Are you someone who impulsively, during your teenage years, got a tattoo, and now you are regretting it every day? Or maybe you sealed a relationship with a tattoo, and now that tattoo brings back bad memories. You might consider removing your tattoo, but does it leave a scar?
Tattoo removal doesn’t leave a scar but can, depending on the technique you choose for removal. Scarring might have happened during the tattoo procedure and not caused by the removal. Going to a qualified tattoo removal specialist will minimize the chances of scarring.
There are a few options when planning on removing a tattoo. Some would be better than others, depending on the size of the tattoo and the amount you are willing to pay. Some techniques might leave you with less to no scarring, whereas others will most likely leave a scar.
Why is tattoo removal complicated?
To understand why the removal of a tattoo is so complicated and why a scar might be the result, you have to understand what getting a tattoo is all about.
When getting a tattoo, the artist uses a needle that penetrates the skin and plants the ink under the dermis (one of the skin layers), giving you a permanent picture. The skin will bleed, aftercare for a minimum of 6 weeks is necessary to ensure no infections come to light and the tattoo heals properly.
The tattooing procedure is embracive; that is why the removal is also. Depending on your chosen method, you might need several sessions before the tattoo is gone.
Some will be susceptible to scarring more than others:
- Having sensitive skin, or a condition affecting your skin
- The placement of the tattoo (areas with lower circulation like hands, face, and feet)
- The colors of the tattoo – dark, neutral colors will remove more easily than colorful tattoos.
Why Does A Tattoo Removal Scar Happen?
Even though a scar is not the result of a tattoo removal procedure, it is possible. There are specific reasons a tattoo removal would cause a scar; sometimes, it already exists from the first time you got a tattoo.
Some reasons why you would have a scar before removing a tattoo:
- you did not take aftercare seriously after getting a tattoo
- The tattoo didn’t heal properly.
- Touching and scratching the tattoo
- Your tattoo got infected.
Suppose one or more of the above happened when you got the tattoo; you can expect a higher chance of scarring after removal.
If the tattoo application is not the reason, the removal might be the reason for a scar. Some removal methods might leave a scar, or some are prone to keloid scars.
You will know before removal if your skin is prone to forming keloid scars. A keloid scar happens when the healing process recruits cells in the body to a specific location (where the wound is) to help with the healing process, but they don’t stop and cause a raised skin scar.
If you have other keloid scars from previous injuries or a family history with these, you need to tell your removal specialist about it. If you choose a qualified removal specialist and opt for laser removal instead, you won’t have to worry about a scar.
Different Methods to remove tattoos
There are different ways to remove a tattoo. Some would be better than others to prevent scarring, but others might be necessary depending on the tattoo’s area, color, and size. All the methods differ in the number of sessions you will need, the cost, and aftercare measures.
Dermabrasion To Remove A Tattoo
Dermabrasion is a harsh, invasive procedure. It entails the removal specialist covering the tattoo with liquid nitrogen or CO2 as freezing (also called cryosurgery) before they start, and the patient needs local anesthetics. A sanding machine will then remove the top layers of skin until the tattoo ink is released and seeps out.
The procedure will have different outcomes for different people, and experts don’t recommend it because of the scarring and bleeding you might obtain. Some will remove the entire tattoo, and some will still have the outline or only fade the tattoo.
After removing a tattoo via dermabrasion, you are most likely to have red, swollen skin, changes in skin color, and infection can occur if not taken care of after the procedure.
You will have to visit a cosmetic surgeon to do this procedure. It will be a once-off treatment, but the length of the appointment will depend on the size and color of your tattoo. The cost of this procedure will vary between $1500 and $4000, depending on your tattoo and size.
This procedure is the most invasive method of tattoo removal, takes three weeks to heel, and is most likely to cause scarring. The aftercare when using this method:
- Applying an ointment to prevent infection
- Do not cover with tight clothing
- Avoid sunlight for three months after the procedure, and apply sunscreen when you are outside.
- Apply anti-scar oils or ointments
Excision To Remove A Tattoo
Excision or surgical removal is when a doctor cuts the skin and removes the tattoo. The surgeon applies a local anesthetic to the area, cut it with a scalpel to remove the tattoo, and stitch the skin together. Excisions are usually only done on small tattoos, depending on where it is situated.
Excision is the most invasive procedure and will always leave a scar. It is the only tattoo removal method that will guarantee you leave with the entire tattoo removed. The surgeon will do it in one appointment, and the procedure time will depend on the size of the tattoo.
The cost of excision will vary between $200 and $1500, and the doctor will invoice by the time needed to remove the tattoo. Thus, more extensive tattoos will cost more.
A scar is evident, but you must take precautions with your aftercare regime to ensure no infection. Use the prescribed meds and ointment from the surgeon, stay out of the sun and look after your wound until it fully healed. You can apply scarring oils to lighten the scar, but it will always be there.
Chemical peel To Remove A Tattoo
You can use this method at home or go to a specialist to do it for you. The at-home version is not as intense as going to someone to get it done. You regularly apply the TriChloroacetic Acid (TCA) chemicals to your tattoo, and it will start peeling. The chemicals are available at any tattoo shop or on eBay.
