woman laying on a procedure bed with a tattoo removal laser being used on a tattoo on her back

The Truth About Tattoo Removal | 6 Myths Busted

Do you look back at one of your tattoos with regret and disappointment? Do you wish that you could turn back time and never walk through the door of that tattoo studio? While I’m not about to reveal the secret of time travel, I do want to talk about another option today. Let’s dig into the basics of tattoo removal and bust some of the more common myths.

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We’ve all heard the warning at least once when considering getting new ink – “Make sure you’re sure, a tattoo is forever!”. The truth is, however, that this isn’t always true! As the popularity of tattoos in our society has continued to skyrocket, the demand for tattoo removal has continued to grow and develop. There is no magic eraser that will instantly wipe your skin clear.

Tattoo ink resides within the top layers of your skin, meaning that practitioners have had to find an option to remove that ink without causing any unnecessary damage to the surrounding tissue.

While the process certainly isn’t easy, the very idea of saying goodbye to that unwanted tattoo may sound like the gift you have been searching for! Your tattoo may make you feel embarrassed or self-conscious, limiting your clothing options and impacting your life. On the other hand, you may simply feel that it no longer connects with your current lifestyle. Whatever your reason, remember that it is your decision to make, not anyone else’s!

The discussion of tattoos and tattoo removal is often littered with misinformation, bias and, most frighteningly, the unknown. That is why it is so important to share articles like this one. In order to make the right decision, you need to have all the facts. Let’s take a moment to break down 6 of the most common myths related to tattoo removal and shed some light on the truth…

Myth #1 – It Will Be Completed in a Couple Appointments

If you’re looking for a quick fix solution to that unwanted tattoo, don’t get your hopes up! Tattoo removal isn’t as quick as a once over with the laser and then moving on with your life. Depending on the tattoo, it could take months or even longer than a year!

This myth is largely rooted in a misunderstanding of the actual process. When discussing the idea of tattoo removal, most people described it as if the ink is simply removed in the same way it was put there, but it’s not that easy. There is no way to ‘pull out’ the ink. It’s not a simple eraser.

Tattoo removal involves using a laser to break down the particles in your skin. Your body’s immune system will then react, targeting and clearing out these molecules which it recognizes as a foreign body. The process can take up to 8 weeks between sessions and there is no guarantee as to how the pigments will respond.

The number of treatments required will depend on how deep the tattoo was, how the different coloured pigments respond to the laser, etc. Green and blue inks often take longer to break down and remove while white, yellow and purple are often impossible to completely remove from the body. There is no way to accurately predict how long a removal will take. During this time, you will be left with a fading tattoo in the ‘in-between’ stages of removal.

close up of a woman looking over her shoulder, a tattoo on her back showing the various stages of fading after tattoo removal

Myth # 2 – Tattoo Removal Will Be Less Painful Than Getting a Tattoo

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but if you’re getting yourself psyched up for tattoo removal, you should know what you’re signing up for. This isn’t to say that your experience is going to be one of extreme pain and discomfort. Much like getting a tattoo, the level of pain described by those who have a tattoo removed can differ significantly from person to person.

When you first arrive at your session the practitioner will take steps to numb the area and minimize your pain. For a smaller area, they may choose a topical numbing cream, however, for larger tattoos and longer sessions you may receive a lidocaine injection. The opportunity for pain doesn’t end there…

Following your appointment, there will likely be pain associated with the healing process. Once again, the experience can vary from person to person. That being said, you should be prepared for the potential of tenderness, swelling, blisters, scabbing, peeling and bleeding. Take time to consider what clothing you regularly wear and how it may rub against your tattoo now as you may have to make some changes moving forward. For example, if you are removing a tattoo on your shoulder, you may need to switch to a halter style or strapless bra.

Myth #3 – All Practitioners Are Created Equal

Given that tattoo removal doesn’t involve any actual surgical incisions, you don’t need to seek out a dermatologist to do your removal, right? You should know that, like many other things in life, you get what you pay for! There are many spas and clinics that offer tattoo removal procedures but proceed with care!

