Can You Tattoo Over A Removed Tattoo? Here’s The Truth

Person applying tattoo

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Everyone knows that tattoos are forever, but they don’t have to be. When faced with a tattoo which has lost its meaning, or faded so badly it looks poor, many tattoo enthusiasts opt to remove or cover up the offending ink. After undergoing treatment to remove an unwanted tattoo, many are left with the same question: can you tattoo over a removed tattoo?

The good news is that there are ways to tattoo over the same patch of skin from which you removed a tattoo. There are many variables to consider when asking “Can you tattoo over a removed tattoo?” The method of removal factors into the effectiveness, as does the type of cover-up work you get. It’s important to make the right choices to maximize the efficacy of your cover-up tattoo.

What Are The Different Methods Of Tattoo Removal?

The first thing to understand about tattoo removal is that professionals do not remove all tattoos in the same way. When seeking out a method of removing your tattoo, multiple options are ranging from surgery to home remedies. Not all removal methods are equally effective, however. That is particularly so when you are seeking to tattoo over the same area at a later date. If you think you may want to cover up your removed tattoo at a later time, it’s essential to choose a method which is not only safe and effective but also best positions you to get your new ink applied.

Can they tattoo over a removed tattoo afterward? It all depends on the removal method you used.

Laser tattoo removal

The most popular way to remove unwanted tattoos is through laser tattoo removal. In a laser removal treatment, your removal professional fires a laser at the tattoo in small bursts. Tattoos remain because the ink embedded in the skin is too large to be broken down by the body. The laser breaks pieces of the ink apart. Your body then naturally removes the offending ink from your skin.

Laser removal therapy is not a one-shot treatment. So can you tattoo over a removed tattoo? Don’t expect to be ready for your new ink immediately. The exact number of treatments required depends on the colors of ink, and how faded the current tattoo is. No matter what your tattoo situation, however, you will almost certainly need multiple sessions. When can you tattoo over a removed tattoo following laser removal? Most tattoos require between 6 and 10 laser removal sessions to fade them away completely. With a break period of between six to eight weeks for healing after each session, this means full removal takes typically between half a year to a year.

Removing your tattoo with a laser is not a painless procedure. Exact levels of discomfort depend on your personal pain tolerance. The good news is that laser removal therapy is the most reliable method of non-surgical removal.

Surgical tattoo removal

The other highly effective method of tattoo removal consists of surgically removing the skin containing the offending ink. Surgeons carefully cut around the existing tattoo to entirely remove the skin containing the tattoo. Then they pull the skin on either side of the wound together with stitches. As skin has elastic tendencies, you can do this on smaller tattoos with no additional grafting required.

A primary benefit of using surgical tattoo removal is the speed with which the surgeon removes your tattoo. As the tattoo is not faded treatment by treatment, only one surgery is required to remove your tattoo. It provides the shortest possible turnaround from deciding you want your tattoo removed to full removal.

Unfortunately, surgical tattoo removal is not without its drawbacks. That is particularly true if you are wondering when can you tattoo over a removed tattoo. Due to the need to pull the wound shut after excision, it is not ideally suited for large tattoos. If you plan to remove a big piece of ink then tattoo over it, surgical tattoo removal does not offer a viable route. You can never tattoo over a removed tattoo in this case.

Dermabrasion tattoo removal

Some people in need of tattoo removal opt to avoid lasers or surgery with dermabrasion. The removal process of a dermabrasion treatment involves the scraping of the skin which contains the ink with an abrasive surface. Your doctor essentially sands away the skin over the tattoo to get to the layer containing the ink.

As with laser tattoo removal, dermabrasion treatments commonly require multiple treatments for removal. Dermabrasion is also a painful procedure, as you can imagine from a process which comes down to sanding away your living skin. Laser tattoo removal also offers a more precise removal, as a laser can be used more accurately than the dermabrasion tools. Finally, dermabrasion removal can leave behind unsightly scarring. While this is effective for removing an offending word or picture, it’s not a great canvas for later tattoos.

Due to the scarring and pain involved with dermabrasion, it’s a poor choice if you are opting to cover your removed tattoo at a later date. Other options offer more comfortable and more effective methods of removal. So can you tattoo over a removed tattoo if you went with dermabrasion? The short answer is, no.

Chemical and home remedies

With professional tattoo removal often costing hundreds of dollars, some turn to home treatments. While the specifics of various home creams or other treatments vary, they all share their ineffectiveness. The FDA advises against using any so-called tattoo removal creams. Salabrasion techniques take the painful scrubbing of dermabrasion and remove the medical professionals and local anesthetics.

None of the available chemical treatments and home remedies are viable options to remove a tattoo for a future cover-up, and they should be treated as such. They are both less effective and more dangerous than professional treatments. Can you tattoo over a removed tattoo? If you removed it with a home remedy, the answer is likely no.

How Do Cover Up Tattoos Work?

