The problem with this question that there is no straightforward answer. Some laser operators will tell you that 4 treatments might do it but then after four laser treatments the tattoo maybe faded but it is still there.
Did your laser operator lie? Yes probably. The ink may well fade after 4 treatments but unfortunately mopping up the last of the ink can be difficult. This is because there is no a lot of ink for the laser beam to find to treat. The laser operator has to then start turning the laser up and that can be when you could run into problems like blistering and scarring. Not so much of a problem if you are planing on doing a coverup tattoo but what I always tell my clients during the initial consultation is “if you dont like your tattoo now, you probably will really not like it once I start playing with it!”
So how do you estimate how many laser sessions you might need to remove a tattoo? I personally use the Kirby-Desai Scale. The Kirby-Desai tool was developed to help estimate the number of treatments needed for full tattoo removal. Two skin specialists created the scale to measure the different factors that can affect tattoo removal. The scale, named the Kirby-Desai scale, is based on clinical research conducted in 2009 and is said to be 80% accurate.
80% accurate may not seem that accurate to you but this scale has set a bench mark for professional laser tattoo removal operators and it is certainly better than licking your finger and holding it up to the wind.
I personally find some other variables as well:
- is the client fit? (Yes, take off a couple of treatments)
- does the client smoke (add at least 5 treatments!)
- is it a professional tattoo (harder to remove)
- what is in the ink? (generally no one knows)
So as you can see there are lots of variables .