There are many potential risks involved with tattoo removal and the possible complications that may arise. Dermatologists are educated on how to recognize and overcome these complications as well as identify those situations in which treatment is not recommended. This will decrease the chance of scarring and infection.

Their expertise will also help to minimize the pain and discomfort that you may feel throughout the procedure. If you are looking to lidocaine injections to lessen your pain, this will only be done by a licenced professional. Pain management is far more limited in a spa setting.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery recommends doing your research before selecting a practitioner including whether or not the practitioner has board certification, their level of experience, references and rapport, the accreditation of the facility in which your procedure will be completed and the availability of follow-up care. In short, don’t make this decision lightly!

Related: ‘Tattoo Aftercare Myths and Mistakes’

Myth #4 – If You Experienced No Reaction When Getting a Tattoo, You Won’t React to Having It Removed

There are several potential reactions that can be experienced throughout the tattoo removal process. While some of these can be predicted during a consultation with a licensed professional, others may come as a surprise. This is a key reason why it is so important to be selective about who you allow to carry out your procedure. In the event of an adverse reaction, the way they react can have a significant impact on the final outcome.

The use of a laser may result in scarring or permanent skin discoloration, however, not all reactions are cosmetic in nature. The process of breaking up the pigments in the ink and triggering your body’s immune system to react may cause a systemic reaction in the body in more extreme cases. This can put a patient at risk for anaphylaxis which is a life-threatening condition.

Myth #5 – Tattoo Removal Will Cost the Same as Getting a Tattoo

I’m not going to argue that tattoo removal is a bad decision, everyone has their own story and their own reasons. However, if you are going to go this route, it’s going to come with a price tag. If you were to take the time to Google tattoo removal in your area, you will find a wide variety of pricing. As we previously discussed, this will vary largely based on whether you’re going to see a dermatologist or a practitioner in a spa setting.

Here in Southern Ontario, I found pricing ranging from $150 to $500 per treatment. Consider, for a moment, that the average tattoo removal will need approximately 6 to 8 sessions, with larger or more complicated tattoo taking 10 sessions or more. The costs can add up and fast!

Myth #6 – Your Tattoo Must Be Removed Completely in Every Situation

So, you’re stuck with a tattoo that you don’t want to look at every day. For many people, this comes down to a black and white decision – you either keep it and try to keep it covered up, or you pay to have it removed. However, there’s a grey area that may intrigue you.

Rather than completing all the sessions to have your tattoo completely removed, you could consider a tattoo coverup. Some tattoos can simply be covered up exactly as they are right now. The artist will use tricks and strategies that fool the eye and create a new image in place of the old one. These tricks including blending colour and shading as well as using depth of colour and detail. However, not every tattoo can be covered up in this manner.

Some tattoos are darker by nature. Look at a traditional style tattoo with its bold black lines versus a watercolour tattoo. If you aren’t sure whether you are suited for a traditional coverup, book a consultation with a tattoo artist. There are many talented artists that specialize in this area. As with any tattoo, take your time to research the artists in your area to find a reputable artist with a portfolio that lines up with the work you are hoping to have done.

If your tattoo is too dark for a standard coverup, you may be able to lighten your tattoo first with a few tattoo removal sessions to allow for a coverup to be completed. Your artist can direct you as to how much you will need to fade your tattoo to achieve your desired end result.  

inforgraphic listing the 6 most common tattoo myths and information to bust them

Have you ever considered tattoo removal? If so, what reasons did you have for deciding whether or not to proceed?

48 thoughts on “The Truth About Tattoo Removal | 6 Myths Busted”

  1. It sounds so complicated and so pricey but necessary to consider all of these factors before going through the process. Very helpful info! I don’t have any tattoos myself but I will totally send people who need this info to your post.

    1. It’s definitely not an easy route, but if it gives someone back the confidence in themselves and their own skin, I could see how it would be worth it!

  2. I used to live with a girl who was in the process of getting a tattoo removed. She said that if she had’ve realised that removing it would cost so much and be a heap more painful than getting it in the first place, she never would’ve gotten it to begin with.

