Tattoo removal: is it expensive to change your mind?

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Seen as cool and sexy, tattoos today enjoy broad social acceptance. But anyone thinking of getting a tattoo should think it over well. Changing your mind later can be painful and expensive.

«Think before you ink.» Thinking twice also applies to anyone wanting to get rid of their tattoo. Before having a tattoo removed, it's important to consider the risks and chances of success. We answer the key questions on the subject of tattoo removal.

How are tattoos removed?

Laser treatment is the most common and also most successful method of removing tattoos. Picosecond lasers – by which the laser light breaks down the pigments on the skin into small individual parts – are regarded as the most efficient. In a professional tattoo, the pigments are applied to the middle layer of the skin, which means that the upper layer of the skin is spared. As a result, the risk of scarring is lower than with methods which involve cutting the skin or the use of heat (diathermy).

What does tattoo removal cost and how much does the health insurance pay?

A session costs around CHF 200-500. Depending on how many sessions are necessary, a tattoo removal can cost up to several thousand francs. The costs of removal and complications due to the treatment are not covered by the health insurance.

What are the chances of success?

While dark tattoo inks are usually easier to remove than light shades, another crucial factor is the composition of the ink. Since tattoo inks aren't subject to authorisation, their composition is often unknown. This makes the removal process all the more difficult and traces may remain.

How long does it take until the tattoo is removed?

Removing a tattoo requires several sessions with several weeks of rest in between. How many sessions are necessary depends on the size, quality and colours of the tattoo. Usually a removal takes 6-15 sessions, but the exact number can never be accurately predicted. In other words, treatment can take up to a year or longer.

How painful is laser treatment?

As with the application of the tattoo, the pain of laser treatment depends on the body part and the own pain sensitivity. Some people find the laser treatment more painful than the application, others find the opposite.

What are the risks of laser treatment?

Risks include scarring, changes to the skin, and allergic reactions. However, with professional treatment using powerful lasers, the risk is low.

More problematic is the possibility of the inks containing high-risk substances which may deposit themselves in the body after the treatment. In addition, it cannot be ruled out that the treatment may generate toxic fission products. The long-term risks of laser treatment are not yet known and are therefore difficult to assess from a health perspective.

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Where is the best place to have my tattoo removed?

Stay away from treatments with heat, acids and abrasion to the skin to avoid the risk of scars and damaged skin.
Only have your tattoo removed by a doctor, ideally a dermatologist, as doctors use more powerful lasers than those in cosmetic or tattoo studios. A medical professional is essential, not only to ensure that you receive reliable advice but also in the event of any complications or side effects.

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