With the recent explosion of tattoo studios in Bournemouth there has undoubtedly been an increase in the requests for tattoo removal. Whilst laser tattoo removal is without a doubt the single most effective treatment for the removal and fading of tattoos, some people are turning to risky and often dangerous alternatives in a bid to get rid of their unwanted tattoo. The internet is awash with all kinds of suggestions for removing tattoos at home. You only have to log on to YouTube to see some of the desperate measure people will go to in order to de-ink their skin.
Here we give you a clear account of what is involved and what outcomes you can expect from the various DIY tattoo removal methods.
Salabrasion for tattoo removal:
This method of tattoo removal is as old as tattooing itself. It involves rubbing salt and water into the tattoo for a period of about 30-40 minutes, usually with the aid of an abrasive object like a block wrapped in gauze. The aim is for the salty mixture to peel and rub away the upper layers of the skin. Cheap table salt is all that is required for salabrasion (although some people use rock or sea salt) which is why initially it appears so appealing to people desperate to remove their unwanted tattoos.
After treating the tattoo for 30-40 minutes with the salabrasion mixture, an antiobiotic cream is applied and the area is then covered with sterile gauze for a few days. Days later the process is repeated again.
There are various instructions and even videos on YouTube, which show both the method and disastrous results of salabrasion. These have been met with a range of comments from online viewers, anything from ‘Wow, mate can’t wait to see you treat your next tattoo’, to ‘You’re an idiot’. We’re inclined to agree with the latter.
How does salabrasion work?:
The upper layers of the salabrasion treated skin die and start to separate from the healthy skin below, in theory taking the pigment (tattoo) with it.
Extremely painful, high risk of infection, hyper or hypo-pigmentation of the skin (discolouration), permanent scarring, weeping.
Whilst historically dermatologists sometimes used this method (under strict hygiene procedures and anaesthetic), this is an extremely risky approach to home tattoo removal given the high risk of infection and scarring. It is also not very reliable in terms of achieving the desired results as tattooists tend to place ink well into the dermis (the second layer of skin).
Along with salabrasion this is one of the oldest methods of DIY tattoo removal.
How does dermabrasion work?
This involves sanding away or scraping the skin layers until the tattoo pigment is reached. Whilst the procedure requires an anaesthetic due to the intense pain it causes, many people do try this at home as a method of home tattoo removal. I’ve seen many devices advertised as dermabrasion tools, anything from wire brushes, sandpaper and even your average cheese grater!
Similar to salabrasion. In addition to pain, infection, discolouration and permanent scarring, you can also expect bruising and bleeding.
Do not attempt this. It is a very ineffective and risky way of removing an unwanted tattoo.
Acid tattoo removal
This method of removing tattoos at home usually involves (but is not limited) to using TCA peel solutions.
How does TCA tattoo removal work?
TCA stands for Trichloroacetic acid, which when applied to the tattoo, burns the upper layers of the skin. The stronger the acid percentage and the longer the acid is left on, the deeper it goes. Technically it doesn’t actually remove the tattoo, it simply bleaches the skin.
TCA causes severe chemical burns to the skin. You can expect bleeding, weeping, burns, pain and scarring. Risk of infection is high.
As with the above, do not be tempted to try this at home.
Tattoo removal cream
This really does seem fantastic at first sight. A cream which when applied will simply dissolve your tattoo?! What’s not to like? Well for a start it won’t actually remove your tattoo or even come close to fading it, and this is why.
How do tattoo removal creams work?
Creams that you can buy online tend to contain ingredients like TCA (covered above) as well as other bleaching agents like hydroquinone, (often used for fading hormonal pigmentation like melasma), and kojic acid. Whilst this cocktail of bleaching ingredients will no doubt have some bleaching effect on the skin, they are not able to penetrate down to the dermis (the second layer of skin) which is where most of the tattoo pigment lies. This is also why hydroquinone is also pretty ineffective on dermal melasma as it is most effective in the upper most layers of the skin, called the epidermis.
itchy, burning skin. Discolouration
Whilst these are certainly less risky than the home tattoo removal methods already discussed above, tattoo removal creams are completely ineffective. Our advice is to save you money and your skin.
