It's no coincidence that "tattoo removal Singapore" is one of the most searched phrases on Google - 1 in every 4 persons regret ever getting a tattoo.
Be it removal of a tattoo or fading it for a cover-up, these 17 key points about tattoo removal will guide you in your tattoo removal journey.
1. What is the best method to remove tattoos in Singapore?
A medical-grade laser is the most effective way to remove tattoos. Not all lasers are equal! The current state of the art tattoo removal technology available in Singapore is the Picosecond Q-switched Nd:YAG Lasers.
The Picosecond Nd:YAG Laser breaks down tattoo ink using ultra-short bursts of high energy. Subsequently, the tattoo ink will be gradually removed by your immune system.
Why does laser tattoo removal differ so much between clinics? Well, it is partly due to the cost of the machine. An expert tattoo removal doctor is nothing without a good laser.
Picosecond Lasers, the current gold standard lasers for tattoo removals, costs between $200,000 - $400,000.
Older tattoo removal lasers like the Q-switched Nano-second Lasers are cheaper at about $50,000.
2. Are spas or non-doctors allowed to perform tattoo removal in Singapore?
In fact, not all doctors are certified to operate lasers in the first place! Doctors have to undergo specific training and certification in Singapore to operate lasers.
Spas or non-doctors that advertise laser tattoo removals are either not using a medical-grade laser (ie spa-grade IPL), or illegally possessing an unlicensed laser that may cause you more harm than good!
You should also note that MOH-licensed doctor clinics are not allowed to display “Before/After” photos of tattoo removal treatment. Ironically, establishments that advertise “Before/After” tattoo removal photos on their websites are definitely not MOH-licensed medical clinics.
3. How much improvement can you expect after laser tattoo removal treatment?
Picosecond lasers can remove tattoos with 80 - 90% improvement in 4 - 5 sessions.
The most dramatic improvements are seen in the first few sessions. Some of my patients have 50 - 70% improvement after 1 session.
Inferior machines or unapproved “lasers” used by spas may take twice as many sessions to deliver similar results.
In fact, I've seen patients with minimal results after more than 10 sessions!
4. What do Singaporeans wrongly assume about tattoo removal?
I've seen many patients who tell me that they want their tattoo removed completely within one session.
Another one of my patients told me that she was promised 100% tattoo removal in 1 session by a particular clinic. She was naturally left sorely disappointed.
No doctor in Singapore can guarantee 100% tattoo removal within one session. However, the latest laser tattoo removal machines do come close to achieving maximum tattoo removal within just 1 session.
5. How much does laser tattoo removal cost in Singapore?
Picosecond lasers for tattoo removal cost $700 – $1200 per session.
3 - 8 sessions are usually required, depending on individual characteristics and your tattoo type (more below).
The estimated total bill will be about $2000 for simple tattoos. Challenging tattoos may cost up to $4000 to remove.
As you can see, effective tattoo removal in Singapore is definitely not cheap, which makes it all the more important to get it right the first time!
6. How come I have seen tattoo removal treatments that cost only $300?
Cheaper “lasers” marketed by spa groups may cost only $300 per session. However, inferior techniques of tattoo removal frequently yield poor results.
Not to mention, these cheaper lasers also carry a much higher risk of:
The worst part is that scar tissue formed due to ineffective laser machines makes it even harder for subsequent laser sessions to remove your tattoo.
Hence, choose wisely! Cost should not be your only consideration.
7. What affects the cost of tattoo removal in Singapore?
Every patient who consults me for tattoo removal is unique.
The costs for tattoo removal will differ according to how many sessions you need. This is in turn dependant on:
- Your skin type and colour
- Your tattoo size, location, and colour
I explain more about these 2 determining factors in points 8 - 12 below.
8. Tattoos on lighter skin are more easily removed
Tattoos on lighter skin are more easily removed than on darker skin.
This is because dark skin tends to absorb more laser light. When a laser beam gets in contact with the tattoo ink, some energy is absorbed by the dark skin, hence “weakening” the laser beam.
