The Dangers of DIY Tattoo Removal

By Dr. James Taggart on May 16, 2023

Over time, a tattoo may be something you wish you could get rid of as quickly as possible. Reasons people seek tattoo removal range from the tattoo being the name of a past significant other, representing a provocative icon, or something that is preventing you from getting a job. Unfortunately, DIY tattoo removal methods do not work and could cause serious skin problems that require medical treatment.

Why Are DIY Tattoo Removal Methods Ineffective?

Cosmetologist doing some laser tattoo removal to the girl.

Understanding why dermatologists strongly discourage tattoo removal at home begins with knowing what happens to your skin when you get a tattoo. When a tattoo artist injects ink into the skin, the ink reaches the middle layer of the skin called the dermis. At this skin level, cell regeneration takes longer than it does on the top layer of the skin (epidermis). In addition, every time a tattoo needle pierces the skin, your immune system senses a wound and releases a flood of white blood cells called macrophages to start repairing these tiny wounds.

The healing process involving macrophages is what makes tattoo ink permanent. These cells actually hold onto the ink used to create a tattoo as they attempt to heal what your immune system thinks is skin damage. Eventually, the immune response diminishes, the tattoo heals completely, and you are left with a tattoo that can only be removed by a dermatologist.

DIY Tattoo Removal Methods That Don't Work

Woman holding a Tattoo Removal Cream in her hand.

Tattoo Removal Creams

Containing a variety of botanical, whitening, and herbal ingredients, tattoo removal creams may lighten a tattoo slightly but do not remove tattoos. Tattoo removal creams remain on the top layer of the skin. They cannot reach the dermis where tattoo ink has been absorbed by macrophages.

Depending on the combination of ingredients found in some creams, the skin could suffer reactions from the harshness of the cream. Contact dermatitis, scarring, skin peeling, and chemical burns could occur from using creams to remove tattoos. In addition, creams with high concentrations of bleach could permanently discolor the skin surrounding the tattoo.

Salt Solutions

Salt Solution Tattoo Removal concept.

Rubbing a salt solution over an unwanted tattoo for the purpose of removing it is called salabrasion. An ineffective technique for tattoo removal at home, salabrasion involves mixing a large amount of salt with tap water and soaking an abrasive material in the solution. This material could be a piece of fine sandpaper or a wood block wrapped in burlap.

The false claim that leaving the skin damaged and raw will result in dead skin cells falling off the skin and taking the ink with them is simply not true. Like tattoo removal creams, salabrasion carries the risks of scarring, infection, and severe contact dermatitis.

Lemon Juice for tattoo removal concept.

Lemon Juice for Tattoo Removal

With an acidity level nearly as strong as gastric juices, lemon juice is a popular DIY home tattoo removal method. Although rubbing lemon juice into your skin may lighten skin tone, the juice won't get rid of a tattoo. Remember, tattoo ink is embedded underneath the epidermis. Also, be aware that putting lemon juice on your skin and going outside in bright sunlight could cause phytophotodermatitis, a skin reaction that may result in permanent hyperpigmentation.

Does At-home Laser Tattoo Removal Work?

Laser tattoo removal on arm of a young woman.

Lasers available for purchase online or at pharmacies are not strong enough to reach the dermis. In fact, OTC lasers for tattoo removal only have a fraction of the power that dermatological lasers can deliver. While at-home lasers for certain superficial skin problems may be effective, they cannot penetrate the epidermis and reach the dermis. Only dermatologists have access to the kind of lasers that dissolve tattoo pigment.

Call Shasta Meadows Wellness to Learn About the Picocare 450 Laser Tattoo Removal Device

Get a tattoo removed safely and effectively by scheduling an appointment at Shasta Meadows Wellness Center for Picocare 450 Laser Tattoo removal treatment. By delivering a series of rapid-fire energy pulses to the dermis, this revolutionary laser tattoo removal device dissolves tattoo ink pigments into harmless microscopic particles. Within a short time, the immune system triggers certain lymph glands that flush these particles out of your body.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation appointment about laser tattoo removal with the Picocare 450.

Article written by Dr. James Taggart
With over two decades of clinical expertise, Dr. James R. Taggart leads an innovative practice as the founder of Shasta Meadows Wellness Center. His vision is to provide proven treatment options addressing depression and pain with patients who have yet to find relief with traditional medical options.

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