Best Tattoo Removal

when i was younger this tattoo was cute. now i hate it and want to remove it. whats the best way?

Doctor Answers 14

Multiple lasers

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This tattoo is going to require multiple lasers. For the black ink, I would use a q-switched alexandrite laser. The red will require a q-switched 532nm laser. Because of the bright green and yellow pigment, I like to use the Fraxel repair--this laser will vaporize the ink and facilitate the removal of the entire tattoo. This will definitely require multiple treatments spaced 6-8 weeks apart. Good luck! Dr. Groff

San Diego Dermatologist
4.9 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

Multicolor tattoos can be difficult

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Tattoo removal can be accomplished in a number of different ways including excision of the tattoo, dermabrasion (essentially sanding out the tattoo pigments) or laser.

By far the most common way to removal tattoos is by using laser. Lasers treat tattoos by using laser energy to destroy tattoo pigments. The concept of "selective photothermolysis" means that the laser can target the ink without destroying your tissue. Laser energy is absorbed depending on the pigment color. And that's the challenge with your tattoo.

Professional tattoos are more difficult than amateur tattoos to remove because the pigments tend to be higher quality and the fact that the depth of the tattoo ink is usually placed deeper. Multi-colored tattoos require different wavelengths of laser light to treat.

Red and yellow inks are typically the hardest to treat with black and blue inks being the easiest.

Complications of laser treatment of tattoo include residual tattoo, darkening of tattoo pigments, hypopigmentation (lightening) of your skin and changes in skin texture.

You will most certainly need multiple treatments.

I hope this helps.

Steven Williams, MD
Tri Valley Plastic Surgery

Infrared Coagulator For Tattoo Removal

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Tattoos are simply permanent drawings or designs made in the skin. But with the passage of time, not everyone remains happy with their foray into body art. Perhaps as many as half of all individuals sporting tattoos grow to regret their youthful indiscretion. What appeared cool and “in” on a forearm at age sixteen can prove an impediment to getting hired as an airline stewardess at age twenty-six. And a soaring eagle with its wings spread wide and coarsing up the side of the neck may look macho at seventeen, but altogether unacceptable to a conservative Wall Street brokerage firm at age twenty-seven. And, of course, an “I love Sally” heart-shaped tattoo replete with Cupid’s arrow spread over John’s outer arm is not likely to go over very well with the next love of his life, Jane.

It may be fairly easy to get a tattoo applied, but it’s safe to say, it’s much harder to get one removed, and, for that matter, much more expensive. Prior to the introduction of light-based therapies, a variety of procedures were used for getting rid of them. These included dermabrasion, salabrasion, cryotherapy, chemical peeling. and surgical excision.

Dermabrasion involved the use of a motor-driven wire brush to abrade the skin surface; salabrasion, the use of coarse salt crystals; cryotherapy, freezing with liquid nitrogen; and medium-depth chemical peels, tha application of caustic materials. Each of these techniques relied upon stripping away the epidermis, the topmost layer of the skin, and exposing the pigment-laden dermis. Following exposure, the ink would be extruded as part of the healing process.

Surgical excision skirted the issue of dealing directly with the embedded pigment. Instead, if the lesion were small, it was cut out entirely and the resulting wound sutured together. If it were very large or its location difficult to work with, the removal was done in stages, allowing each surgical wound to heal before proceeding to excise another part. In general, these methods were successful at obliterating the tattoo, but at least some degree of scarring was inevitable. It was a trade-off--an acceptable scar in place a highly visible and undesirable tattoo.

Lasers and other light therapy devices, such as the Infrared Coagulater (IRC), are the treatments of choice today. Lasers work by emitting short, intense pulses of light that pass through the skin and target the ink. The energy from the laser light fragments the large particles of tattoo pigment enabling the body’s natural immune system to more easily scavenge the pigment and carry it away. This process usually takes several weeks, and multiple treatment sessions are often necessary to achieve maximal clearing.

Since black pigment absorbs all wavelengths of light, it is ironically the easiest pigment to remove. Colors, such as green, do not absorb as well, and sometimes a variety of lasers, with varying wavelengths, are needed to effectively treat a multicolored tattoo.

Potential complications include permanent scarring, temporary or permanent loss of pigment or excessive pigmentation. Fees for laser treatments may range from $1000-$3000 or more, depending upon the number of treatment sessions required, and the size, shape, colors, and location of the particular tattoo.

