In general, the average cost of removing a tattoo will be at least as much as getting the tattoo did, but it often costs much more. At our practice, we charge between $200 – 650 per treatment, regardless of the laser used, based on the size and complexity of the tattoo. You should expect between 4-10+ total treatments. This means the full laser tattoo removal cost at our New Jersey offices can be anywhere between $800 – 6,500+.
The second most common question we get (after “how much does tattoo removal cost?”) is, “how long will it take to completely remove my tattoo?”
You can see why with cost ranges and treatment timelines like these, it’s really a good idea to put effort into limiting your costs and maximizing the results of each treatment using the information on this page.
If you’re looking for more general information on how laser tattoo removal works or the specific lasers we use, you can find that information on our Laser Tattoo Removal Page.
What to Avoid (i.e. The Big Mistakes That Make Tattoo Removal Expensive, Dangerous, and Time-Consuming)
There are a couple of big mistakes that you can make when it comes to tattoo removal:
- Hurting yourself by trying do-it-yourself techniques at home
- Picking the wrong provider
- Provider Using the wrong laser (or the wrong setting) for your ink and/or skin tone
- Infection, sun damage, or inflammation that disrupts the healing process
- Buying your treatments one at a time – and not taking advantage of reduced-price packages
The worst situations we see are in patients who create scar tissue that encapsulates the ink and scars it in place. When this happens, the ink cannot be broken up by tattoo removal lasers until the scar tissue is first broken up by scar resurfacing lasers. It dramatically increases the cost and timeline to full removal.
Our newest tattoo laser, the PiQo4, is the highest-powered laser being used on humans. We had to rewire our offices to be able to power it, and you can easily shoot holes in wood flooring with it. But nothing clears ink as fast as that laser. You just need to make sure it’s being used by a skilled physician who understands the underlying physics of laser tattoo removal.
One of the (fortunate) consequences of lasers becoming higher-powered is that they’ve become intimidating (and expensive) enough that you really don’t see inexperienced providers offering these newer lasers.
The best laser tattoo removal provider has a selection of the best lasers – we have about 6 different lasers we use for tattoo removal because no 1 laser does it all well. In doing research, always look at before & after photos that show they’re capable of removing tattoos like yours (tattoo ink color, size, placement if on face or sensitive areas) on patients that look like you (similar skin tone).
Ensure the provider is a physician or licensed and legal provider of laser tattoo removal treatments (in New Jersey, that’s RNs, ARNPs, PAs, and doctors). Occasionally we see tattoo artists or aestheticians offering to provide this service, and they really lack the know-how and supervision to provide a safe and effective service. We can partner with your tattoo artist if you’re looking for a coverup and need a lightening or complete removal first.
You should feel comfortable with your provider, and confident that they can explain to you what complications are possible and how that would change your tattoo removal process. The best cosmetic providers of any service know that complications are possible, although they rarely happen, and you need a provider who knows how to handle the hard stuff in case it ends up happening to you.
We have seen our share of patients who have had bad complications from tattoos and tattoo removals done elsewhere. We’re the office other offices call when things go wrong, and that means we know how to avoid problems, and how to handle them if they do arise.
Finally, a well-qualified provider can explain the physics behind their settings choices — tattoo lasers come with very few “pre-sets” in their systems, unlike other categories like laser hair removal. This is because every tattoo is different and needs different settings to treat it correctly.
Laser settings include Joules (amount of energy being sent out in each pulse), spot size (how diffuse the energy is spread – works in a 3D spot, so also increases depth), pulse duration (fractions of a second), and wavelength. Most laser devices only have 1-3 wavelengths, and they target different colors of ink particles, so that one’s the easiest to get right.
Most people who don’t know what they’re talking about won’t be able to walk you through the settings for Joules, pulse duration, and spot size for your treatment, so that’s a good way to fact-check their knowledge.
In life, the best services are never the cheapest, and tattoo removal is no different. However, the biggest determination of cost is going to be the number of sessions you need. The more effective each session is, the fewer you’ll need, and effectiveness comes down to the laser being used, how it’s being used (provider knowledge and skill), and how well you take care of your tattoo before and after each treatment.
What actually doesn’t matter at all is if you decide to wait longer than necessary between treatments. So it may end up being cheaper overall if you wait until you can afford another treatment with a great provider vs. having more treatments with someone who doesn’t do as good of a job.
After you’ve picked the best laser tattoo removal professional for your treatments…
Let’s talk about what you can do to make sure your treatments are as effective (and cost-effective) as possible.
