Best Way to Remove a Tattoo
Many people have tattoos that they want to remove. And luckily, it’s possible to remove them effectively without causing harm to the surrounding skin.
Whatever your reason for wanting your tattoo removed, there are advanced modern methods to remove your tattoo safely and effectively.
If you are thinking about getting your tattoo removed, it’s best to be well informed about which methods work and which don’t.
7 Common Tattoo Removal Methods
With so many tattoo removal options available, deciding which is best for you can be challenging.
Cheap DIY methods may look like an attractive money-saving option, but using old and ineffective methods often doesn’t work and can actually cause harm to your skin. You could end up with scarring, infections, hyperpigmentation, or hypopigmentation.
Below we outline seven common tattoo removal methods and how they work. Then we’ll discuss the best method for tattoo removal so that you can erase your unwanted tattoo safely.
Tattoo Removal Cream
A tattoo does not sit on the outer layer of the skin. The ink penetrates the skin's middle layer(dermis) through small puncture wounds made by the tattoo needles.
Tattoo removal creams look like an attractive option because of the low cost. But, it is impossible to remove ink from the dermis with cream.
Creams only work on the outermost layer of skin and, at most, will only fade the ink.
Tattoo ink fades naturally over time, and creams may help bleach the skin. But it will take months before you notice any difference.
Tattoo removal creams typically contain either hydroquinone or trichloroacetic acid.
Dermatologists use hydroquinone to treat superficial irregular skin pigmentation. Hydroquinone does not penetrate below the epidermis and therefore won’t affect tattoo ink pigment.
Trichloroacetic acid burns the skin, causing the outer layers to peel. This is not an effective way to remove a tattoo and can cause scarring.
If you have sensitive skin, you are at a higher risk of pain, scarring and changes in your skin texture.
Salabrasion & Dermabrasion
Salabrasion is the oldest tattoo removal method in use today. The epidermis and dermis are abraded with a salt base solution. The salt scrub is rubbed over the skin for thirty to forty minutes.
This method is painful and leaves bruises. It takes several sessions and also requires antiseptic dressings to prevent infection.
A few days after salabrasion, dead skin is scraped from the affected area to remove the tattoo ink. Despite the painful procedure, there is no guarantee that the scrub will penetrate the dermis.
Dermabrasion is similar but uses a mechanical instrument to remove the layers of skin that contain the tattoo. During dermabrasion, the skin is numbed with anaesthetic and then abraded by a high-speed rotary wheel.
The area treated is raw afterwards, requires daily wound dressings and can take weeks to heal! This process can also result in significant scarring.
Subcutaneous Injections of Solutions
Subcutaneous injections involve injecting acid-based liquid solutions under the skin to bond with the tattoo ink particles.
A scab forms on the skin with the aim of removing the ink particles with it when it peels away.
Subcutaneous injections for tattoo removal are seldom effective. This method has a lightening effect rather than removal and can leave long-term burn marks and scars.
Laser Tattoo Removal
Laser tattoo removal is the safest and most effective method of tattoo removal. Because of this, it’s the most common method of tattoo removal used today.
Typically, the human immune system removes foreign particles from the skin. Tattoo ink particles are too big to be removed. Lasers work by breaking down the ink pigment in your skin into smaller particles that the immune system can then remove.
With laser tattoo removal, there is minimal to no scarring. It’s a non-invasive technique, meaning it does not break the outer layer of skin. While you can expect the treated area to be red and maybe slightly blistered after each session, it will return to normal after about a week.
Skin excision is the surgical removal of a tattoo. In other words, your tattoo is cut out. This method may be suitable for really small tattoos but impossible for large areas.
Skin excision requires a local anaesthetic and must be performed by a medical professional. The doctor cuts the tattooed area away with a scalpel and then stitches the skin together.
Skin grafts are sometimes used for larger areas, but this comes with its own risks of infection and scarring.
While skin excision can be effective for removing tattoos, it will leave a scar.
Cryosurgery, or cryotherapy, is commonly used to remove warts and skin cancer.
Skin is frozen with liquid nitrogen and then rubbed through dermabrasion to lift the layer of skin that contains the tattoo.
The procedure requires local anaesthetic because it is painful. While it may be effective in removing a tattoo, it can damage surrounding tissues and leave scars. Side effects may include swelling, blistering and infection.
If you search for tattoo removal methods online, you will find several recipes for home remedies. None will remove your tattoo and some may leave wounds vulnerable to infection or scarring.
Home remedies usually involve a mixture of ingredients to create a scrub. The idea is that you rub this on the skin regularly for about 30 minutes until the tattoo fades.
Some common mixtures include:
- Lemon juice and salt
- Aloe vera, salt and honey
- Lavender oil
- Vitamin E oil, aloe vera, and Paederia Tomentosa (skunk vine)
However, these natural scrubs generally won’t penetrate the dermis layer, meaning they won’t affect the tattoo.
What's the Best Way to Remove a Tattoo?
Laser tattoo removal is by far the best way to remove a tattoo. It has several significant benefits over other methods of tattoo removal:
Effective removal of most colours: Lighter ink colours were previously difficult to remove. New laser technology using different wavelengths effectively removes all colours, leaving almost no trace of your tattoo.
Short sessions: Laser treatments for tattoo removal are quick, lasting fifteen to thirty minutes. You’ll need one session every six to eight weeks. So this method is convenient and does not impact your day-to-day activities.
Fewer side effects: Unlike traditional invasive tattoo removal methods, laser removal leaves little to no scarring. Most people tolerate laser tattoo removal well and do not require downtime.
The PicoWay Laser
At Cloak and Dagger, we use the PicoWay laser, which is the most advanced, state-of-the-art laser on the market. It uses high-power short-pulse picosecond technology. Quick bursts of energy shatter tattoo ink particles into minute pieces, making it easier for our immune system to remove them.
Most lasers operate at one wavelength, making them unable to target specific tattoo colours or to work on certain skin tones. The PicoWay laser works below the skin's surface, leaving the skin's outer layer intact.
The laser works across a broad range of skin types and tones and, with three different wavelengths, can remove all ink colours.
Treatment carries a very low risk of long-term side effects, minimal pain and little to no downtime.
PicoWay lasers do not heat the skin during treatment, so there are no burns or other tissue damage.
Mild side effects after treatments can be expected. Still, they are temporary and a sign your immune system is working to remove the ink. Common side effects include crusting, swelling, redness and rash.
If you are looking for ways to remove your tattoo, you’ve likely come across various methods. Some methods appear cost-effective and easy treatments to perform at home. But, they are not safe or effective and may be very costly in the long run.
Laser tattoo removal is your best bet for effective results, minimal side effects and no scarring.