Tattoo Removal

I am the “proud” owner of an armband tattoo. It is a vine, about 2mm thick, all the way around my arm, all in black.

I have hated this tattoo since the moment I got it almost 2 years ago, it was done by an apprentice, and not a very good one at that. Some of it is thicker than the rest and the ink around the edges has feathered out.

I have 2 consultations later this week for laser removal and I was wondering if anyone has any experience with this. I haven’t heard anything from anyone who’s had it done. I’ve been to every webpage on the topic and didn’t find them much help.


What I know about removal is second-hand, but it might help.

I believe that laser removal is expensive, and it will probably leave a scar. The scar could be very noticable or not-so-noticable, probably depends on the size and darkness of the tattoo being removed.

A friend of mine opted to have several tattoos covered with new work, rather than removed. The main consideration was the cost. A new tattoo cost her about $100, while removal would have cost about $1000, which she didn’t have.

Not that this applies to you, but many plastic surgeons (or whoever does this stuff) will remove gang tattoos for free.

I also think that it can take multiple sessions to completely erase a tattoo, and that can add to the cost.

Not much, I know, but maybe a web search about plastic surgery would yield better results.

If the tattoo is very thin and linear (which it sounds like) it might be cheaper/easier to have the skin removed. This will leave a thin scar - any tattoo removal will leave some scarring - but because it’s thin you won’t need skin grafting, they’ll be able to pull the wound edges together and let them heal. It might be possible to do in one go rather than the multiple treatments laser removal of a dark tattoo requires. You’d still want to talk to a plastic/reconstructive surgeon, so you’ll get the best result possible. Take your time, ask for more than one opinion and discuss your options. It’s very important to have confidence in your doctor and not wind up with a scar that looks worse than the tattoo.

You didn’t say how dark your skin was, but since scars heal white I know some dark-skinned folks who got tattoos removed then had the scars tattooed to a better match with their skin color. Not pictures, just the color.

I have no first-hand knowledge of tattoo removal, but some close second-hand knowledge. My sister-in-law, A, got a number of ill-advised tattoos in her youth, including ones on her hands; these, obviously, hampered her somewhat when it was time to enter the World o’ Work. Heck, they hampered her pretty much everywhere she encountered adults - applying for home loans, going to the store, etc. I should add that these tattoos were a) gang-related and b) not very well-done. (For good reason: most reputable tat places won’t do hands or minors - especially without parental permission, but oftentimes they won’t do 'em at all.)

A was depressed and worried about her tattoos, particularly her hand tattoos. My mother, who is nothing if not very determined, found out that one of our best local dermatology/plastic surgery practices offered gang-tattoo removal for free, and got A into the program. The removal involved lasers, 8 visits, and pain. A did not enjoy it at all. However, she’s really happy with the results: A now has a tattoo-free body, and only very small scars where the tats used to be. The hand scars are almost completely unnoticeable, and it’s impossible to tell how she got them. The ones on her arms and back are slightly more obvious, but not seriously so. (They did some extra work - dunno what, exactly - on her hands, to minimize or else remove the scarring. In the beginning, the scars there were more noticeable.)


  1. As I said, A’s tattoos were done badly in the first place. Better ones would’ve been harder to remove.
  2. If the removal had not been free, A could not have afforded it at all; this is one heck of an expensive practice, even for LA, and she would probably have paid in the 10k - 15k range for all the work they did. Of course, A had multiple tattoos, and she had those hand tattoos, which caused more of a problem.
  3. If your problem isn’t with the idea of tattoos, but rather your tattoo specifically, you may first want to visit a very good tattoo artist and see if he can do some cleanup or alteration work on it. Lord knows it’d be cheaper.
  4. If you really, really want the tattoo gone, you probably will have a scar. And the quality of the work - not to mention the quality of the scar - will depend greatly on where you go. A was fortunate in that my mom is very familiar with the local medical community and thus knew exactly who should do the removal. In other words, research is crucial; do your legwork before you do the laser work.

I used to work for a chap who had many tattoos, but had them removed because he had climbed to a level of management within the company that he felt they were no longer appropriate.

He had letters (L O V E and H A T E I think) on his knuckles that he had done himself as a teenager; these responded very well to laser treatment and left no visible scars.

He had a largish tattoo on the back of his hand which responded fairly well; there was no noticeable scarring, but the skin retained a slight greenish tinge (apparently the green dye is the hardest to be rid of for some reason). He keeps himself fairly well tanned, so it doesn’t notice (even the laser-treated areas seem to tan OK).

He didn’t do anything about the tattoos that were covered by a normal business shirt. (In fact I think he may have had a new tattoo done on his back recently - last time I saw him he was saying he would)

I went to both of the plastic surgeons who do tattoo removal in this area (Northwest Ohio). Both doctors told me basically the same thing about the tattoo, that it would take around 10 sessions, $200 a session. I asked them about cutting it out, but my tattoo is thin lines, but there are several thin lines all intertwined, so the whole thing is about an inch wide. The drs said it would leave a lot more scarring than laser.

The second doctor (who I liked a lot and would highly recommend) was able to start the treatments right away, so I went ahead and got the laser done. Whoever said it was like a rubber band snapping your arm was WRONG. It’s like bending a paper clip straight, holding it in a flame to get it hot, and then scratching your arm. It’s still pretty bruised now (2 days later) and I can’t see much fading yet.
Thanks for all the suggestions and help, this is a pretty scary process. I’ll keep you all posted on the progress