IRC uses non-laser infrared light to heat the area containing the pigment. It is quick and easy to perform, and generally requires fewer treatments than lasers. Most small tattoos can be treated successfully in one to three sessions. IRC’s efficacy also does not depend upon the particular color of the pigments involved. For these reasons, it is my favorite method for dealing with small tattoos.


Nelson Lee Novick, MD
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Spectra Laser for Tattoo Removal

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The Spectra Laser is the best laser system for tattoo removal. One of the challenges with laser tattoo removal procedures is removing multicolored designs like the one you have. You have to understand that lasers, by definition use a single wavelength. For the most part,  this allows it to be absorbed by a single color. The Spectra laser comes with multiple hand held accessories so that it can treat different colors. Additionally it is safe for all skin tones. Laser light is usually absorbed easily by melanin. So if you have a warm or dark skin tone, there is the risk of overheating and permanent scarring.

Here is an example of a Spectra laser removal procedure. The patient has a black/dark blue tattoo instead of a multi-colored tattoo. Nonetheless, the treatment gave very good results. (In general the outcomes will depend on individual cases)

Sanusi Umar, MD
Redondo Beach Dermatologic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Q-switched Nd:Yag laser for tattoo laser removal

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Tattoo laser removal may take several treatments to achieve satisfactory fading. Q-switched Nd:Yag laser is the gold standard. Black-greyed colored tattoos done by an amateur is the easiest one to remove while multi-colored tattoos done by a professional may be the most challenging as different dye handpieces may have to be utilized. Look for either Lutronic or Conbio Hoya tattoo removal lasers and make sure tattoo laser removal is performed under supervision of a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon to minimize post-treatment complication.

William Ting, MD
Bay Area Dermatologic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Sometimes simple is best

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As you can see from previous answers, laser treatment, while effective, will likely be time-consuming and costly.  From your photo, the tattoo looks rather small, so there is a possibility that surgically excising the tattoo would be the quickest, simplest method!  The down side is a scar- if you heal well, this should be minimal.  Even with using all the right lasers and the proper number of treatments with each one, you may not achieve complete removal.  It is a great idea to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each method!

Victoria W. Serralta, MD
Arlington Dermatologic Surgeon

PicoSure - Tattoo Removal

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Thank you for your question and photograph. Yes, there are chances for this tattoo to respond to laser treatments but the colors of your tattoo are more difficult to remove. Picosure laser is a good option to have this tattoo removed as it is safe and effective and there is a low risk of scarring. This treatment works best on dark inks like black and dark blue which gives you an effective permanent result. However, some touch up may be required after the removal.  I recommend you see an expert in order to determine the best treatment plan for you. All the best!

Hardik Soni, MD (not currently practicing)
Summit Emergency Medicine Physician

Best Tattoo Removal

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There are several lasers that can lighten tattoos. The type of laser, depends on the colors of the tattoo. I suggest you seek out a provider that has experience with tattoo removal.

Tim Sayed, MD, MBA, FACS
Newport Beach Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

Only one laser needed: PICOSURE picosecond laser is the new standard for tattoos with many colors.

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Since you asked this question 4 years ago there is a new gold standard for tattoo removal. A multicolored laser will not need multiple different lasers. Q-switched alexandrite laser and other NANOSECOND pulse lasers work by heating the macrophages that have absorbed certain colors, but none work as well as the new PICOSECOND pulse that hits the pigment much faster and harder, producing a microscopic explosion of the pigment particle that your body then absorbs easily. Look up before and afters for the Picosure laser. It's much faster, and actually LESS painful, and MORE effective on difficult colors like green, blue, and red. Perfect for you. We do have it in our office, but there are only a very few in the entire country.

Jessica J. Krant, MD, MPH
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 41 reviews

Tattoo removal

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It is likely that  laser treatment will give you the best results. Your professionally done tattoo  contains some color that is unfavorable to the laser treatment (green);  you should expect multiple sessions (at least 10)  spaced at least one month apart. Despite these treatments, some residual ink or pigment change may remain reminding you of the presence of this tattoo. However, with time and sun exposure this residual effect tends to improve.

I would not recommend excision because of the resulting scar.

Best wishes.


These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.