    1. I’ve heard a few people say this! Anytime I get messages on here asking questions about first tattoos I’m always careful to recommend really thinking about it before getting inked – not because I’m anti-tattoos (obviously) but I’m also aware of the options if it doesn’t work out long term lol

  3. Really informative post! Tattoo removal (or getting a tattoo in the first place) is definitely not a light decision to make. They both cost a lot of time and money. There’s certainly a lot of misconceptions about tattoo removal though – you’ve cleared a lot of them up nicely x

    1. Thanx, that explains a lot about an old friend named Jade who comes to my work and hangs out at the pool and now I know why I don’t see the dragon on her upper arm. I always thought this.

  4. Interesting post! I’ve heard the myth that tattoo removal hurts less but agree that it definitely depends on the person. My tattoo was painful(!) in places and although I have never thought of removing it, if it ever came to it I’d go for a cover up instead.

    1. The level of pain is SO different from person to person. Much of my work is in areas people report as higher pain – along my spine, right in the pressure point of my wrist, etc – and I haven’t had any pain issues because I have a higher level of paint tolerance. That is why I am so careful anytime I am wording something relating to pain levels on the blog.

  5. This is really interesting! I have a few tattoos and would probably just stick with them if I ended up not liking them in a few years – removal sounds like such a hassle! However I’m glad that it’s possible for those who want that.

    1. That’s how I am with mine. I honestly love all my work right now, but if I didn’t, I don’t know that I would want to go through the removal process unless it literally affected my overall well-being. I know there are situations where a tattoo can seriously impact someone’s mental health by eroding their confidence. I’m so glad that the option is available at times like that!

  6. I don’t have any tattoos so I’m completely oblivious to the removal process but I had no idea it could take so many appointments to get rid of them. Seems silly that I assumed it was easy now I’m thinking about it. I didn’t know removal was that painful either! x


    1. There are people who have over a dozen tattoos that never considered the work required in removal. I think that’s honestly the biggest misconception out there.

  7. This is all very interesting. I recently got my first tattoo but am already looking at my second – I just love the way that they look. I guess this reminds me to be careful and not too spontaneous about what to have on my skin.

    Have a good week! 🙂

    Amy x Wandering Everywhere

    1. It’s definitely worth taking a little longer to think through whether you really want something or not. The time, cost and potential discomfort of a removal is a good warning lol

  8. I only have a tiny tattoo on my hip so I’ve never considered removal but this was fascinating. I had no idea what was involved or how long it could take. I like your point about cover ups, one of my favourite TV shows is Tattoo Fixers, it’s always fun to see what horrors people want covered up, and the talent of the tattoo artists is quite incredible 🙂

    1. It’s definitely something worth consideration both before and after getting your first tattoo (or any additional ink)!

  9. At 51 I’ve yet to get a tattoo but have made it my goal to get one this year. Part of my reason for waiting was making sure that what I got was something I wanted to have on my body forever. I know many people who have gotten some terrible tattoos that they regretted later in life. The removal process can be lengthy and I’ve heard its similar to having a rubber band snapped on your skin many many times. This is very informative and reminds me to make sure that I am certain of what I want! 🙂

    1. Yes, the rubber band analogy is one that many people have used in my discussions. Although, depending on the person, it can be even more painful than that. Especially if they experience any complications! I got my first tattoo around the age of 21 and I still love it, but it’s a memorial piece for my father. Since then I’ve had more work done – some that are deeply meaningful like that and others because the design just speaks to me 🙂 That being said, I make a point of avoiding trends because they wear out quickly and then you’re left wondering why you jumped on board lol

  10. Wow, I never realized how much there was to tattoo removal. Getting a tattoo is a big decision – I’ve wanted a tattoo for a while but I won’t get it until I’m 100% confident that I won’t change my mind (which I’ve done a couple of times already). Removing a tattoo sounds a life a long and uncomfortable experience – it’s good to have an idea of what to expect if you find yourself needed to remove a tattoo for whatever reason!

