Does Tattoo Removal Hurt?
One of the top questions when thinking about tattoo removal is: does tattoo removal hurt? Well, the answer may surprise you! While we go in detail on the different ways to remove a tattoo in another post, I will summarize the options briefly below.
- Camouflage the tattoo and have another tattoo designed to cover it
- Laser the tattoo a series of laser treatments for each pigment
- Cut out the tattoo with surgical excision procedure
Tattoo Removal – Before and After
Here is a slider showing the most definitive way to remove a tattoo in one sitting – surgical excision of the tattoo and closing the skin with sutures. This is one of our actual patients at Tannan Plastic Surgery. The tattoo in the “before” picture was what remained after several laser treatments at another facility. As you can see, he had spent thousands of dollars on laser but still had a very visible tattoo. In our “after” picture, the difference between laser and cutting out the tattoo surgically is clear. Over time, the scar will soften and fade.
How Much Does Tattoo Removal Hurt?
So back to the question at hand – does tattoo removal hurt? It depends on the option you choose for removing the tattoo. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect in each case:
Option 1 – Camouflage with another tattoo. Chances are, if you are reading this, you have had a tattoo. You know what that felt like to get the ink done. Camouflaging the old tattoo with a new one, well, is not a different sort of pain, but more of the same. Most people find this pain to be minimal to moderate.
Option 2 – Laser the tattoo. As you can see from the slider above, laser therapy for tattoos is not usually a slam-dunk. Patients like the one above often still have a very visible tattoo even after 6-8 laser treatment sessions. Laser therapy for the tattoo means every time you go in, the laser (typically a 5 or 7 millimeter circle) will burn your skin each time it is fired. So it feels like a sting for each single laser zing. Then you have to cover and treat it as it heals. Unfortunately, at the following treatment, you feel the sting all over again. While the pain is minimal to moderate, the process of doing this again and again over several months is not fun. Especially if the treatments don’t work for you.
Option 3 – Surgically remove the tattoo. Of all the options, this is the one I personally perform. When I do the procedure, you probably won’t feel a thing! As a board-certified plastic surgeon, I use my knowledge of anatomy to numb you in the location of the tattoo. We wait until you are completely numb before we start. I might ask you to pick a music artist you want to listen to while I get to work. After it is all done, you can expect some soreness like you got a cut (which you did) but nothing more substantial than that. Pain and discomfort during your recovery is minimal. Best of all, one treatment is generally all it takes to remove the tattoo completely.
Choosing Which Option to Remove Your Tattoo
Just as your decision to have this tattoo was deeply personal, the removal is equally so. When you come in for your consult, the first thing we do is discuss your goals. For example, are you in the military looking to get this tattoo off as soon as possible with one treatment so you can move on ahead and get that promotion? (We offer a military discount, by the way…) Or are your changing jobs and worried about how you will be perceived with a visible tattoo? If so you may want to consider surgery as your quickest and most efficient option.
If you do not want a scar and have all the time in the world, then perhaps laser is worth a try. Just remember that sometimes even 7 or 8 laser treatments can still leave you with the tattoo, as the patient pictured above. Alternatively, if you just don’t like a particular tattoo but are fine with ink, then you might consider camouflage with another tattoo.
Either way, I am here to help you weigh the pros and cons of each option. If you choose surgical excision, we try and schedule these to be done the same day you come for your consult for your convenience. Through our process of numbing the area during the procedure, tattoo removal often doesn’t hurt at all. We work hard to make your tattoo removal and recovery as smooth and seamless as possible.