Removing a tattoo

Treatment to remove a tattoo is not always successful. There are many ways to try and remove tattoos, including:

  • Laser treatment. This is the treatment of choice. Many types of lasers have been used to remove tattoos. Different lasers remove different types of ink better than others. For example, the Q-switched ruby laser and YAG lasers effectively remove blue-black and red ink but may not remove green ink. Light blue ink usually cannot be removed with a laser. Be sure to ask your health professional which kind of laser is better for your specific tattoo.
  • Surgery to remove the layers of the skin (excision).
  • Chemicals to irritate and remove the skin (dermabrasion or salabrasion).

There are several reasons tattoos are difficult to remove. Tattoo inks aren't regulated for color density, and the ink is pierced into the skin at different depths. Color also affects how the tattoo fades. Dark blue and black tattoos are the easiest to fully remove, while green and yellow tattoos are the hardest. It may take several sessions or several different types of treatments to remove your tattoo.

Home techniques for tattoo removal, such as the use of a hot cigarette or heated coat hanger, are not recommended. The scarring and infection rates are very high with these methods.

If you have a tattoo that you would like to have removed, talk with your doctor about what steps you should take. The cost of tattoo removal may not be covered by insurance.

Last Updated: September 4, 2008

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