How Much Does Tattoo Removal Cost?

laser tattoo removal from back
They say tattoos are for life, but thanks to laser removal, that isn’t always the case. But how much does tattoo removal cost? Find out from this helpful guide.

45 million Americans have one or more tattoos, and 17 percent of them regret their ink. So, it’s little wonder that over the past ten years, tattoo removal clinics have increased by 400 percent.

If you’re one of these individuals, you may be wondering, “How much does tattoo removal cost?” While there’s no simple answer to this question, let’s dive into your options.

Once you’ve got a better handle on your available choices, you’ll understand why laser removal remains the standard. You’ll also have a better understanding of how laser tattoo removal cost is determined.

You’ve Got Options, But…

When it comes to tattoo removal, you’ve got options. But some are definitely much better than others.

Your options include:

  • Surgical excision
  • Dermabrasion
  • Chemical removal
  • Laser removal

The costs associated with each technique vary. These costs include monetary considerations as well as physical impacts associated with each procedure. You also have to factor in which procedures have a proven track record.

Let’s take a look at how each procedure works, its cost estimates, and important factors to keep in mind as you decide what’s right for you.

Surgical Excision

Surgical excision requires cutting out a tattoo and then stitching the skin around it back together. It leaves a surgical scar and varies in cost based on the size of the tattoo and location.

Depending on tattoo size and the complexity of the removal, it may even require a skin graft. Surgical removal of skin is an invasive procedure, and it comes with the possibility of infection and other complications.

Small tattoo removal surgeries start at $1,000. This gets you a simple office procedure using local anesthesia. More complicated tattoo removals requiring extensive skin removal, anesthesia, and skin grafts run upwards of $10,000.

The larger the skin excision, the bigger your scar area. Your risks of infection also skyrocket.


By far, dermabrasion causes the most damage to your skin. It results in ugly scars and is a painful procedure that’s not recommended.

It requires sanding away the inked skin you’d like to remove, and it’s, quite frankly, a barbaric procedure. It can take months to heal and may not even produce the desired results.

Dermabrasion can be cheaper than other tattoo removal methods. But you’ll pay for it in other ways from pain to scarring to permanently damaged skin. Side effects of dermabrasion also include bruising, swelling, infection, discoloration, and bleeding.

Like other tattoo removal methods, it takes multiple treatments to break down and remove inked areas using dermabrasion. So, even though individual treatments run in the hundreds of dollars, they add up quickly into the thousands.

Chemical Removal

Chemical removal methods include:

  • TCA peels
  • Acid Injections
  • Glycolic acid peels
  • Creams containing hydroquinone acid or trichloroacetic acid as the active ingredient

Health care professionals strongly advise against removing tattoos using any of these techniques. Dangerous chemicals are used in the process that can render you permanently scarred or even seriously injured.

These procedures lead to permanent skin damage like depigmentation and hypertrophic scars. What’s more, chemical techniques haven’t been shown effective in the removal of tattoo ink.

These procedures aren’t worth the cost, let alone the risks, associated with them. At best, they won’t work at all, and you’ll end up paying twice for tattoo removal. At worst, they could permanently disfigure you… with the tattoo still intact.

Save your money and your skin when it comes to these ineffective, dangerous methods.

Cost of Tattoo Removal with a Laser

The standard method for getting rid of unwanted tattoos remains laser removal. It’s an effective, safe procedure when done by a trained professional or dermatologist.

On average, laser ink removal takes four to 10 treatments spread out every two to three months. Of course, there are many factors that affect how many treatments you’ll need as well as the cost.

Laser removal treatments range in price from $100 to over a $1000 per session unless you visit Med Spas such as Better Off in Encinitas who charge a reasonable flat rate. In addition, Better Off Med Spa uses the PicoWay laser removal machines can remove even the most difficult color tattoos from any skin type. These laser machines tend to help reduce the number of sessions needed and thus help reduce the cost of removing your tattoo.

Let me know your thoughts.

Factors that Impact Laser Removal

The final price tag for tattoo removal ultimately comes down to the number of sessions that you must sit through.

How many sessions will you most likely need? This depends on factors such as the quality of the tattoo, how deep the tattoo artist deposited the ink beneath the skin, and your skin type.

Where you live can also play an important role in the final price for your removal. Expect to pay more in major cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco… especially when compared to regions like the Midwest.

Besides the quality of your tattoo and your geographic location, the type of facility you choose can have an impact on the price.

The Type of Facility

You may not know this, but you’ve got choices when it comes to the type of facility where you get your laser tattoo removal done. From dermatologist offices to medical spas, here’s a rundown of facilities that offer such procedures.


Dermatologists charge per session for laser removal of tattoos. But their prices tend to fall on the high end of the scale between $250 and $500 each treatment. And don’t expect your insurance to kick in.

Laser tattoo removal is not a covered procedure. So, get ready to pay out of pocket. Not all dermatologists perform laser procedures to remove ink, so you’ll need to do your research and call around.

Medical Spas

Medical Spas around the country offer laser tattoo removal. These facilities are overseen by a medical doctor and boast a relaxing spa environment. Their luxurious amenities and welcoming environment make tattoo removal less intimidating.