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that there’s really any way to be 100% sure. We all change and grow in life, and you 10 years from now may be a totally different person. Not that it’s a bad thing – but it may change your interest in your ink! I just make sure to steer clear of trends and choose something that speaks to me – whether I simply just like the design or it has some deeper, personal meaning.

  11. At the ripe age of 22 I thought I knew for sure that I wanted a specific tattoo for life…oh how wrong I was! I haven’t gotten it removed yet because of the cost, time, and lets face it-I’m a baby when it comes to pain! Hoping medical advancements come along that are easier and more effective than laser. Until then, no backless dresses for me! lol

    1. Is it something that could be covered up/are you interested in having something else in that location? While a coverup certainly isn’t free or painless, it is often easier and more cost-effective than full removal. That may open the door to you rocking those backless dresses sooner 🙂

  12. I’m so afraid of needles. If I ever get one, I better make sure to get one that sticks because I don’t think I would be able to get it removed!

    1. Believe it or not, I’m massively afraid of needles as well. I had a friend push me to pull the trigger on the first one because she could tell that I really wanted it and was just hesitant due to the needle concept. After that, I learned that it’s surprisingly different… I now have multiple tattoos but I get anxiety over a vaccination.

  13. I didn’t realise there was so much involved in tattoo removal. I think everyone considering getting a tattoo should read this first so they know that tattoo removal isn’t an easy process.

    1. I’ll admit, there once was a time when I thought it was an easy process. Digging into it and learning about what is actually involved really helped to open my eyes and forced me to reconsider whether it was something I wanted to fall back on.

  14. This was a very interesting post! I honestly didn’t even realise that they could do tattoo removal! I got a tattoo when I was 16 (it was done by my boyfriend at the time with a homemade tattoo gun) so I’m sure you can imagine how I feel about it today. HA! But despite the poor craftsmanship on it, I don’t think I would go through this to get it removed (especially with those price tags!) But as you said, to each their own. Luckily my tat is pretty small and not easily to cover up!

    1. If it’s something you don’t like and feel the need to cover up, there are definitely options to consider. Have you spoken with an artist about the possibility of a coverup?

    1. Definitely – Many people see this as an ‘easy out’ if they change their mind, but easy is the last word I would use to describe it!

  15. To avoid the costs, pain and all that, people should make right decisions. Some practitioners are skilled but there is always errors. We just have to be precise over our wants.

    1. Correct. I have some GREAT work on my body right now that I completely love, but they came from finding skilled artists and being very clear about what I want.

  16. I’ve seen videos of this being done and how the skin looks after, it looks pretty painful (At least in my opinion). This is a great topic to write about, thanks for sharing this.

    1. It definitely isn’t pain-free! I love that the option is there but it’s definitely not for everyone. I hope that spreading the word will a) help to connect with those who need this option and b) encourage those who are unaware to rethink seeing it as an easy alternative when making impulsive decisions.

    1. I’ve heard a few people say that… that’s one reason why I always suggest people consider whether a cover up would work when I get questions!

  17. I don’t have a tattoo, there is just nothing that I want on me permanently, but I’ve always thought that if I get one I would very much research it like I did my nose piercing. I think that knowing these things are just as important as knowing about getting the tattoo. I’ve always heard that the removal was more painful. The other ones make sense, it’s just not something I ever thought about.

    1. Doing your research and ensuring that you know what you are getting is so important, especially if you want to avoid any regret down the road.

      1. For sure. My little sister never did research on any of her tattoos or piercings. So far she hasn’t regretted any but she has made bad decisions in them. Mostly with tattoos letting her friends use her as practice dummy and the tattoos looking horrible. (She doesn’t seem to care at least.) Then with her piercings a lot of them rejected and I remember telling her that her hip piercing were a bad idea because of how she wore her clothes, then they started to reject and she ignored anyone who told her that.

        1. Piercing rejection can be such a hassle to deal with. I hope she didn’t have to deal with any major complications or wind up with any major scars as a result.

    1. I honestly don’t think that I would either, but I’ve also been careful to avoid getting ink that may lead me in that direction – no name tattoos, no jumping on random trends, etc. That being said, if I did need to get rid of something, I’d be more inclined to look into a cover-up I think.

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