Is tattoo removal covered by health insurance?

Cosmetic and non-cosmetic tattoo removal procedures.

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Tattoo removal can be an expensive process, with costs for the procedure reaching into the thousands of dollars.

While some health funds have offered cover for tattoo removal in the past, none currently offer a benefit for tattoo removal as the procedure is not medically necessary.

Keep reading to find out more about the tattoo removal process and its cost.

What happens during the process?

Laser tattoo removal is a relatively simple process. A laser is set to an appropriate frequency and aimed with pinpoint precision at the tattoo. The laser penetrates the skin without causing damage and breaks apart the ink at a minute level. The broken-down ink is then absorbed by the body and passes through it naturally.

Multiple sessions are required to keep the procedure safe, with the cost depending on the size of the tattoo and how many sessions are required.

Lasers use light wavelengths to work, so the colours of your tattoo, and skin, can also play a role. Different tattoo colours will absorb the lasers in different ways, and different skin colours will respond differently, which is why it can be so important to find an experienced practitioner who knows how to adapt to the situation at hand.

As a general rule, avoid the recent proliferation of cut-rate tattoo removalists. These have sprung up due to the different kinds of lasers on the market, including the Q laser and the IPL laser. Q lasers are expensive, precise and specifically designed for tattoo removals. IPL lasers, meanwhile, are designed for hair removal.

How much does tattoo removal cost?

The cost of laser tattoo removal, with a quality practitioner using a Q laser, might range from a few hundred dollars for a fairly small black and/or red tattoo to tens of thousands for a large, multicoloured tattoo.

It can pay to get a few different quotes before picking a provider. Be warned that it’s not unheard of for practitioners to deliberately understate the number of sessions that will be needed, knowing that someone who’s halfway through tattoo removal is probably not going to quit then.

As such, you might ask a few questions when getting quotes in addition to the total cost:

  • How many sessions do you expect I will need?
  • How long do you recommend between sessions?
  • What kind of laser do you use?
  • Are there any side effects or health risks?

If one provider comes out with a lower number of sessions than others then they might not be entirely honest. Similarly, you should generally get consistent estimates of how long to wait between sessions, with outliers possibly not being as experienced as the others.

As for laser types, you will almost certainly want to avoid practitioners using IPL lasers, and any providers who overstate how harmless, easy and free of side effects the procedure is might be more interested in your money than your tattoo.

Meanwhile, the practitioner will generally want to know about your tattoo as well, and to get a good look at it. The effectiveness of removal can depend on the layering of your tattoo, the type of ink used, the colours and how old the tattoo is, which affects how much ink it retains.

Are there any possible side effects?

Laser tattoo removal is generally relatively free of side effects when everything goes right. There may only be some temporary redness, swelling and minor blisters, as long as appropriate time is taken between sessions.

It’s possible to cause burns or scars with a Q laser, but their precision, and the fact that these machines cost a lot of more and therefore discourage less serious practitioners, means the chance of this happening is much less.

The process is generally not too painful, but it can be uncomfortable.

Compare policies from 30+ Australian health funds

Picture: Shutterstock

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