If you are darker-skinned, Picosecond lasers have been proven to safely deliver the highest amount of energy in ultra-short pulses.
Do note that there are many brands of Picosecond lasers in the market. For the best results and safety, choose a doctor who uses Picosecond lasers which have been specifically tried-and-tested on darker Asian skin.
9. Black ink tattoos are more easily removed than red or blue ink tattoos
Black ink has the highest success rate for tattoo removal.
Red, yellow and blue ink tattoos require special wavelengths and types of lasers.
Clinics that specialise in tattoo removals will have several lasers with different wavelengths to treat each colour of tattoo ink precisely and effectively. These treatments are often more pricey in Singapore.
10. Smaller tattoos are more easily removed
It goes without saying that smaller tattoos are easier to remove, hence fewer laser sessions are needed.
This is because the laser has a smaller area to focus on, which means that laser beams are delivered in higher concentration.
11. Tattoos closer to your heart are more easily removed
The closer the tattoo is to your heart, the better the blood circulation and fading of the tattoo after treatment.
Tattoos located in areas with poorer blood circulation tend to result in poorer outcomes. This includes limb and ankle tattoos. Hence, more sessions will be required to completely remove your tattoo.
12. Tattoos by amateur artists are more easily removed
Generally, tattoos by amateur artists are easier to remove.
Professional tattoos penetrate deeper and are saturated with more ink. This requires a more powerful laser to shatter the pigments.
13. How painful is tattoo removal?
My patients tell me that the process of removing a tattoo is nearly as painful as getting the tattoo.
I use a combination of techniques to minimise discomfort:
- Cooler during laser treatment
- Local anaesthesia
14. Will tattoo removal leave any scars?
*Tattoos are scars, so you're removing a scar!*
There is a small risk of scarring and residual pigmentation changes, which can be hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation.
You may be more prone to these side effects if you have:
- Darker skin
- Colourful tattoos
- Large tattoos
15. How long is the downtime for laser tattoo removal?
The downtime is usually 3 to 7 days of skin redness and mild scabbing. During this time, sun protection is of utmost importance.
Post-laser care is the difference between achieving a good result and the development of complications.
16. How can you get the best results after tattoo removal treatment?
Most tattoo removal doctors rarely emphasise on the importance of post-laser care. Similar to getting quality rest and diet after a strenuous workout, a comprehensive post-laser recovery protocol is necessary to maximise results and minimise complications.
More effective and faster recovery means that you can achieve your tattoo removal in fewer sessions.
I speed up the recovery process using a recovery protocol of low-level light therapy, medical-grade recovery creams, wound dressing and high-grade sun-block. This usually halves the recovery time.
17. How do you choose the best doctor for laser tattoo removal in Singapore?
a. Choose a doctor with experience in removing difficult tattoos
An experienced doctor who has managed difficult tattoos (eg. colourful tattoos on limbs) will be able to recommend the best treatment for you.
If you have coloured tattoos, you will need special laser wavelengths to effectively remove those tattoos.
If you are of a darker skin type, your doctor will also choose a gentler laser machine to reduce the risk of complications.
b. Choose a clinic that specialises in tattoo removals
Similar to other high-tech machines, lasers require regular maintenance and replacement of parts. The last thing you want is to go to a clinic that rarely utilises or maintains their lasers.
Picking a clinic that sees a high number of tattoo removal cases is a safe bet to ensure their Lasers are well-maintained and functioning optimally.
How will you know how many tattoo removal cases the clinic sees? Here's a tip: the duration between sessions is a good indicator. The ideal recovery time using a Picosecond laser for Tattoo removal is between 6 to 8 weeks.
It's a big red flag if the clinic asks you to come back for weekly treatments! More often than not, this would mean the clinic is using an inferior laser.
Dr Justin Boey’s practice of aesthetic medicine centres around the busy modern individual. He is experienced in Facial Aesthetics (lasers and injections) and hair loss treatments. Learn more about him here.