Tattoo Removal Options

By | September 18, 2011

Tattoos have been around for centuries but they are more popular than ever now, with today’s young generation. They are an aesthetic vehicle for people to express their passions and convictions. Tattoos, however, are lasting whereas the emotions that motivated them may not be.

Fortunately, there are several picks available today to remove tattoos.

Laser Tattoo Removal.

Lasers are the most usual method of tattoo removal. Intense beams of radiation are directed at the tattoo, generating enough heat to break apart the ink in the second layer of the dermis, where it is injected when the tattoo is applied. The body then rids of the ink particles through normal immune function. The amount of heat energy required to break down the ink usually causes the skin to blister. Even though a topical numbing agent is often applied, this method can be uncomfortable. The laser treatments are scant in duration, but several are required to successfully remove most tattoos. The cost can range from a couple hundred dollars into the low thousands, depending on the size and color strength of the tattoo.


Dermabrasion refers to getting rid of the top layers of the dermis with a wire brush or a sanding disk. The method has been around for more than a century, but it more commonly used to treat severe acne scars and less usual for tattoo removal. The area is numbed with a freezing solution and then the skin is ‘sanded’ away until the layers containing the ink are gone. This takes several treatments. Although effective, it can be painful and typically leaves a scar.

Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL).

This method is similar to a laser in application. The difference is the source light. This method is commonly done in spas or medical spas. It is said to be less irritating than the laser and require fewer treatments. On average, though, it is more expensive.

Surgical Excision.

The skin containing the ink can be surgically removed. In a small area, the surrounding skin is sutured together to cover the region where the skin was removed. However, for big tattoos, it may be necessary to cover the region with skin grafted from another part of the body. This can be painful and is usually done only when the more contemporary options are not feasible.

Scarification Chemical Peel.

A less common method of tattoo removal uses an acid solution to cause the layers of skin to peel away. Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is commonly used to remove acne scars, fine lines, stretch marks and age spots. It acts by damaging the skin’s cell structure just enough to cause peeling. After several treatments, the top few layers of skin are gone and new skin is revealed. For tattoos, once the top layer is gone, the layers containing the ink will start to peel away. This method does not always remove the tattoo completely and often just causes substantial fading.

Tattoo Removal Creams.

There are now topical creams that claim to remove tattoos. Many of these tattoo removal ceams contain Hydroquinone which is often prescribed to remove dark spots on the skin or under the eyes. Hydroquinone involves some risks if used long term. It is thought to be carcinogenic and there is evidence that long term use can lead to darkening of the skin, a condition known as Endogenous Ochronosis. It could take a year or more for creams to significantly fade or remove a tattoo. With the average cost $60 month, the cost may end up being comparable to laser treatment.