Updated: May 27, 2020
"Dorian, I know you preach natural tattoo removal. And after reading your guide I am already planning to buy my ingredients. But my wife is in the laser removal camp and has already done her first session. How much longer of a ride are we in for?"
Well the good news is that since you'll see results faster than she could hope to, you may be able to get her off of those expensive laser treatments :-)
But let's say she sticks to her guns and goes the full laser route. As much as I advocate the all-natural approach, I never say that laser removal in ineffective, since it's not. It's just more expensive and time-consuming. And a higher risk of side effects but that's the topic for a different article.
Six months minimum for laser-based methods
Why does it take so long? The sessions themselves are actually pretty quick, the technicians will laser the affected area for only a few minutes at a time. Their goal is to slowly vaporize the subdermal ink.
So why does it take so long? Because the process is imperfect and skin cells around the ink are also heated and damaged to some degree. If the damage is excessive we call that a complication or even a scar. But it happens every time to some degree, and that's why your wife needs to wait several weeks before she can go in for another session.
Six months is about the minimum time you can expect before a laser-based treatment reaches a satisfactory level of fading. How long can it go on for? Well the sky is really the limit, but as a probable upper bounds I'll say about two years. And those will be for bigger or more complex tattoos.
Color counts for removal time
Color heavily plays a part as well. Black, red, and deep blue tends to fade faster. Violets, greens, and other light colors especially will take much longer to remove, closer to two years than six months.
If you have a tattoo on one of the sensitive parts of your body, first of all you're a trooper for getting it done in the first place! Second, yes it's going to take longer too. As the skin is sensitive more time between sessions is needed to make sure everything remains safe, or at least as safe as possible.
All-natural tattoo removal isn't just about money
Have you checked out my laserless tattoo removal guide yet? See here: Laserless Tattoo Removal
A lot of people think at home tattoo removal is just about saving money, when in fact I think most of my customers get more out of removing it in just a few weeks then waiting months or years! I mean, how long do you really want to wait to get that ex's name off after a breakup? If you're going back to the dating scene, do you really want to wait a year with someone else's name on your shoulder?
Methods based on exfoliation seem fast when compared to year-long laser removal. But I actually consider it to be a slow process. First of all you need to apply in exfoliant several times for day (for most of the methods described in the guide). Layer by layer, the ink starts coming off. It takes several weeks before satisfactory level of fate is achieved.
But hey, I'll take weeks over years any day!
What can I do if my tattoo isn't completely faded?
This is probably the most common issue with laser removals. You have a level of fade that leaves the tattoo less visible than before you started but still oddly visible, like a ghost tattoo that someone can still see if they look right at it.
Not a fun place to be.
The good news for you guys who haven't gone through this is that your tattoo is lower risk if it's solid colored. Complicated multicolored tattoos are more difficult to fade because different inks respond in different ways to the ink removal lasers. There's a tendency for part of the tattoo to be more visible than other parts, another reason I recommend doing a cover up as first option (more than just a bit).
High complexity, lower fade
The most difficult tattoos for the lasers are multicolored tattoos that are also highly complex in nature. I'm talking about intricate patterns like sweeping back designs with full on backgrounds and character details down to the hairs and facial gestures. Oh boy, those ones will likely not fade completely.
The more detail, the more ink used. And if some of the tattoo is flesh colored, red, tan, or white, you can be sure that you're looking at a partial removal from the lasers at best.
Natural removal tends to fade more evenly
Of course you don't need to wait until a laser removal returns a subpar result. Check out my laserless removal guide if you haven't already for lower cost, at home removal methods.: Laserless Tattoo Removal
You know why you haven't seen these techniques on TV? Because they're not good moneymakers. They're low-cost and don't require a doctor. Thankfully, ink under the skin isn't a terribly difficult problem to solve, especially with the right ingredients and removal process.