How Long to Wait Between Laser Tattoo Removal Sessions

When removing an unwanted tattoo, time is not on your side. Though you may want to delete an ex-lover's name or a design that you have outgrown as quickly as possible, you need to give your body time to heal between laser treatments.

While the area in question may appear to be fully healed externally within 2 weeks, the healing process is actually much longer — more like six weeks. During that time, the body’s lymphatic system is doing its job of removing the ink that has been broken up by the laser.

Your final result from each session will not be apparent until around the six-week mark. Therefore, six weeks is the recommended time between sessions. Going back under the laser sooner than this can result in overtreating the area, which can mean damage to the skin, not to mention unnecessary discomfort and expense.

Removing tattoo
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Choosing a Tattoo Removal Treatment

When you hear how long it will take to have your tattoo removed, you may consider other treatment options such as dermabrasion or surgical excision. And depending on your tattoo, those may be a better option for you.

However, lasers, also known as laser surgery or laser rejuvenation, are the preferred option since they offer minimal side effects, according to the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. Basically, it is considered safer than the other options because it has a reduced risk of infection, less scarring, and can be done on an outpatient basis. Let's not forget: it isn't surgery, so less bloodshed.

What Is Laser Tattoo Removal?

When a tattoo is being removed by laser, a high-intensity beam breaks up the ink or the pigment colors that make up the tattoo. What kind of laser it is depends on the colors that laser will need to break up. There are different lasers or different settings of the same laser for different colors.

The laser selectively targets and removes the tattoo without damaging the surrounding tissue, which greatly decreases scarring. To remove tattoos, a Q-Switched laser is commonly used. And as mentioned before, there are usually more than one treatment, scheduled approximately six weeks apart, needed to remove the tattoo completely. 

A Word From Verywell

When making your final decision about what tattoo removal option is best for you, you will also need to figure in the costs, recovery, and complications of the procedure.

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  • Bernstein, EF. Laser treatment of tattoos. Clinics in Dermatology. 2006;24(1):43-55.

  • Laser Therapy for Unwanted Tattoos. American Society of Dermatologic Surgeons.

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