The Number of Treatments Required for Laser Tattoo Removal
How many treatments will I need to have my tattoo gone?
This is one of the most frequent questions asked by my patients who present for laser tattoo removal. It is unfortunately one of the most difficult to answer with the level of accuracy that we expect in modern medicine. At times despite using the proper and best of lasers we simply can not remove all of the ink. The blame falls in the ink itself in that its manufactured to last a lifetime and may have substances mixed in such as titanium that make the ink less sensitive to UV light but also make laser removal very difficult.
The best answer I can give is the average person requires 8.3 treatments for clearance of their tattoo using lasers. However,just saying a number of laser tattoo removal treatments is misleading because I have had complete clearing of an amateur tattoo in 1 session while other patients required over 12 treatments.
As opposed to just averaging the number of laser treatments it takes to clear a tattoo , I prefer discussing in person with every individual patient their personal probability of clearing their unwanted tattoo with laser tattoo removal. This adds credibility to the figure as opposed to “pulling a number out of the air” and gives the patient a mental endpoint.
I believe the Kirby-Desi score gives a fairly accurate number of laser tattoo removal treatments required and takes a lot of factors into consideration.
Major factors regarding laser tattoo removal treatment count:
Skin Type ( darker tones require more sessions)
Tattoo Location ( Lower position require more sessions)
Colors ( Multiple colors require multiple lasers and more sessions)
Volume of ink ( large solid tattoos will require more sessions)
Cover Ups ( at least 2 more sessions)
Scars ( tattoos that thicken with scars require more sessions)
The head and neck having very high lymphatic drainage clear quickly while toe tattoos are the slowest to clear.
Laser Tattoo Removal Intangibles
Laser tattoo removal more than other medical procedures has many intangible factors that neither I nor my patient has any control over. Some are minor points but others can greatly impact on the success of you laser tattoo removal as well as your overall number of treatments. These include:
The type and quality of the tattoo ink
The chemical composition of that ink, its not regulated so it may contain compounds that give the artist their special look but make laser tattoo removal difficult.
Is there any white ink mixed in the color ( white will not come out)
How much scaring occurred from the tattoo placement
The integrity if your immune system
Why Must I Wait 6 Weeks Before Getting Another Treatment?
I discussed how Q-Switched lasers break up the ink and fine scar introducing the ink to you waiting immune system cells. The reason we wait at least 6 weeks for each subsequent treatment is to allow the scar to reform and immune cells to build so when we laser the tattoo again we introduce another “load” of ink the the immune system.