Young woman getting tattoo

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As the name implies, cover-up work involves tattooing over a previous piece of artwork. Cover up tattoos offer some of the most effective options for removing a tattoo you no longer want. Although any tattoo can be tattooed over, there are factors which improve your overall results. From the color of the old and new pieces to the type of design chosen, knowing how to get the best out of your cover-up work positions you to get the best possible results with your new ink. Instead of asking if you can tattoo over a removed tattoo, ask if you can tattoo over an existing tattoo!

Size matters

Any tattoo can be covered up, but not all cover jobs are equally challenging. It’s not always necessary to cover the entire previous tattoo. Occasionally your tattoo artist will allow some of the original ink to remain because the top design removes enough context that it looks like part of the new work. Generally, however, your new tattoo must be larger than the previous piece. That means that when getting a cover-up tattoo, the smaller the original tattoo, the easier the job becomes.

The more detail, the better

The best cover up designs are those which feature lots of detailed work. Because the artist is not working with a clean slate, large consistent blocks are more likely to have inconsistent tone due to the pigments underneath. Complex designs which feature minimal consistent spaces minimize the effect of the underlying ink. Small variations over the length of a series of thin lines of different color become less visible. When in doubt, add additional details to your cover-up piece for better results.

Color choices

The color of your tattoos matter with cover-ups, and not just for the new piece. Although no colors are prohibitive in either covering the tattoo or the new work, there are general rules to guide you. For the new tattoo, the darker color choices you make, the more effective they are at covering your old work. The flip side remains true for the original work. Lighter colors cover more easily than dark colors.

That is where utilizing fading methods like laser tattoo removal proves so helpful. When planning to cover up a dark tattoo, many artists recommend undergoing some removal treatments. When using laser removal therapy as part of a cover-up plan, full treatment is optional. The more sessions you receive and the lighter your old ink becomes, the better your final results will be. If, however, you are operating on a tight budget, speak with your artist about getting just a few sessions to lighten the old artwork enough for an effective cover-up, without having to spend money on additional laser sessions.

Can You Tattoo Over A Removed Tattoo?

Man applying tattoo

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Removing a regrettable tattoo is an effective way of ridding yourself of the offending ink. Once it’s gone, however, many tattoo enthusiasts realize they still want something there, just something different. Whether your removal has left some unsightly signs of your previous work, or you just can’t bear the thought of “wasting” that space with no tattoo, there’s good news for anyone who has wondered “Can I tattoo over a removed tattoo?”

The answer is yes, you can. Don’t rush into getting new work done, however. There are important considerations to factor into the process to ensure you are happy with your final product.

How many treatments should I get?

There is no magic number for tattoo removal treatments. Both laser removal therapy and dermabrasion work to fade your tattoo over several sessions, but they’re not created equal when you plan to get a cover up tattoo. Laser removal best serves those opting for a cover-up tattoo. The scarring process after treatment is less noticeable and creates a better canvas for your new piece.

Once you’ve decided on your removal method, speak with your artist to determine an estimate on how many sessions you need. The current condition of your tattoo affects the number, as do the colors of both the old and new tattoos. The more treatments applied to the tattoo, the fainter it becomes, yielding better cover-ups. Those on a budget should speak with their artists about designs which will require minimal lightening before cover up.

How long do I have to wait after my last treatment?

Any professional tattoo removal method brings with it some recovery time. Exact times vary on a case to case basis, but six to eight weeks is a reasonable estimate. It’s vital that you don’t rush your cover-up tattoo. The scar tissue left behind by removal tattoos needs to heal to avoid infection fully. When in doubt, err on the side of taking extra recovery time before cover-up work. Your new tattoo will hopefully be with you the rest of your life. It’s worth waiting an extra week or two to get the best work possible.

Is it going to hurt?

As with any tattoo, the answer depends on your pain tolerance. The pain of your work varies by location of the tattoo, as well. Tattooing over the scar tissue of the removed tattoo frequently leads to increased discomfort during the tattooing process. The increased pain is unlikely to be prohibitively so, but you should enter your session prepared for the potential that it will be more painful than previously.

The Final Answer To “Can You Tattoo Over A Removed Tattoo?”

Tattoo session

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Dealing with a tattoo you no longer want is troubling. Removing the tattoo offers an opportunity to solve the problem, but it is not always a solution. Removal techniques only fade some tattoos. Scar tissue commonly remains, even after a successful removal treatment. It’s tempting to think you’re better off just covering up the old ink, and that’s partly true. The best method for removing any traces of an old tattoo is to do both.

Can you tattoo over a removed tattoo? Absolutely. In fact, cover up tattoos often look better when you first treat the prior tattoo with laser removal therapy. The lightened tones of your initial tattoo create a cleaner surface for your new work. If you’ve been considering tattooing over your removed tattoo, it provides an excellent remedy.

Did you once wonder, “Can you tattoo over a removed tattoo?” before getting the procedure yourself? Share the results with us in the comments so others can see the results of the process.

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