How to Remove a Tattoo

Body art has been a popular form of expression for centuries. Sometimes people want to make a statement with their bodies. Sometimes people make drunken decisions! Either way, plenty of individuals end up with tattoos that they eventually outgrow. With 16 percent of US citizens having at least one tattoo, and up to 50 percent of those people regretting their tattoos, we’re lucky that medical advances have presented a myriad of removal options to the public.

If you are part of this regretful group, it may be time to take a look at the options below. However, if you don’t yet have any regrettable tattoos, please check out our guide on how to get a tattoo, and then drink copious amounts of liquor!

Using Lasers to Remove a Tattoo

This is the most common method of tattoo removal at this point. It works by sending pulses of concentrated light through the skin which break down ink pigment. Once it is broken down, the human body can absorb the ink by using white blood cells to carry the ink away from the affected skin. Various ink colors are treated with different wavelengths (black ink is easiest to remove because it can absorb all colors of light). Laser treatments fade the tattoo until it is barely noticeable. A series of multiple treatments are usually prescribed over an eight week period.

Even though patients are given a topical numbing agent, most people who choose this method claim that the removal process is more painful that the initial tattoo. It is advised to take a dose of Tylenol before each treatment to lessen the pain. After each session is over, ice is applied to lessen swelling and an antibiotic ointment is given. Treatments may cause scarring.

Light skinned individuals have better results with laser therapy. Also, areas of the body containing more fat respond best. The following techniques are used when laser therapy is not an option.

Tattoo Removal via Skin Peels

Sounds fun, right?

The same chemical peels that dermatologists give to patients who want to remove facial lines and flaws can be used to fade and/or remove tattoos. The use of Trichloroacetic Acid was common prior to laser options. That, as well as other acidic peeling agents, can be combined with laser treatments in order to bring the overall cost down.

Removing a Tattoo via Dermabrasion

Dermabrasion is a treatment which removes the layers of affected skin by sanding over the tattoo. The skin then regenerates over the course of a couple of weeks.

During the procedure, the physician applies an anesthetic and ice to the skin to prep it, and then sprays it with a freezing agent. A rotating abrasion tool then removes the layers of skin over the tattoo. Once this has been done, your skin will be covered in antibiotic ointment and sealed with sterile gauze.

Since you will essentially have an open wound, it is important that you take measures to keep the area clean. You will need to reapply a prescription ointment yourself until your follow up appointment. As with laser therapy, dermabrasion may cause scarring.

Using Salabrasion to Remove a Tattoo

Salabrasion is virtually the same as dermabrasion, except that in this treatment the tattoo is rubbed away with gauze and salt. This is a “do-it-yourself” method for those who can’t afford plastic surgery options.

The issue with salabrasion is that the likelihood of scarring is extremely high, and is very painful.


This is where a surgeon actually cuts away the layers of tattooed skin. This method of removal tends to be for people with deep tattoos that will not respond to laser or dermabrasion therapies. It is also a quick fix for tiny tattoos.

If the area is small, a local anesthetic is applied and the skin is stitched up afterward. If the area is larger, it may take several surgeries with healing time in between. If the area is very large, a skin graft may be necessary.

Remove Tattoos Yourself using Creams

Another “do-it-yourself” option that is becoming popular is tattoo fading creams. The Tattoo Removal Institute conducted a 12 month study which showed that two creams in particular did exactly what they promised.

  • Tattoo-OFF is the popular choice due to the fact that it’s comprised of plant extracts, making it the best option for sensitive skinned people. It contains anti-oxidants and anti-bacterial properties. It is a two-part system. The downside to this brand is that it is weaker without the use of chemicals, therefore more must be used. This results in a higher cost over time. A year supply is approximately $300.
  • Tat B Gone is a three-part system which claims to deliver results in three to six months. The formula is created in an FDA regulated lab and has no noted side effects. A ten month supply is approximately $400.

Whether your decision to remove a tattoo is driven by career options, personal preferences or regret, you now know that there are effective solutions available to you. Some options are pricy, whereas some options come with risks. Visiting a doctor will ensure that you make an educated decision for your body and tattoo type.

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