Tattoo Removal Methods – Don’t Try These At Home, Or Anywhere Else For That Matter


Tattoos have existed all over the world for thousands of years and were once considered permanent. However, over time more and more people actively searched for ways to get rid of their tattoos – thus the era of tattoo removal was born. Tattoo removal has been performed through various methods and techniques over the years, some good but mostly bad. To this day, Q-switched laser tattoo removal remains the safest, easiest, and most effective method for erasing unwanted ink. But what about other methods? Let’s just say we’re very glad that we live in a world where laser technology exists.

Dermabrasion is a medical procedure, often performed by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon, which involves sanding of the skin. A high-speed sanding device is applied to the tattooed area and scrapes away layers of skin until it reaches the tattoo ink. Remember, tattoo ink is embedded in the deepest layer of skin, at least 1 to 2 millimeter below the epidermis. This means many layers of skin must be removed in order to reach and remove the ink. Most patients that receive dermabrasion often experience bleeding, skin discoloration, infection, and scarring. It’s safe to say there are better (and less painful) methods for tattoo removal than dermabrasion.

For many years, salabrasion was one of the few methods used for tattoo removal. Similar to dermabrasion, the procedure involves sanding or scraping of the top layers of skin – only with salt. One session typically lasts 30 to 40 minutes and several sessions are needed before seeing complete removal of ink. Many people perform this method themselves at home but are more at risk to infection and scarring. Note: Any removal method with –abrasion attached to the end can’t be good.

Excision is a surgical procedure that involves physically cutting a tattoo out of the skin. The surrounding skin is then sewn back together with stitches. Since larger tattoos may need a skin graft from another portion of the body, excision is more commonly used on smaller tattoos. Some side effects include skin discoloration and infection, and scarring is virtually guaranteed. Until the advent of tattoo removal lasers, excision was the preferred method of removal by plastic surgeons.

Chemical Peels
Chemical peels, such as Trichloroacetic acid or TCA, are frequently used for tattoo removal but are not recommended by medical professionals. TCA is an acid that removes the top layers of skin in order to reach the tattoo ink. Although this method is used for other cosmetic procedures like facial peels, it is considered unsafe and ineffective for tattoo removal. Patients using TCA are slow to see results, if any, and are prone to scarring and skin discoloration.

Injectables such as Tattoo Vanish and Rejuvi cream are injected in a similar fashion as tattoos and permanent makeup are applied to the skin. The injectables are supposedly absorbed by the ink particles and pushed to the surface of the skin, naturally forming a scab. This method allegedly destroys the ink particles but also destroys the skin tissue surrounding them. Patients experience poor results consistently with these “quick fix” methods.

Tattoo Removal Creams
One of the most recent methods for tattoo removal is tattoo removal creams. Often found on the Internet, these creams are advertised to be inexpensive and less painful than laser tattoo removal procedures. Ultimately, you get what you pay for. Because tattoo ink is embedded deep into the skin, simply rubbing some cream on the surface of skin cannot and will not work. The creams cannot penetrate through the epidermis to the dermis, which is where the tattoo ink is trapped. Most tattoo removal creams are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and may cause negative skin reactions. By researching the ingredients, you may discover that that these specialty creams are simply repackaged bleaching creams.

Q-switched lasers offer the most efficient and noninvasive method for tattoo removal by using wavelengths that safely enter through the skin and shatter ink. Laser tattoo removal is the only procedure that guarantees results and leaves patients with clear, ink-free skin without scarring.

Numbing Solutions for Tattoo Removal

tattoo removal numbing solutionsWe won’t lie; laser tattoo removal isn’t painless. However, pain is gain. The blistering and swelling that occurs after an aggressive laser tattoo removal treatment indicates high levels of ink shattering and a strong immune response to flush away the tiny ink particles. Also, most patients that can tolerate the pain of getting a tattoo can tolerate its removal. Yet, most practitioners wish to provide some sort of anesthetic or numbing solution for patients having tattoos removed.

Having a numbing option for patients gives them some comfort both physically and mentally during the tattoo removal process. They have a sense of control over the inevitable pain of the procedure. Plus, offering numbing can make your clinic appear more professional and considerate of patient comfort.

There are a number types of numbing products available for laser tattoo removal: local anesthetic creams, injectable local anesthetics, and contact cooling options. Contact cooling options include icepacks and cooling machines.

Creams are generally a complicated choice because they take a long time to penetrate deep enough to have true numbing effects. If you treat too soon after applying the cream, the patient will still be in pain. If you have the patients wait after the cream is applied, they may be annoyed by the time taken for the numbing in relation to the speed of the laser treatment. Also, many creams require a doctor’s prescription for use.

Injectable anesthetics generally work well to numb pain, but they can only be provided by doctors (or other high-level medical professionals). Injectables do not provide a solution for tattoo removal clinics that do not have a doctor on-site or want a no-fuss, fast solution.

Contact cooling is a great option for most tattoo removal clinics. Both icepacks and cooling machines are fast, effective, and easy for anyone to use. Icepacks are cheap and useful, yet may lessen the perceived professionalism of your tattoo removal clinic because of their simplicity. Also, it is important to find a sterilization method between tattoo removal patients.

Cooling machines, specifically the Zimmer Cryo 6 and Cryo Mini, are the gold standard of numbing in the laser tattoo removal industry. These devices blow ice-cold air onto the skin and turn on at the press of a button. The machines are very effective at making the skin numb for tattoo removal, plus are easy to use. The greatest advantage is that both the Zimmer device and the tattoo removal laser can be used simultaneously, so that you can actively numb the skin during the tattoo removal procedure. The Cryo 6 is great if you have a high-volume tattoo removal clinic and space for a standalone machine. The Mini is a solid solution if size, price, and portability are important, but your tattoo removal clinic is relatively low-volume.

Regardless of the choice you make for your numbing process, it’s important to show your patients that you care for them and their concerns.