If you’re looking to remove a tattoo, you’ve probably considered tattoo removal creams but do they actually work? In this article, we’ll be breaking down what tattoo removal cream is, the ingredients, side effects, and if they are actually effective. Read more to learn the truth about tattoo fading creams and the safest option for tattoo removal.
Tattoo removal balms are topical non-invasive creams that claim to diminish the appearance of permanent ink. These work by bleaching or peeling away the top layer of the skin. They’re readily available in department stores or online retailers and there is little evidence that tattoo removal creams actually remove tattoos.
Tattoo ink is injected into the middle layer or dermis of your skin. At best the creams will fade a tattoo, leaving a distorted, discolored version of the tattoo which could become a permanent scar. Serious side effects such as burning and scarring may occur. Most importantly to note, no tattoo removal cream currently on the market has had FDA approval.
Tattoo removal creams contain all kinds of chemicals like topical acids that could eat away your skin’s epidermis. The FDA has sent warning letters to companies involved with products that burn the skin with acids.
It is impossible for any tattoo removal creams to penetrate through all the layers of the skin and actually remove a tattoo, but that doesn’t stop people from buying these products in a misguided attempt to remove their tattoos. We break down some of the ingredients most commonly found in creams to remove tattoos.
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract, Butyrospermum Parkii(Shea Butter), Ceteareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Citrus Medica Limonum(Lemon) Peel Oil, Dihydroxyacetone, Dimethicone, DMDM Hydantoin, Epilobium Angustifolium Extract, Eugenica Caryophyllus(Clove) Flower Oil, Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Glycine Soja(Soybean) Oil, Iron Oxides, Isopropyl Myristate, Juglans Regia(Walnut) Shell Powder, Lavandula Angustifolia(Lavender) Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia(Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Methylparaben, Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit (Indian Gooseberry) Extract, Polysorbate20, Propylene Glycol, Propylparaben Rosemarinus Officinalis(Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Salicylic Acid, SD Alcohol 40-B, Silica, Talc, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Titanium Dioxide, Tocopheryl Acetate, Water
So what’s with all of the plant ingredients? It’s an interesting trick; with so many plant allergens in the mix (as well as formaldehyde-releasing preservatives), there is a high likelihood that a user of the product will develop a contact dermatitis reaction (a form of allergy to topical materials, similar to the reaction to poison ivy).
This inflammatory reaction predictably causes textural changes of the skin which creates the illusion that the tattoo is fading. There is no evidence that tattoo removal creams actually remove tattoos, we have yet to see a case where the tattoo removal balm was successful.
As a result of plant allergens, some serious side effects such as burning and permanent scarring may occur in the treated area. Some side effects from using questionable creams could potentially lead to life-threatening symptoms.
Below is a list of side effects that may occur from using removal creams.
There is a high risk of hypopigmentation for those who have more melanin in their skin. The bleaching chemical trichloroacetic acid could result in permanent scarring and skin lightening for those who have skin types four through six on the Fitzpatrick scale.
You’re probably thinking, surely there are other tattoo removal methods? You would be right. There are multiple removal methods such as dermabrasion, salabrasion, surgical excision, and trichloroacetic acids. But are they actually effective? We broke down the dangers of these methods in the following section.
Dermabrasion is typically performed by a doctor and uses a circle-shaped medical grinding tool that resembles a rotary sander. The tool is an abrasive brush that is used to scrape or sand off tattooed skin.
This procedure usually uses ice to numb the area or local anesthetic. The cost depends on the size of a tattoo and this method can often lead to scarring. With sanding the skin down to remove a tattoo, a lot of scar tissue can develop, hypopigmentation can occur, and in some cases, the treated area could become infected.
Tattoo ink is placed within the dermis and this tool should only remove the epidermis or it risks going too deep which is ineffective in removing the ink. It’s neither the safest nor most effective method of removal and on average costs around $1,700 according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Salabrasion is an at-home remedy that works by rubbing salt and water into your skin to remove the epidermis. It’s basically the salt and ice challenge X 1000. The process continues until the skin is raw and the healing occurs over several weeks.
This process takes multiple painful attempts to even remotely fade the tattoo and the likelihood of receiving a scar from the process is high. The skin will become a tough leather texture and develop a lot of scar tissue.
As demonstrated by the photos, the skin’s texture has changed and there is remaining ink. This person could choose to do multiple salabrasion sessions, but it will only develop more scar tissue without the guarantee the ink will be removed.
This method must be operated by a doctor. The doctor will numb the surrounding area with a local anesthetic and use a scalpel to cut the tattoo out of the skin. Sutures are used to stitch the skin back together. It’s quick and effective because it takes only one session, but it can leave a visible scar and will likely not work well on larger tattoos.
The cost depends on the size and location of the tattoo and skin grafting may be necessary depending on the size of the tattoo. On average the cost of excising a small tattoo is between $150 and $350.
Chemicals like trichloroacetic acid are approved for in-office use by medical professionals and are regulated by the FDA, but their use in tattoo fading creams is not. This method is dangerous to use at home without experienced supervision.
Tattoo removal creams often have trichloroacetic acid within their ingredients which makes using those at-home remedies very dangerous for inexperienced people to use. On average tattoo removal creams cost around $50 over the counter per bottle.
In short, no. Many tattoo removal creams contain harsh acids or bleaching chemicals that claim to remove tattoos. However, tattoo ink is inserted deeper than the epidermis, it lays deeper within the dermis. Tattoo removal balms can not effectively penetrate the dermis which leaves the removal cream ineffective.
Not to mention, the ingredients can have negative side effects such as permanent scarring, chemical burns, or bleaching. It’s always a red flag when a product recommends abrading your skin with sandpaper beforehand!
You might see some minimal fading while using tattoo removal creams, but no more than you would over time or with sun exposure. See some tattoo removal cream before and after results below.
Here are some examples of people who took their chances with tattoo removal creams.
So, does tattoo removal cream work? Unfortunately, they do not! Luckily, the laser technology at Removery is the safest and most effective method of removal. We would be more than happy to actually help you remove that tattoo.
Ready to start your tattoo removal journey? Book a free consultation today with a removal expert.
Curious about the cost of removal? Check out our tattoo removal cost page to learn more. But how does tattoo removal work? Learn more about the process at the link and follow us on Instagram @Removery.
We’re on a mission to give you the most straightforward, easy and efficient laser tattoo removal experience. Your estimate will be entirely bespoke to your tattoo; the size, the colours, the ink. It won’t take long and afterwards you’ll have a plan to finally get rid of your unwanted tattoo and get back to being you.