How many sessions?

“How many sessions will I need?”

That’s the most common question we get from clients before they decide to elect treatment.

If you were good enough to provide all the information that was requested in the Quiz section on the front page, a rough estimate can be calculated.  So let’s break it down by factors that we can easily plug in.  The result comes from a simple formula called the Kirby-Desai Scale.

  1. Skin Type – there are six types of the Fitzpatrick Skin scale. Skin typing is a rough categorization of determining pigmentation, placed into SIX types (I-VI).  The lighter the skin (towards Type I), the fewer sessions one may need; the darker the skin (towards Type VI), the more sessions are needed.
  2. Location on the Body – This has mostly do do with blood supply.  Generally, anything closer to the torso/neck/head is going to have the best blood circulation. Where you have that, you have more continuous flushing of the pigments.
  3. Amount of Ink – This is the simplest to understand.  If you take a cross-section of pigmented skin, you can see how the ink has dimension and depth. Most professional tattoo artists are injecting the inks in a way that they’re assuming you want to keep forever.  They are injected deeply, consistently and fully if they are to be displayed boldly.  The more artistic aspects of a tattoo are going to be less bold and will only be injected more shallowly (only towards the surface of the skin).  When we hit the tattoo with the laser, the topmost layer will be the first to fade and each succeeding treatment will continue to treat the deeper layers. The bolder the inks are, the deeper we have to keep going.  Unfortunately, we can’t penetrate the entire pigment in one treatment without causing severe damage to the tissue (not to mention extreme discomfort).  One generalization we can make about amateur tattoos (stick-and-poke, prison-style, Bic pen, etc) is that they aren’t too boldly injected and will fade out in fewer sessions than a professionally injected tattoo.
  4. Ink Layering – was this a cover-up tattoo?  Whatever you had going on there under your current tattoo is simply something we’re going to have to deal with and of course that’s more sessions but fortunately the laser makes a dent on the old tattoo before we’re done with fading the newer one on top.
  5. Scarring or Tissue Changes – Yep. This can require more sessions.  In some cases, complete removal may not even be possible.
  6. Colors – Believe it or not, black inks are the simplest to remove.  When you have multiple colors, especially the pretty colors like pastel blues/greens, that’s just going to be more treatments. Period.

Additional small factors which are not (or cannot be) included in the Kirby-Desai Scale are:

  1. Genetics – it’s a lottery that isn’t fair, but still worth mentioning.
  2. Age of tattoo – tattoos fade on their own over time.  A 20 year-old tattoo will have the advantage of 2-3 laser sessions.
  3. Age of host (you) – a younger individual, all things being equal, is going to slightly better results.
  4. Health Status – are you dealing with infection, heart disease, diabetes, etc?
  5. Lifestyle
  6. The amount of time allowed between laser sessions.  <– this one is worth noting.  As most of my clients would like to get the tattoo removed/faded sooner than later, if time is not an issue, simply allowing more time between sessions (up to 6 months) will require fewer sessions.  However, the most common interval in this industry is 8 weeks.