Wash the tattoo with luke water and antibacterial soap. Use a brush to apply the TCA peel and keep it on for 10 minutes. Wash it off after 10 minutes and repeat every 4 to 6 weeks until you reach your desired result and it leaves no scarring.
The TCA can cause de-pigmentation making your skin lighter around the tattoo. This method may also only lighten the tattoo and not remove it altogether. A TCA peel as a tattoo remover might fit your wallet better at the cost of $20 to $60 per ounce and is not invasive. The only downfall is that it most likely won’t remove your tattoo at all but only lighten it.
Salabrasion To Remove A Tattoo
Salabrasion is a cringe-worthy, traditional method to remove a tattoo. It is painful and might need local anesthetics. The specialist applies a specific mixture of salty scrub to the tattoo and scrubs it for 30 to 40 minutes. If this isn’t bad enough, you will have to go back for more sessions, and in between sessions, you will need to apply antibiotic ointments and sterile gauze to prevent infection.
The final stage is scraping off the dead skin; hopefully, the ink will come off with it if the scrub goes deep enough. Bruising, scarring, and infection are very much likely to be present. Depending on how many sessions you need, these sessions might cost you $1000 or more.
Natural Home Remedies Not Guaranteed To Remove A Tattoo
Many companies claim that their at-home, natural tattoo-removing creams works, but the results are usually ineffective. Some remedies that the internet introduces are lavender oil, Aloe Vera mixtures, yogurt cream, etc. – but the truth is, none of these will remove your tattoo.
It is the least expensive, ranging from $10 to $200, but as the price, the result is also cheap and not practical.
f. Laser Tattoo Removal – Most Trusted
Laser tattoo removal is the newest way to remove tattoos, and also the least abrasive and, if done correctly, will leave you with no scar.
A specialist will apply the laser to your tattoo, sending intense light pulses through the tattoo, targeting the dermis and the ink and slowly fading out the tattoo. The fade happens because the ink drains through the lymph nodes. If you are a smoker, the excretion will not be as effective, and you might need more laser therapy sessions.
There are several different types of laser tattoo removals:
- Multi-pass treatment – usually, a laser session uses one pass per session. In this method, known as R20, the specialist puts four laser passes through each session, with a 20-minute break between each pass. This way, it reduces the number of sessions you need for removal.
- Intense Pulsed Light Therapy – breaks down the skin’s pigment to remove the tattoo. This option is unsuitable for dark-skinned people, as this may cause the skin around your tattoo to fade, leaving you with a stain for life.
- Picosecond Lasers – several studies show that these lasers work better than the popular QSLs. The diameter of the tattoo pigment, with the shorter thermal relaxation times of the picosecond lasers, targets tattoos better, leading to faster removal.
- AFR Lasers – Ablative Fractional lasers create small beams that shoot through the epidermis to reach the dermis and tattoo pigments like lite beams. These lasers hurt the skin, and you must apply aftercare to heel the skin.
- Quality Switched Lasers (QSL) – the most popular laser tattoo removal method.
QSL tattoo removal is the most common laser specialists use to remove tattoos. It is the most cost-effective way to remove your tattoo, and there are successful outcomes of being tattoo free, but it might leave you only with a faded tattoo.
One strong energy pulse is sent through the skin, heating the dermis and the ink pigmentations dissolve. The skin cannot take too many energy pulses at a time, and thus you will have to do several sessions to remove your tattoo.
An estimated number of sessions are about 7 to 10 sessions. With older and smaller tattoos, you will need less, and new ones will take more sessions to remove. Each session needs to be 4 to 6 weeks apart to ensure the best results, so you must be patient.
For two weeks after each session, aftercare is vital to limit scarring:
- Keep the treated area out of direct sunlight
- There might form scabs that want to peel or blister – leave it be
- Please keep it clean and don’t cover it with tight clothing
The cost of laser sessions is about $500 per session. It might be more than other options, but it is the most trusted treatment to limit scarring.
What To Do To Prevent Scarring?
When removing your tattoo by laser specifically, the chances are minimal that you will have a scar left afterward. There are, however, measures you can put in place to make sure scarring is something that won’t happen to you.
Most importantly – choose a qualified, up-to-date specialist. You should seek reviews of the removal specialist you want to use and ask for their qualifications and experience. Inquire about their equipment and ensure they are using the latest lasers.
Do not scratch, pop, or peel the treated area. It will start to itch, form blisters, and peel, but do not touch it. Use the creams provided; if you cannot resist, lightly slap it once.
Give your treatments sufficient time to heal. Each session needs a break of at least four weeks to 8 weeks to heal. With more healing time in between sessions, you minimize the chances of scarring.
Don’t let the fear of scarring be the reason you walk with your ex’s name on your arm forever. The growth in technology includes the methods of removing tattoos with minimal scarring. If you are still not drawn to invasive removal, you can fade your tattoo and cover it with a more pleasant one.
Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you
Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.
Design and tattoo ideas
For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):
- Great Book of Tattoo Designs, Revised Edition: More than 500 Body Art Designs (Fox Chapel Publishing) Fantasy, Celtic, Floral, Wildlife, and Symbol Designs for the Skin by Lora Irish
- The Big Book of Small Tattoos – Vol.1: 400 small original tattoos for women and men by Roberto Gemori
- Tiny Tattoos: Over 1,000 Small Inspirational Artworks by Rebecca Vincent.
If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).
The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):