Tattoo Removal Alternatives

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Tattoo Removal Alternatives

Many people end up regretting that tattoo that they once wanted so badly. While most professionals suggest laser treatment to effectively remove tattoo ink, there are others options out there.

Tattoos have been around a lot longer than the practice of laser tattoo removal, meaning the techniques for removing tattoos were once limited to the most superficial layer of the skin, called the epidermis. These alternatives of excision or dermabrasion were evasive and not completely effective.

There are many claims out there for products to help remove tattoos, but it is important to research your options before committing to a strategy. Here are several options of tattoo removal that do not require lasers.


Dermabrasion works by scraping away the top few layers of skin, which removes the color of the tattoo and encourage fresh skin to grow. A local anesthetic is applied tp reduce the pain prior to the abrasion, which is likely to take several days to heal. This can be done by several methods, including sandpaper, corrosive salt or acids, or an abrasive brush. Dermabrasion is not recommended for every tattoo, however. Tattoos that are on the face, those that have been done unprofessionally, or very old tattoos should not be removed by dermabrasion because their pigments have likely soaked deep into the skin, making them difficult to remove.

There are several problems that come along with dermabrasion as a form of tattoo removal. It results in scarring that is often more unsightly than the tattoo itself. The scar may even become raised and discolored months after the dermabrasion has been performed. An infection can also occur in the area that is being treated. Finally, the pain from this procedure often lasts for several days.


Just as mentioned above, salibrasion is a form of dermabrasion where the tattoo is literally rubbed away with abrasive salt with a local anesthetic. This is one of the oldest known procedures for tattoo removal.


A scalpel can be used to cut away the portion of skin that contains a tattoo. This is best for small tattoos because the area of skin is sutured back together once it has been removed. If this procedure is desired for a large tattoo, skin grafting is an option. This process is done by a surgeon and is only recommended on smaller tattoos. While this procedure provides immediate results, it is almost certain to cause scarring.


Cryosurgery involves the application of liquid nitrogen to the tattoo, followed by a unique light that encourages the skin to peel off. This is a gradual process, done in a series of doctor visits. Several side effects come along with cryosurgery, including bleeding and blistering at the site, swelling, and pain. Some people are unable to regrow hair at the surgery site as well.

Tattoo Removal Cream

These inexpensive creams are easily purchased and therefore very popular. Although these creams are neither regulated nor recommended by the F.D.A., they act as bleaching agents to reduce the appearance of tattoos. These creams must be applied three times each day and can take up to a year to be effective.

It is important to note that reports have shown these creams have an ingredient in them that is likely to cause cancer. Hydroquinone has been banned in several countries for this reason. If you choose to useĀ  tattoo removal creams to remove your tattoo, check the ingredient label first to make sure it does not contain Hydroquinone.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are often done by dermatologists to rejuvenate skin from wrinkles, age spots, and fine lines. During a chemical peel, trichloroacetic acid is applied directly to the tattoo for up to ten minutes before being neutralized by frozen saline packs.

Up to a month before getting a chemical peel, patients must start to apply skin conditioners such as Retin-A to reduce dead skin, which will make the peel work into the deep layers of skin, providing better results. However, this is not a very effective method for tattoo removal because it fails to penetrate deep enough into the skin.

Chemical peels are offered by some companies for people to use at home. However, they are not regulated by the F.D.A and are not likely to be safe methods to remove a tattoo. It is not recommended to do this at home because in order to be effective, the procedure would not be safe and could easily lead to scarring or infection.

At-Home Tattoo Removal

Whether it is due to the cost, time, or simply due to high emotions, some people decide to attempt removing their tattoos themselves. Most home remedies are brutal and unsophisticated. Some examples include:

  • Colored Ink Half Sleeve Tattoo Art

    using household chemicals

  • burning the skin with fire
  • cutting the tattoo out with knives
  • injecting water into the tattoo to flush it out
  • using sandpaper to rub off the tattoo

None of these techniques are safe or recommended.

Intense Pulsed Light

I.P.L. is similar to laser therapy in the sense that they both use light to break down tattoo ink, however, I.P.L. is more expensive than laser therapy. This procedure also comes with the risk of Hypopigmentation which is not great if yoiu need to remove military tattoos and deploy shortly.


1. Q-switched Ruby

This laser emits quick pulses of intense red light into the skin, where it is then absorbed by the tattoo ink, which is then broken down. This results in the gradual fading of a tattoo. There is typically no lasting harm done to the skin with this laser tattoo removal treatment.

2. Q-switched Alexandrite

This laser emits energy that is longer than the Ruby, but shorter than the ND:YAG. This is very effective on blue-black and green tattoos, however, some of the lasers are inconsistent and unreliable. Also, this laser is not effective for red tattoos, which is a popular color.

3. Q-switched Nd:YAG

This laser is great for all colors, including red tattoos, and is great for people with darker skin. This laser is very versatile and therefore considered the most effective laser in tattoo removal.

Tattoo Cover-Ups

A new tattoo can be applied directly over an original tattoo. This camouflages the original tattoo, making it unrecognizable. Many choose to do a laser treatment prior to covering up a tattoo to help lighten the original tattoo, creating a clean canvas. This process is less expensive than complete removal, which provides a different option to those who regret getting their tattoos.