Tattoo Removal

Tattoo Removal Creams: Do They Actually Work?

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Tattoo removal creams claim to fade tattoos but can have dangerous side effects. Learn the truth about these creams & the safest option for tattoo removal.

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.

What is Tattoo Removal Cream?

If you are tired of looking at a lousy tattoo, grabbing a tube of tattoo removal cream at the drugstore might be tempting. But before you try this over-the-counter tattoo removal option, you must know what these creams are and how they work.

Tattoo removal creams are topical ointments that bleach and exfoliate the skin to release ink trapped in its deep layers. The ointment must be applied daily, and the continuous treatment is supposed to slowly dry out and peel away the skin. It can take up to a year to see any noticeable results.

Popular tattoo removal creams advertise significant claims, including pain-free and complete ink removal. Is an ointment powerful enough to get rid of permanent ink? The short answer is no. Tattoo ink is embedded deep in the second layer of skin, and no over-the-counter ointment is powerful enough to penetrate it deeply.

Tattoo Removal Cream Ingredients 

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.

Ingredients from a Common Tattoo Removal Cream:

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.

Side Effects of Using Tattoo Removal Creams

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. 

  • Redness
  • Rashes
  • Peeling
  • Inflammation 
  • Hives
  • Swelling 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anaphylaxis ( potentially life-threatening allergic reaction) 
  • Hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin) 

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.

Other Tattoo Removal Methods

Tattoo removal creams don’t work, so how do you get rid of a lousy tattoo? Some alternative methods to tattoo removal cream are:

  • Laser tattoo removal is the safest and most effective way to get rid of a tattoo. Treatments have no adverse side effects. Lasers can erase any tattoo ink color and are safe to use nearly everywhere on the body. If your goal is ink-free skin, laser tattoo removal is the best choice!
  • Surgical excision. A doctor cuts away an unwanted tattoo and sews the skin back together. This method can only be used on small or micro tattoos. While it will completely remove your tattoo, surgical excision leaves a scar.
  • Dermabrasion. Like dermabrasion facials, this tattoo removal method heavily exfoliates the skin to disrupt ink and push it to the surface. Dermabrasion is very painful and causes permanent scarring and skin discoloration. In addition, it is unlikely to completely erase a tattoo with dermabrasion.
  • Injectables. Injecting saline under the skin of a tattoo can help remove ink. The saline solution prompts skin cells to release ink, drawing the pigments to the surface. After the treatment, a scab forms. The ink is in the scab, so once the scab falls off, the ink does too. Saline tattoo removal is moderately effective on small tattoos or permanent makeup.


Dermabrasion Tattoo Removal

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 Tattoo Removal

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.

Surgical Excision Tattoo Removal

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.

Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) Tattoo Removal 

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.

Do Tattoo Removal Creams Work?

Unfortunately, tattoo removal creams don’t work. These over-the-counter products are not regulated, so ingredients vary. However, no topical ointment is powerful enough to get deep enough into the skin to remove tattoo ink. 

So, if tattoo removal creams don’t get rid of tattoos, what DO they do? Results depend on the placement, age, and color of the tattoo. Older ink that has naturally faded or fine-line designs might become less noticeable with regular application. 

However, it is important to weigh these mediocre results against the numerous adverse side effects.

Tattoo Removal Cream Before and After Results 

Here are some examples of people who took their chances with tattoo removal creams.

Laser Tattoo Removal: The Safe Option for Removing Tattoos

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.

How Do I Choose the Right Method for Me?

It is important to explore all tattoo removal options before choosing a treatment. First, determine your tattoo goals. Do you want to completely get rid of unwanted ink or just fade it to prepare for a cover-up? How quickly do you need the tattoo removed? What is your budget? Are you worried about scarring?

Regardless of your tattoo goals, tattoo removal cream is one of the least effective methods and should be avoided. Start your tattoo removal journey with consultations from service providers. These initial meetings will answer questions, outline risks, and predict results.

If you want a safe and effective way to get rid of an unwanted tattoo, laser tattoo removal is the best choice! Removery’s award-winning clinics have the most advanced laser technology and highly-trained technicians capable of removing any style of tattoo from anywhere on the body. Schedule a free consultation and get a personalized treatment plan that will exceed your goals and meet your budget based on a flexible schedule that suits your lifestyle.

Get your free estimate

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.

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