Beware: Tattoo Removal Methods That Don’t Work

Written by WD Staff, Skin Care Specialists on April 5, 2018 No Comments

ineffective tattoo removal methods

It is estimated that 21% to 24% of American adults have a regrettable tattoo, many of which are seeking options to remove their mistake. Like many other topics on the internet, there is a plethora of misinformation and false claims surrounding “alternative” tattoo removal techniques. Many of these methods are completely ineffective, or even worse, can lead to irreversible skin damage or permanent scarring.

Here are four tattoo removal methods that are simply not worth the investment or risk:

Tattoo Removal Creams

As covered in a previous post, tattoo removal creams are either useless or unsafe. They typically are inexpensive and claim to instantly make tattoos disappear.  But the reality is these creams never live up to expectations. Most tattoo removal creams contain bleaching chemicals that (at best) provide minor fading benefits. However, because the ink of the tattoo resides in deeper levels of the skin that a topical product cannot reach, tattoo removal cream will never be able to completely remove a tattoo. Most users are left with a distorted or faded tattoo that looks worse than before they started treatments.

Additionally, some creams contain harsh ingredients like acids that can harm the skin, causing unwanted side effects such as scarring, chemical burns, skin lightening, or permanent textural changes. Users have reported negative outcomes even when following manufacturer directions.


Dermabrasion is a controlled in-office method of removing the outermost layers of the skin. Most dermabrasion techniques use a handheld device with a series of wire brushes that physically exfoliate the skin.  For more info on dermabrasion read this post.

Since tattoo ink resides in the dermal layer of the skin, removing the tattoo via dermabrasion is actually possible. To completely remove a tattoo, however, patients would have to undergo multiple (painful) treatment sessions that can heighten their chances of developing a post-procedure infection as well as hyper or hypopigmentation. Individuals who try this method are highly vulnerable to scar development in the treated area since the accuracy of dermabrasion is limited.

Surgical Excision

On the surface, the idea of surgically removing a tattoo may sound like a guaranteed removal method. After all, what would be more effective than cutting the tattoo out of the skin? There are, however, many instances where the ink has penetrated too far into the skin to be viably excised. If you cut into the skin you are guaranteeing a scar in the area. Depending on the size of the tattoo and location sometimes these scars can become thickened, discolored or spread out which leave you other unsightly issues other than a tattoo.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are topically applied formulas that revitalize the skin surface by creating an even and controlled shedding of the skin cells. There are many different types of chemical peels that range in power from mild to aggressive. While chemical peels are ideal for addressing a multitude of skin issues such as hyperpigmentation or acne, there is currently no peel suited for the safe removal of tattoo ink.

The Better Way: Laser Tattoo Removal

In the end, laser tattoo removal is the safest and most effective way to get rid of your tattoo. Laser treatments have made significant advancements in the past few years. At Westlake Dermatology, we use the PiQo4 laser – an FDA approved method of tattoo removal. Using up to four wavelengths with both nano and pico technology, PiQo4 is able to provide up to 10 times greater energy than traditional tattoo removal lasers, which translates to effective results in fewer treatments. We also have the capabilities to treat a wide range of colored tattoos and light to darker skin types more safely. Please come in for a consultation to learn about the process for your specific tattoo.


WD Staff

A united group of skin care specialists from Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, Austin's leader in Dermatology and Plastic Surgery. Articles posted under WD staff are authored through combined contributions from our entire team, including Plastic Surgeons, Dermatologists, Aestheticians, Physician Assistants, Aesthetic Nurses, and Patient Coordinators.

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