Laser Tattoo Removal Frequently Asked Questions

We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Will Kirby, a well-known laser tattoo removal expert. Dr. Kirby, a board certified dermatologist and aesthetic surgeon, is medical director of the Los Angeles-based practice, “Dr TATTOFF” laser tattoo removal and medical spa. He is one of the stars of the E! Network’s hit series, Dr. 90210. We have picked Dr. Kirby’s brain for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about laser tattoo removal.

Will Laser Tattoo Removal Remove Your Tattoo Completely?

person having tattoo removed from their leg

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There are some tattoos you probably want all the way gone, right? After all, the goal is to have no traces left behind of that ex's name. So, is it possible to completely eradicate that old ink, relegating (what was her name again?) to a distant memory?

Possible, yes. Guaranteed, no.

How Many Sessions Will It Take?

Before you begin to think of a laser as the magic wand of tattoo removal, you need to be aware that it's not a "one and done" proposition. Almost all tattoos require multiple sessions for removal. How many times will you need to go under the laser? The answer is not that simple.

How Long Should You Wait Between Sessions?

So you want to get this over with as quickly as possible, right? Your doctor said it would take approximately 6 sessions, and you're thinking, "Great! Just a couple of months and I can say goodbye to this bad ink." Think again.

You may be surprised to hear that it is not the laser that actually removes the ink. The laser breaks the ink up into tiny fragments which are then removed by your body’s immune system. This process takes time, so be patient.

What Kinds of Tattoos Are Hardest to Remove?

The answer to this question is the same as how many sessions are required to remove the tattoo. These include the age of the tattoo, the color(s) of the tattoo, the location of the tattoo on the body, and the skin color and type of the patient.

Are There Ink Colors That Can't Be Removed?

The short answer is maybe. Some of the newer, ultra-vibrant inks are troublesome and may not be able to be removed. But they aren't the only ones that pose a problem.

Can Permanent Makeup Be Removed?

Removing permanent makeup, also known as cosmetic tattooing or micropigmentation, is tricky. It is because the colors used and the tattoos' placement on the face and the increased risk and liability may cause many doctors to shy away from attempting removal. But it can be done.

Will Laser Tattoo Removal Work on You If You're Dark-Skinned?

The advances that have been made in laser technology make it possible for darker-skinned people to have their unwanted tattoos removed. There are, however, some challenges.

Is It Painful?

Your personal tolerance for pain and whether or not you opt for some form of anesthesia will determine how painful it will be. Generally, most patients report experiencing little more than mild discomfort.

How Do Other Removal Methods Differ?

Laser tattoo removal has all but replaced other methods. This is due to its record on safety and effectiveness. However, there are still some other methods in use.

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  • Interview with Will Kirby, DO, FACOS - Los Angeles, CA - conducted on November 19, 2008.