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Tattoo Removal Methods: Types & Risks

Getting a tattoo these days is very common. What was earlier considered quite invasive, has become a trend these days. But what we generally tend to forget is that the tattoos are with us for a long haul. And if you get a tattoo done in the heat of the moment or just because everyone else is getting one, you might end up regretting it later.

Are you one of those who regret having a tattoo? Does the tattoo that at some point of time represented something special has become meaningless and embarrassing for you? If so, then don't you worry. In this article today, we have covered various techniques that can help you get rid of your tattoo.

Tattoo Removal Methods

1. Laser tattoo removal

This is a very common method to get your tattoo removed. In this method, the skin is exposed to the laser. [1] It uses the technique of thermal expansion to break the ink particles.

It heats up the ink particles, making sure that half of the ink particle is heated and the other half remains cool. These contrasting temperatures cause the ink particles to break. These smaller ink particles are then absorbed by the blood, which then transports them to the liver. They are excreted from there.

This works best for a dark ink rather than a faded tattoo. Q-Switched laser is the technique that is recommended by the dermatologists. [2]

However, this is not done in a single shot. You need to have multiple sittings to completely remove the tattoo. It is also quite an expensive procedure.

2. Intense pulse light therapy

Intense pulse light therapy works somewhat similar to laser removal. [3] But in this technique, high-intensity light is used instead of a laser, that removes the top layer of the skin.

First, a gel is applied to the skin. Then the high-intensity light is emitted on the skin using a wand. It breaks the ink particles into smaller ones, which are then transported to the liver by the bloodstream. From there, they are excreted from our system.

Although this method is believed to be less painful than the laser treatment, it is more expensive.

3. Surgical excision

This method involves taking off the top layer of your skin through surgery. The tattooed area is removed and the resulting wound is sutured. This is recommended for small tattoos as it can result in scars.

4. Cryosurgery

In this method, the tattooed area of the skin is frozen using a freezing agent, most likely, liquid nitrogen. The frozen skin is then exposed to specific light and the top layer of the skin is removed.

This too, cannot be done in a single visit. You have to undergo many sittings to get your tattoo removed. This method is not suitable for people with sensitive skin. It may lead to tissue damage, and may stop hair growth at the specific portion of the skin. Although it is less expensive than laser treatment, it is not a recommended course of action by many.

5. Dermabrasion

This technique involves removing the tattoo by discarding the portion of the skin that is inked. This is done using a high speed rotating wheel or brush. The skin is extracted until it removes all the ink particles inside. This is performed after giving the local anaesthesia. It might have a long recovery period and may lead to scarring. This method is not a recommended method for tattoo removal. [4]

6. Chemical peels

As the name suggests, this technique involves using chemicals to peel off the skin. TCA or trichloroacetic acid is the chemical used widely. [5] The chemical is applied to the skin directly for up to 10 minutes. It is then neutralized with frozen saline packs.

You need a month of prep before doing this and have to apply skin conditioners like Retin-A for getting the best results. This, however, is not recommended much by the dermatologists.

7. Tattoo removal cream

If you are not the one for surgical procedures, then there are some tattoo removal creams available for you. The tattoo removal cream stings a bit when applied. A dressing is done after applying the cream. It will sting for a few days afterwards. It is advised to keep the area dry and exposed to fresh air. Do not wear tight clothing that will antagonize the skin in any way.

After about a week, a scab will form and then fall off. It will remove your tattoo and the skin will heal. It may lead to burns and scarring though. So you should be very careful in using such creams.

Some DIYs For Tattoo Removal

If you are sceptical to opt for any of the above-listed methods, here are some DIYs that you can try at home for removing your tattoo.

1. Lemon and honey

Lemon is rich in vitamin C and citric and when used over a period of time can help lighten the skin. Honey moisturises the skin and has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.


  • 1 tsp lemon
  • 1tsp honey

How to use

  • Mix both ingredients in a bowl.
  • Apply them on the tattoo every day.
  • It may help remove the tattoo if used regularly for a long time.

2. Salabrasion using salt

Salt can be used as an exfoliator and toner for the skin. Salt can be helpful in removing the tattoo. [6]


  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 bowl of water
  • A sponge

How to use

  • Mix the salt thoroughly in the water.
  • Shave the tattooed area.
  • Soak the sponge in the salt water.
  • Gently rub it on the tattooed area for about 20-25 minutes.
  • Clean the area with cold water and bandage it to avoid infections.
  • It'll help remove the tattoo over a long period of time.

Note: This technique may lead to bruising. It may also lead to infection. So be careful while using this technique.

3. Lemon juice and salt water

This mixture of lemon juice and salt water is helpful in removing the tattoo.


  • 100 g salt
  • The juice of one lemon
  • A cotton ball

How to use

  • Mix the salt and lemon juice.
  • Dip the cotton ball into the mixture.
  • Rub the cotton ball on the tattooed area.
  • Rinse it off with warm water.

4. Aloe vera

Aloe vera moisturises the skin and possesses healing properties. It also has antiageing properties.


  • 1 tbsp aloe vera gel
  • 1 tbsp Paederia tomentosa
  • 1 tbsp vitamin E oil

How to use

  • Extract fresh aloe vera gel from the leaf or use the one available in the market.
  • Mix the aloe vera gel thoroughly with Paederia tomentosa and vitamin E in a bowl.
  • Rub it generally over the tattooed area for 10 minutes.
  • Rinse it off with warm water.
  • Repeat this every day for the desired result.

Risk Factors Involved In Laser Removal Treatment

Although we have listed various methods to get your tattoo removed, there are certain risks involved [7] and certain things have to be kept in mind while using these methods.

  • Removing the tattoo does involve a certain degree of pain. Keep this in mind when you go for tattoo removal.
  • The laser treatment can possibly lead to scarring and bruising. So be sure to check whether it is a possible consequence of the method you use and if you're okay with that.
  • Skin infection can also be one of the consequences of getting rid of your tattoo. In some methods, the top layer of the skin is removed and exposed, and it may lead to infections.
  • Tattoo removal may also lead to hyperpigmentation. This is more likely to happen with the people of colour. As the top layer of the skin is removed in some techniques, it can lead to hyperpigmentation.
View Article References
  1. [1] Kuperman-Beade, M., Levine, V. J., & Ashinoff, R. (2001). Laser removal of tattoos. American journal of clinical dermatology, 2(1), 21-25.
  2. [2] Levine, V. J., & Geronemus, R. G. (1995). Tattoo removal with the Q-switched ruby laser and the Q-switched Nd: YAGlaser: a comparative study. Cutis, 55(5), 291-296.
  3. [3] Husain, Z., & Alster, T. S. (2016). The role of lasers and intense pulsed light technology in dermatology. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 9, 29.
  4. [4] Clabaugh, W. A. (1975). Tattoo removal by superficial dermabrasion. Five-year experience. Plastic and reconstructive surgery, 55(4), 401-405.
  5. [5] Hudson, D. A., & Lechtape-Gruter, R. U. (1990). A simple method of tattoo removal. S Afr Med J, 78(12), 748-9.
  6. [6] Manchester, G. H. (1973). Tattoo removal— a new simple technique. California medicine, 118(3), 10.
  7. [7] Khunger, N., Molpariya, A., & Khunger, A. (2015). Complications of tattoos and tattoo removal: stop and think before you ink. Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery, 8(1), 30.

Read more about: tattoo how to diy home remedies
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