By ensuring each treatment is as effective as possible, you can help bring down your laser tattoo removal costs There are a couple of really important steps you can take before each session to make the most of the treatment:
- Shave and cleanse the area: you want the skin to be free of hair, which is also dark-colored and would attract the laser heat (and not only hurt but possibly create more pain and inflammation in the skin), and you also want to make sure there are no lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or other chemicals on the skin that could react to the laser negatively. We do use alcohol wipes to cleanse the area before treatment, but thick products might need more intense cleansing to completely remove, so it’s something for you to avoid the day of treatment.
- Do not tan for at least 2 weeks prior because tanning, or really any non-protected sun exposure of the skin, creates inflammation, and that inflamed skin has the potential to cause a very bad reaction when it is hit by the laser, with the potential to create complications and negative side effects.
- Use Tylenol or Ibuprofen, not Advil in the weeks leading up to and following any treatments, because Advil is a blood thinner, and you don’t want to increase the likelihood of bruising.
- Stop Vitamin E 2 weeks prior because Vitamin E is a natural blood thinner and it takes about 2 weeks for your body to “return to normal.” Do not stop any prescription medications, even if they are blood thinners, without getting the express permission of your prescribing doctor. We generally do not recommend you to stop these, as they don’t tend to impact the results of the treatment.
- Don’t drink for 24 hours before or after treatment because alcohol works as a blood thinner and makes bruising and inflammation much more possible, though this shouldn’t impact your actual results, it could lead to a painful bruise.
- Avoid the sun: you’ll want to protect your tattoo from the sun, especially after treatment with a laser, when sun exposure can cause inflammation and in extreme cases, complications and scarring.
- Keep your tattoo moisturized to help it heal as well as possible after laser treatment.
- Keep your tattoo clean to prevent infection and complications.
Tattoo removal is one of the hardest types of laser treatments to provide well, and one of the most expensive “spot” treatments for patients. Why is that?
- Tattoo removal lasers come with very few presets, so providers need a lot of training (and understanding of the underlying laser physics as well as tattoo styles and ink ingredients) to be able to select the right settings.
- Tattoo removal lasers are not cheap – in fact, the newest ones cost north of $300,000. And the best tattoo removal clinics have several different lasers they use – and yes, they all require quite a bit of maintenance and repair, not to mention the utility bill for the electricity (which can be several thousand dollars each month for either of our offices).
- For example, Dr. Arash Akhavan in NYC is often cited as a tattoo removal specialist, but he has only invested in 1 tattoo removal laser, the picosure. We have 4 lasers just for tattoo removal, including the world’s highest-powered picosecond laser, the PiQo4.
- Laser tattoo removal can only be provided by those with advanced degrees. At our office, laser tattoo removal is only provided by doctors. We would allow other providers, with adequate medical training (ARNPs, RNs, or PAs) to perform tattoo removal after they’ve proven their knowledge of laser physics in tattoo removal and with sufficient experience using other lasers. However, while we have had several nurses who provide laser treatments at our practice in the past, none have demonstrated the level of mastery we would require for this role specifically. That should tell you something about other clinics that have novice nurses providing this treatment – it’s really not for the inexperienced – and the science behind tattoo removal is actually much, much more complex than that for skin resurfacing or laser hair removal.
You might be wondering to yourself, “okay, but how much is it to get a tattoo removed?” and for that, we’ll direct you to our price list for tattoo removal.
Even though it can seem like laser tattoo removal is an exact science, your results can depend on many different factors. One of the most important is your expected results: while some patients want complete removal, others simply want to fade it for a coverup piece, or to remove only the shading, or a portion of the design for a revision. Additionally, many different factors about your tattoo itself can affect your results. These include things like whether it’s a professional or amateur tattoo (this impacts the technique used to deposit the ink), which colors have been used (which ink formulations were used can have a big impact), how it’s layered, its depth, and its location on the body.
Location is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, thinner or thicker skin can affect some adjustments made during treatment. Secondly, removing a tattoo that is located closer to certain parts of the lymphatic system will fade more quickly. The size of your tattoo can also determine the length of your treatment sessions and the cost of laser tattoo removal, which can be important to many patients.
Our cosmetic physicians have plenty of experience in laser tattoo removal and can give you the best idea of what to expect from your personalized treatment plan. Although these factors don’t usually have an impact on the effectiveness of removing a tattoo, they can have an impact on the number of treatment sessions and which laser systems are used.
If you’d like to discuss tattoo removal by laser with one of our skilled laser physicians, please contact us.