Medical Spas do on average four laser tattoo removal procedures each week. These removal sessions are conducted by personnel trained in a variety of state-of-the-art laser procedures. Some also employ nurses.

Private Tattoo Removal Clinics

Private tattoo removal clinics specialize solely in laser tattoo removal. Their personnel includes medical practitioners such as nurses who are trained in tattoo removal.

These clinics cost much less than dermatologists but still offer medically-trained staff. They offer great value for your money, but they lack the calm, peaceful environment of medical spas.

Tattoo Shops

Before coverups, many tattoo artists recommend fading or lightening the ink you’re covering. As a result, more and more tattoo shops are investing in laser equipment to provide customers with a few sessions before beginning a new cover-up.

Before you sit down with a tattoo artist/laser tattoo remover, however, you need to verify how and where they were trained.

Although laser tattoo removal is a safe procedure, a few sessions with an inexperienced operator can lead to damage and scarring.

Reputable Facilities

Before beginning a laser removal protocol, get evaluated by a trained laser tattoo removal specialist. A consultation should be free. If not, then move on to another location.

During your assessment, you shouldn’t feel pressured into making any decisions on the spot such as signing an agreement or starting same-day treatments. Again, this is another red flag to watch out for.

During an appointment with a reputable tattoo removal specialist, they’ll examine your ink. The specialist should be able to estimate how many treatments you’ll need for the desired results. They should answer questions, not try to sell procedures.

The Kirby-Desai Scale

They’ll use the Kirby-Desai Scale to make this estimate. The Kirby-Desai Scale lets a practitioner assign numerical values to a variety of factors associated with tattoo removal.

These factors include:

  • How much color layering is present
  • How much scarring is present
  • The amount of ink used
  • The types of colors used
  • The location on your body
  • Your skin type and color

The higher your numerical value, the more difficult tattoo removal will prove. Tattoos scoring 15 or more during this assessment are generally considered very difficult or impossible to remove.

This scale allows practitioners to provide clients with an estimated number of sessions and a solid price.

The Kirby-Desai Scale proves accurate within two to three points. This means a good practitioner should be able to predict the number of sessions required within two to three sessions.

Laser Tattoo Removal Tips

During your tattoo consultation, a reputable professional will discuss issues such as scarring. Many individuals with tattoos are surprised to find out that they already have scarring, the result of a heavy-handed tattoo artist.

You’ll want to discuss the potential presence of these scars and how they could affect the removal process. It’s important to understand that you could be left with a ghost image even after the ink’s been removed.

You also need to understand that tattoo removal is a long, expensive procedure. That way, you can make a decision you’ll feel satisfied within the long run.

You’ll also want to discuss whether or not you have a skin type that’s more prone to scarring. Tanned or dark skin tends to scar more readily.

Why? Because the epidural melanin takes in most of the radiation from the laser. This can lead to changes in appearance such as hyperpigmentation or skin darkening.

To avoid scarring, make sure your laser operator uses a Q-switched laser. They don’t penetrate very deeply into the skin. What’s more, their fast pulse ensures that the surrounding skin doesn’t get damaged.

Follow Your Medical Practitioner’s Advice

To see the best results with tattoo removal, follow your medical practitioner’s advice, whether you opt for a dermatologist or a nurse at a medical spa. After each session, make sure you follow their aftercare advice.

For example, you’ll want to avoid sun exposure to the removal area. UV rays can cause scarring as well as slow down the tattoo removal process.

If you absolutely must go outside and can’t avoid sun exposure, use a product called Desitin. It contains zinc and will block the sun’s UV rays. Slather it across the affected area to literally block these UV rays.

Your practitioner may also tell you to choose sunblocks instead of sunscreens. Sunscreens don’t provide the same protection as sunblocks, and they contain chemical irritants that could negatively impact healing.

You should also avoid alcohol and anything else that could negatively affect your immune system. Instead, eat healthy foods and get lots of rest to help your body heal and promote removal of tattoo ink using your body’s natural defenses.

Finally, many removal practitioners recommended using Aquaphor ointment or alcohol-free aloe vera gel massaged into the removal site to ease discomfort and promote healing.

The Bottom Line…

When it comes to tattoo removal, there are no miracle creams or overnight fixes. So, steer clear of claims that are too good to be true.

And watch out for barbaric procedures such as dermabrasion or chemical removal that could leave you scarred for life.

When it comes to tattoo removal, prepare for a long process that represents an investment of time and money. Find an experienced laser tattoo removal practitioner and schedule a free consultation.

During the consultation, bring a list of questions to ask the operator. Make sure that they are properly trained and certified, and make sure you understand what they can and can’t do for you.

If you feel pressured into making a decision or starting with a same-day session, then you know it’s time to move on to another facility. You should never feel pressured into making a decision.

Ask your tattoo removal specialist how many treatments they think it’ll take to get rid of your ink. Find out how much each session will cost and if they have a policy if you end up needing more treatments than they originally estimated.

How Much Does Tattoo Removal Cost?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the question: “How much does tattoo removal cost?” It depends on a variety of factors that you need to discuss with a tattoo removal specialist.

Schedule an appointment today for a free evaluation. Better Off is your destination for a healthier, happier you.

We can help you make the best decision for you when it comes to tattoo removal.