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What to expect

Does Tattoo Removal Hurt?

If you’re planning on tattoo removal, you’re probably wondering about the pain factor. Does laser tattoo removal hurt a lot? you wonder, weighing the potential pain against the desire to just be rid of that old tattoo. Is tattoo removal pain as bad as getting the tattoo in the first place? Set your worries aside—here’s why laser tattoo removal is not as painful as you think.

How Painful Is Tattoo Removal?

Tattoo removal does hurt a bit, but Removery’s clients often say it feels no more painful than getting slapped by a rubber band. The pain experienced during laser tattoo removal is very minor. 

Laser tattoo removal is the most effective process available. Any method that claims to be pain-free is not actually doing much to remove the ink from the skin, whereas more painful tattoo removal methods are likely to cause long-term damage and permanent scarring. 

Our Picoway tattoo removal method causes less pain than most other tattoo removal techniques. It’s also faster, meaning less time spent undergoing the minor pain of tattoo removal.

“The procedure does come with some degree of pain; the stinging sensation of which could be compared to the flicking of an elastic band against the skin,” says Dr. Rekha Tailor, medical director of Health & Aesthetics. 

How long does pain last after the tattoo removal session is over? Normally it goes away within a few hours. You might simply feel like you have a sunburn until then. If the sensation continues for several days after tattoo removal treatment, contact the Removery clinical team to make sure you’re not experiencing an infection or allergic reaction (both of which are extremely rare). 

 

tattooed couple holding handsImage source

Does Tattoo Removal Hurt More Than Getting Tattooed?

 

People have different levels of pain tolerance—and anxiety about pain—but laser tattoo removal feels less painful than getting tattooed. Many people compare the pain of tattoo removal to the discomfort caused by a sunburn. 

Does tattoo removal hurt more on some parts of the body than others? Absolutely. The parts of the body where the skin is closer to the bone are more sensitive to a tattoo needle, meaning they’re also more sensitive to a laser. One of Removery’s experienced technicians notes that getting a tattoo can feel like being licked by a cat’s rough tongue or being scratched with hot claws, depending on the tattoo’s location.

How much does a tattoo hurt, compared to laser tattoo removal? Laser removal doesn’t usually feel as painful as being scratched with hot claws, but certain spots on the body will feel more sensitive than others. Many people say it feels unpleasant but definitely not unbearable. You wouldn’t want to experience it all day, but for 10 or 15 minutes, most people find that it’s not a big deal. 

Tattoo Removal Pain Factors

 

Laser tattoo removal sessions are significantly shorter than most tattoo application sessions. They usually take three to five minutes, whereas tattooing sessions can last for hours. That means less time spent in discomfort than while getting tattooed.


So, how painful is laser tattoo removal? That depends on several factors, such as:

  • Size of the tattoo
  • The thickness and darkness of the linework
  • The colors of the ink
  • Age of the tattoo
  • The number of sessions you’ve had
  • Where the tattoo is located
  • Your level of pain tolerance

Some of these factors, like the size, style of linework, and colors, affect the length of sessions. For a very small tattoo, a laser tattoo removal session may only take a minute or two. For larger ones, you may be sitting there for up to twenty minutes. Although the pain may be the same, it’s reassuring to know a tattoo removal treatment will only last a moment.


tattooed woman on the beach
Image source

How many sessions to remove a tattoo? That depends on several factors, such as the color of the ink used. Black is much easier to remove than light blue or yellow, for instance. 

People often say the process gets easier after each laser tattoo removal session. Not only is there less ink to remove later on, but they know what to expect, which relieves their fears about tattoo removal.

How Tattoo Age Affects Laser Tattoo Removal Pain

 

Does tattoo removal hurt less for an older tattoo? Yes, a tattoo’s age does play a role in how much pain you experience with laser removal. Why? Some of the ink has already vanished, so tattoo removal sessions are less intensive and take less time than the removal of a newer tattoo.

Parts of the Body Where Removal Hurts the Least

 

In “meatier” places like the thighs, calves, and biceps, laser removal usually causes less pain. Why? These spots have more muscle mass and more fat, which creates a buffer to keep pain at bay. Meanwhile, bonier areas with a lot of nerve endings are more sensitive. For instance, laser tattoo removal will hurt more on the shins than on the calves. 

Here are a few other areas that tend to experience less pain:

  • The shoulders
  • The upper arms
  • The front of the thighs

Most of the back tends to be less painful for women during tattoo removal, except for the area around the spine. Areas with taut skin, like the top of the thigh, also tend to be less sensitive than areas with looser skin.

Parts of the Body Where Removal Hurts the Most

 

body pain heat map

Where does tattoo removal hurt the most? Certain places have more sensitivity during tattoo removal treatments because the skin is closer to the bone. For instance, laser tattoo removal on the ankle or fingers could hurt more for that reason. Additionally, while you can easily let some parts of the body rest after laser removal, it’s hard or impossible not to move other parts (like your ankle). 

