Is It Easier to Remove a New Tattoo or a Old One?

I just got a new tattoo. Basically half sleeve mostly black and about 5 months old. Anyways I was wondering if it was easier to remove a new tattoo?

Doctor Answers 5

Old tattoos are generally easier to remove than new tattoos

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Everyone who wants to get rid of a tattoo wants to know: "How much will it cost, and how many treatments will it need?'

Generally, older tattoos require fewer laser treatments [generally done using a the very short pulses generated by a Q-switched laser like a Medlite C6]. This is because as time goes on the body slowly gets rid of some of the tattoo ink, and in addition to that, the tattoo ink may slowly fade because of the effects of ultraviolet light.

Other variables which influence the number of treatments needed include:

Amateur vs professional tattoo? [Amateur tattoos usually have less ink, and use inks which respond better to laser treatment.]

Ink color: dark blue or black inks generally absorb laser energy more efficiently, and are therefore easier to treat. Colors like green and blue absorb most wavelengths less well, and colors like yellow, brown, white and violet usually require a larger number of treatments or may be practically impossible to treat.

Location on the body: the further you go down the body, the slower the body clears away tattoo ink after the particles have been shattered by energy from a Q-switched laser. For example, if there are identical tattoos on the shoulder and the ankle, the tattoo on the ankle might take twice as many treatments to get to the same endpoint.

How long you wait between treatments: the longer you wait between treatments, the more time you give your body to clear away the ink after it has been treated, and the smaller the total number of treatments you will need to clear the tattoo.  So, if you are willing to wait 6-12 months between treatments, you might need half as many treatments compared with treating the tattoo every 2 months. BUT, the downside is, if you wait 6-12 months between treatments, it might take several years to clear the tattoo. In the final analysis, it is a very personal decision, and depends on each individual's personal preferences, schedule and budget. If someone wants to get rid of a tattoo ASAP and has the time and the money, it can be treated every two weeks.

Niagara Falls Dermatologic Surgeon

Older Tattoos are Easier to Remove

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Older tattoos are typically easier to remove than new tattoos. The body naturally breaks down tattoo ink so they have usually faded over time. Newer tattoos tend to be more saturated and vibrant, making the process more difficult.

David L. Robbins, MD, FACS
West Des Moines Plastic Surgeon

Tattoo removal in Los Angeles

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Usually old tattoos are slightly easier to treat, but it all depends on your skin type, depth of tattoo ink, and the colors of the tattoo. 


Dr. Karamanoukian 

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 95 reviews

Laser tattoo removal

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usually the newer tattoo because of an acute inflammatory response around the pigment granules in the dermis below the epidermis, are more sheltered from the immune cells that engulf them and require more treatments than the more mature tattoos I see. There are of course, exceptions.

Ronald Shelton, MD
Manhattan Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Various Factors Affect Effectiveness of Tattoo Removal

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You are asking a really good question, and you can see varied answers already. In general, older tattoos have had time to settle but also have had time to fade or to allow the body to remove some of the ink — and this is true for both single-color and multi-color tattoos. And if it is an amateur tattoo, this is even better. Brand-new tattoos are also not hard to remove because the body has not had time to "settle" things yet.

No matter what, consult with a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon to see what the best options are.

Michael Gold, MD
Nashville Dermatologic Surgeon
3.9 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

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.