How many sessions will it take to remove my tattoo or at least half of it? (Photo)

I have a tattoo of an angel wing behind my ear that's about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. I want to join the military sometime in 2017 so I really need the tattoo or at least half of it gone. If it's faded (by home remedies) will it be quicker to remove? Also, based on the size and location, what kind of prices am I looking at?

Doctor Answers 7

Angel wing tattoo

There is no one right answer as all tattoos are different. Generally the number of treatments depends on the color of the ink, the age of the tattoo and the location on your body. You should not try to remove the tattoo on your own, as salt scrubs and commercially available tattoo removal creams do not work and can lead to permanent scarring.

Tattoo removal

Tattoos like your typically take 6-15 treatments to remove. Your tattoo is black so has a high success rate. I would find a reputable provider and begin getting it removed as it does take time.

Tattoo Removal

Pico lasers are the most advanced technology. I utilize the PiQo4 laser which has 4 Pico wavelengths. The average number of sessions we see with these advanced technologies is 4-6 treatments but the amount of treatments can vary based on several factors such as the location of your tattoo, your skin tone, how sharp the ink is and how quickly your body eliminates the ink. I think it is important not only to seek the best technology but an experienced laser tattoo removal provider.

Daniel J. Ritacca, MD
Chicago Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Laser Tattoo Removal -- Takes a series of treatments

I don't recommend trying to fade this on your own. Laser tattoo removal takes a series of treatments, so it's difficult to give you a timeframe. Cost will vary. I recommend getting a formal consultation with a tattoo removal expert. Best, Dr. Emer

Jason Emer, MD
Los Angeles Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 167 reviews

​Use the Best Technology Available

Thanks for your question.  We get this same question in our office at least once a week.  You have 2 routes for laser tattoo removal.

Q-Switch or nanosecond lasers came out about 20 years ago.  Picosecond laser came out about 3 years ago.  The majority of former Q-Switch patients we see have significant hypopigmentation (ghosting) around and under their tattoo.  The Q-Switch lasers have trouble differentiating between the melanin in your skin and ink.  The technology uses heat to burn the pigment out of your skin.  In addition, we have seen patients with raised scars as if they have been branded.  Both of these condition are irreversible. 

Picosecond lasers (like the Enlighten, PicoWay & PicoSure) fire 1000 times faster, using a pressure wave rather than heat to shear the ink molecules apart.  After using the PicoSure for almost 2 years, we have only seen pinpoint hypopigmentation in a very small number of patients usually of darker skin tones.  We cannot say it is impossible to get burned with a Picosecond laser, but it is highly unlikely.  We tell every PicoSure tattoo patient to expect at least 6 treatments, but don’t be surprised if it takes 10 to 12.  Patience is the key for our patients.  We typically see our tattoo removal patients every 8 to 12 weeks initially.  If they have more time than money, we encourage them to come every 6 months as the tattoos seem to continue to fade while they wait.

Treatment prices vary by market.  The cost for picosecond treatments will be higher, but you should need less than half the treatments compared to a nanosecond laser.

Laura Riehm, MD
Fort Worth Physician
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

How many sessions to remove a tattoo?

Hello, thank you for your question and for including a photo.  Laser tattoo removal is definitely the best way to remove unwanted ink.  The way a laser rids the body of unwanted ink, is it shatters the ink into tiny particles that your body then absorbs.  The PicoWay Laser (Candela/Syneron) uses photoacoustic impact/pressure waves rather than photothermal/heat.  This process has less heat, therefore it is more comfortable and the chances of hyperpigmentation are less.  The Pico-second pulse shatters the ink into even smaller particles, allowing the body to more easily absorb the ink.  This type of device can usually remove a tattoo in about half as many treatments as the traditional Q-switch devices.  The tattoo appears to be only 1 color (black), black ink is the most responsive to laser removal. Even a Q-switch device can usually remove black ink very successfully. If you are crunched for time, I would try and find the pico-second technology, this may be a little more pricey, but it will resolve quicker.  Pricing will depend on the type of device being used as well as the area (geographically) that you are located.  I would guesstimate 3-5 treatments with the Pico-Way laser at a cost of $250 per treatment.  Keep in mind that numbing will be necessary, lidocaine injections to numb the treatment area prior to treatment.

Good Luck!


Mark A. Blair, MD
Phoenix Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

Time to remove tattoo behind ear

If you have a time constraint, such as starting a job that requires the tattoo to be gone, I would begin treatment as soon as possible.  The amount of time that it takes to remove a tattoo is largely unpredictable.   Therefore, the sooner you start, the sooner you will finish.  The total amount of time and number of treatments required will depend on many factors, including the type of laser used.  For dark ink such as yours, a 1064nm laser will work best.  There are various ones available that different centers use. Q-switched lasers are probably the most common, and should work well on your tattoo.  The newer picosecond lasers, such as Enlighten, will probably work faster than Q-switched lasers. Since your goal is to have it lightened, not necessarily removed completely, it would be reasonable to expect to see that result with about 3 treatments (+/-). Treatments are generally spaced apart by 6-10 weeks, although you can go longer.  Cost will vary based on the center and.  I would expect your tattoo of 2 sq inches, to cost in the range of $200-$300 per treatment, but that is based on the market in my community and may be different where you live.  I would NOT use any type of home remedy to lighten it prior to laser treatment.  Laser is the only truly safe and effective method of removing a tattoo.  Chemicals can cause skin damage and scarring.

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.