 

The following are some of the more painful areas for laser tattoo removal:

 

  • The joints. At the knees, elbows, and ankles, the skin is close to the bone, making them more sensitive to laser tattoo removal. You’ll also be moving them frequently after your session, which can increase the pain experienced after your sessions. 
  • The ribs and sternum. The rib cage is one of the trickiest places for tattoo removal (and tattooing). Not only is the skin close to the bone, but the act of breathing may also prolong the discomfort caused by removal. 
  • The fingers and feet. These extremities have a lot of nerve endings, making both tattooing and tattoo removal more uncomfortable. 
  • The area around the armpit. Because this spot has very thin skin, it tends to be one of the most sensitive places to undergo laser removal treatment.
  • The head. Anywhere on the head tends to experience a high level of sensitivity during tattoo removal. 

Again, the areas where tattoos hurt most are the same places where laser removal causes more discomfort.

This tattoo pain level chart shows the differences in pain levels experienced on certain parts of the body when getting a tattoo. These differences also apply to laser tattoo removal, though the pain will be lower than what you felt when getting the tattoo.

Different areas, different sensations

 

Where your tattoo is on your body can also affect how uncomfortable the removal process can be too.
Read on for more detail below.
different areas different sensations

Skin sensitivity

 

Different areas of your body have varying levels of sensitivity. Body parts with thinner skin and more nerve endings, such as the face, neck, and hands, tend to be more sensitive. That’s why tattoo removal in these areas can be a little more uncomfortable than usual.

Bone proximity

 

Tattoos near bones or areas with less fatty tissue can be more painful to remove. Bones conduct heat and sensation more readily, making the treatment sensation more intense.

Nerve density

 

Areas with a higher concentration of nerve endings, such as the fingers, toes, and genitals, are generally more sensitive. Laser energy targeting the tattoo pigments can stimulate these nerve endings, leading to increased discomfort.

Blood flow

 

Areas with greater blood circulation, like the face or extremities, may experience more pain due to the increased sensitivity of the blood vessels.

Tattoo characteristics

 

The characteristics of the tattoo itself can affect the way it feels during removal. Professional tattoos with deep ink penetration and multiple layers may require more laser energy, leading to increased discomfort.

As always, we are here to help you through the process and you can ask for regular breaks if you
need them.

The most common tattoo removal pain analogies

We’re firing a high intensity light into your skin so minor side effects are extremely common post tattoo removal. If you see any of the following side effects, don’t be alarmed.

Tattoo Removal Pain Analogies
Rubber band snapping

Remember middle school? Yeah, we try not to either. If you’ve ever had a rubber band snapped on your skin you know it’s a quick, annoying pain. It’s also over really fast. We think this usually a good way an example of the feel.

Like getting a tattoo

Pretty much what you would expect. If you don’t remember what getting your tattoo was like, it’s honestly a similar level to that. Everyone handles pain differently, but you were strong enough to get the tattoo in the first place.

Sunburn sensation

This is a common comparison we hear during treatments, especially right after the session ends. That’s why we have cool air blowing on the affected area the whole time.

Slight electric shock

We’re zapping you with a laser. It makes sense that we hear this a lot. There’s a good chance that people also think this because of the “popping” sound you can hear during treatment. It’s more mental than anything, and we promise there is no lightning hitting your skin.

Bee sting

Over the years we’ve heard people describe the feeling in lots of imaginative ways. But as pain tolerance and sensitivity can vary from person to person, it’s probably going to be different for you. One person’s bee sting is another person’s sunburn.

The most common tattoo removal pain analogies

We’re firing a high intensity light into your skin so minor side effects are extremely common post tattoo removal. If you see any of the following side effects, don’t be alarmed.

  • Remember middle school? Yeah, we try not to either. If you’ve ever had a rubber band snapped on your skin you know it’s a quick, annoying pain. It’s also over really fast. We think this usually a good way an example of the feel.

  • Pretty much what you would expect. If you don’t remember what getting your tattoo was like, it’s honestly a similar level to that. Everyone handles pain differently, but you were strong enough to get the tattoo in the first place.

  • This is a common comparison we hear during treatments, especially right after the session ends. That’s why we have cool air blowing on the affected area the whole time.

  • We’re zapping you with a laser. It makes sense that we hear this a lot. There’s a good chance that people also think this because of the “popping” sound you can hear during treatment. It’s more mental than anything, and we promise there is no lightning hitting your skin.

  • Over the years we’ve heard people describe the feeling in lots of imaginative ways. But as pain tolerance and sensitivity can vary from person to person, it’s probably going to be different for you. One person’s bee sting is another person’s sunburn.

Tattoo Removal Pain Management

 

Still concerned about the pain from tattoo removal? Here are some tips for managing it as well as possible, both during and after the removal process.

  • Take Tylenol before your session, and then again as needed later on. (Do not take ibuprofen, which can thin the blood, causing excessive bleeding during laser removal.)
  • Care for your body well, getting enough rest, eating balanced meals, and avoiding alcohol and smoking.
  • Practice a relaxation technique like deep breathing to minimize anxiety.
  • Use an antibacterial ointment to speed healing after laser tattoo removal.
  • There are some numbing creams that be used before laser removal.

Follow these tattoo removal aftercare tips, and you’re very unlikely to have any issues with pain management during or after tattoo removal!

How Can I Make Laser Tattoo Removal Less Painful?

 

With Removery! As you can see, though tattoo removal does hurt a little, this minor pain is very manageable. Please give us a call at 1-866-465-0090 to talk one-on-one with an experienced specialist about what to expect at your appointment. We’re more than happy to talk through any lingering fears, so you can start your tattoo removal journey with confidence. Or, book a tattoo removal consultation!

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