedure, the doctor or technician tested my skin, considering the ink color before deciding on the intensity of the laser. They gave me some protective eyewear so that I was not looking directly at the laser light. I had some ice and topical antibiotics after the procedure was done.

Tattoo Removal Cost

I had small tattoos, so my cost was not too steep. The average cost for tattoo removal is about $200-500. The cost heavily depends on the complexity of the tattoo, but it can also depend heavily on the expertise level of the physician.

 Had my tattoo covered more of my body, the procedure costs could have added up quickly, though. Remember, the team told me that it often takes more than one or two treatments to completely remove the tattoo. If it had taken more than the two I had, the cost could have soared as high as $10,000.

This may seem like a very large, un-affordable procedure to most people, but some people who have tattoos must consider the alternative costs that have nothing to do with money. 

Thanks to the advancements made in laser therapy, many tattoo wearers no longer have to worry about harsher or more tedious removal procedures. The personal cost to you for tattoo removal will depend on how sensitive you are to the procedures and what you lose from your past in terms of emotional connections to the tattoo. The risks are different for every person, and for some, it is a positive life changer.


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