Welcome to your skin check-in with Life & Style’s resident health and beauty expert, Dr. Will Kirby, a celebrity dermatologist and Chief Medical Officer of LaserAway. Every week, he’ll be spilling his candid thoughts and professional advice on all things skin, beauty and wellness as it relates to you — and your favorite stars.

During quarantine, you had a lot of time to reflect on your past … and your body! Did you catch a peek of a regretful tribal armband, butterfly on your lower back or ex-lover’s name? Do you feel like they’re defiling your beautiful skin like graffiti on the side of a freshly painted wall? Well, the good news is tattoo removal is now an option. Here are the top ten things to know about tattoo removal!

1) You Aren’t Alone:

What are the two best days with a tattoo? The day you decided to get it put on and the day you decide to get it removed! See, tattoos are unbelievably common … and so is tattoo regret! Tens of thousands of people in the United States have tattoos on their body that they hate. As such, tattoo removal is in high demand!

2) The Gold Standard:

There are multiple ways to remove a tattoo. You can surgically excise tattoos (cut them out), freeze them, apply acid to them or even burn them off, but all of those methods will leave varying degrees of unwanted side effects including scarring, tissue texture changes, skin color changes and ink retention. All experts agree the gold standard means by which to remove a tattoo is via laser.

3) Your Body Does The Work:

The laser is an imperative part of the process as it breaks down the relatively large tattoo ink particles into smaller pieces and then your own immune system removes the ink particles.

4) Multiple Treatments:

Despite the hopes and wishes of those seeking tattoo removal, it is impossible to remove a tattoo with one laser treatment. Multiple treatments are always required and are dependent on six different major factors. The Kirby-Desai Scale is the first and most widely-utilized tool used to estimate how many treatments a given individual might need. This scale is used all across the world!

5) Treatments Are Uncomfortable:

While laser tattoo removal treatments are uncomfortable, the good news is they are really fast. A tattoo the size of a postage stamp (one square inch) usually takes less than 15 seconds to treat and a tattoo the size of a business card (seven square inches) takes less than 60 seconds to treat. The treatment isn’t a pleasant feeling but because of how fast the treatment sessions are, many patients are happy to learn that laser tattoo treatments are more tolerable than they anticipated!

6) Black Ink:

Ironically, pure black ink tattoos are the easiest to remove. See, black is by far the most prevalent tattoo ink color and many patients are relieved to find out that it is also typically easiest color ink to successfully treat. Unfortunately, many tattoo artists mix black ink with blue or even green ink and patients only find out once they start removing the black ink.

It’s surprisingly common for people to think they have an “all-black tattoo” only to later find out that their tattoo is a mixture of more than one color. And blue and green ink isn’t necessarily quick to resolve. Many people are surprised to find out that not all tattoo ink colors can be removed.

While true black ink can be removed relatively easily, some colors are more difficult to remove (teal, turquoise, etc.). Other colors may be completely impossible to remove like flesh tones, peach, browns and orange yellows. Sometimes different tattoo removal lasers will be required to remove different colors. Lastly, some colors that contain white ink (pink) may paradoxically darken!

7) Location Matters:

Tattoos in more vascular areas (like the face and neck) respond faster and more efficiently to laser tattoo removal treatments. To wit, areas with poor circulation (like distal extremities — the bony part of the ankle, as an example — respond much more slowly to treatment.

8) Exercise Can Speed Things Up:

In theory, increasing your metabolism via aerobic exercise can help speed up how fast unwanted tattoo ink resolves. While you’ll need to rest for a few days following treatment, scientists know that both vascular and lymphatic flow mediate ink removal so it makes complete sense that one should consider upping their cardio game once the treated area appears to be healed if they are undergoing laser tattoo removal treatment.

9) Side Effects:

Side effects are possible and are largely determined by your compliance with the aftercare instructions. Rest, elevation and the placement of intermittent ice packs can help minimize the chances of unwanted adverse reactions though. Often patients who experience problems with their tattoo removal treatments — like blisters or ice pack burns — fail to adhere to the instructions they are provided and even in the best of scenarios, unwanted reactions can occur.

10) Good Candidates:

The best laser tattoo removal candidates are extremely patient and know that their skin may never look like it did before the tattoo was placed. Tattoos were meant to be permanent and while many can be faded or even removed completely, the process isn’t quick and side effects possible.

It’s also imperative that patients receiving laser tattoo removal rest and elevate the treated area for a few days after treatment and not every individual lifestyle is conducive to this rest. Patience and compliance are your best friends when it comes to laser tattoo removal so you have to make sure you are ready to commit to the process.

So, there you have it … your tattoo doesn’t have to be a permanent reminder of your past. Follow these the top ten tips to understand everything you need to know before getting a tattoo removed!