Other tattoo removal methods
Acid injections for tattoo removal
This involves injecting acid into the tattooed area.
How do acid injections work?
Acid, often glycolic acid, is injected into the artwork. In theory the tattoo then forms scabs containing the tattoo ink, which then fall off. However, due to the fact the acid forces the ink up through the layers of the dermis and the epidermis, textural scarring can be significant. Problems with infection are also common.
Pain, burning, infection, scarring and textural scarring.
Acid injections for tattoo removal are highly ineffective and risky.
Rejuvi tattoo removal
Rejuvi uses an inorganic chemical remover designed to draw the pigment out of the skin.
How does rejuvi work?
Rejuvi is injected into the skin by a tattoo or micropigmentation artist. The chemical compound then forces the pigment up and out through the various layers of the skin. The transdermal forcing of the ink causes significant scarring and textural changes. One only has to Google, ‘rejuvi scarring’ to see the kind of damage this chemical does to people’s skin.
Pain, burning, infection, extensive textural scarring.
You’re better off keeping your tattoo. This treatment will give you extensive textural scarring.
Surgically removing tattoos
Another drastic measure taken by some to remove tattoos is surgical excision of tattoos.
How does it work?
For small tattoos, it is possible to surgically remove tattoos by cutting them out of the skin under local anaesthetic. This should only be done by a surgeon or dermatologist. It is a drastic method for tattoo removal and can leave scarring. It is not always effective at removing all of the pigment due to the depth at which tattoo ink is normally placed.
Pain, bruising, textural scarring and discolouration.
Cryosurgery tattoo removal
‘Cryo’ from the Greek, meaning ‘cold’ is the process removing unwanted lesions (like warts) by freezing them off.
How does cryosurgery tattoo removal work?
A freezing agent is sprayed onto the tattoo (usually under local anaesthetic), the layers of skin are then sanded off using some form of abrasive material.
This method of tattoo removal is not commonly used in the UK due to the fact it is not very effective nor suitable for large areas.
Scarring, unpredictable results, very harsh on the skin.
Despite the fact that cryosurgery is performed by a skin specialist within a clinic environment, due to its inconsistent results and its unsuitability for large areas of skin, this is not something we would recommend.
Laser tattoo removal
Laser tattoo removal is the only safe form of tattoo removal with minimal side effects. Unlike laser hair removal (where light is delivered in milliseconds) with laser tattoo removal, light, delivered in nanoseconds, thus creating a photo-mechanical effect on the skin, shattering the target (ink) whilst keeping the skin intact. Like with any laser treatments there are certain possible side effects, but unlike the methods above, these do not cause horrendous side effects like chemical burns and keloid scarring.
Black tattoos are the easiest to remove and have the least side effects. Generally you can expect a fair bit of swelling with laser tattoo removal (the larger the tattoo the more swelling), but this generally goes down fairly quickly. Coloured tattoos, especially reds can blister, but as long as the blisters remain intact and do not get infected, they do not leave any scarring. Blisters are nature’s elastoplast whilst new skin is regenerated underneath.
Pigment changes in the skin can occur with laser tattoo removal, some people are more prone to these than others. Hypo-pigmentation (lightening of the skin) or hyper—pigmentation (darkening of the skin) can occur, but these are nothing in comparison to the type of skin pigment changes which take place when using salabrasion for instance as a method for tattoo removal.
When it comes to side effects, laser tattoo removal tends to come with ‘possible’ unwanted side effects like a slight lightening of the skin, whereas with most of the home tattoo removal methods above, they are ‘guaranteed’ side effects. In other words, you can fully expect to get chemical burns and irreversible skin changes if you try to remove your tattoos at home. You can also expect to get less than satisfactory results with these home tattoo removal methods, whereas laser tattoo removal can achieve fantastic results with minimal side effects.
Before and after treatment at Laser Skin Solutions Bournemouth
For your free, no obligation laser tattoo removal consultation, please call us on
01202 985 029.