Other removal methods and products

For reference and history purposes, here’s a bit of info on some of the methods and products that have been used for tattoo removal in the past, and that are still sometimes used today. Let’s be clear…Bad Ink Be Gone does NOT endorse any of the methods and products listed below in any way. In fact, some of these have been known to cause skin cancer.


This is typically used as an “at-home method”, and consists of vigorously rubbing away the top layers of the skin with a solution of water and coarse salts, until bleeding occurs. Not only is this very painful, but the risk of scarring and infection is high.

 Skin Graft | by Paul Farrant El Gordo 78 at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Skin Graft | by Paul Farrant El Gordo 78 at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons


This method is typically only used for small tattoos and must be done under local anesthesia. It implies cutting out the tattoo and stitching the skin back together. For excision of larger tattoos, the excision is done in separate steps, and a skin graft is usually needed. For an absolutely disgusting pic of what skin grafts look like, look to the right! Excision can obviously cause bleeding and scarring, not to mention possible infection.


This method consists of freezing the skin with liquid nitrogen before the removal of the tattoo, resulting in less bleeding. By freezing the skin, the top layers become more easily “peelable”. This method is often used with dermabrasion or salabrasion.


This consists of multiple sessions of “sanding” away the top and middle layers of the skin, and letting the skin heal for 4–6 weeks in between. The procedure is usually done under local anesthetic or some other form of sedation. Bleeding is common during the procedure, and some level of scarring is probable.

 Tissue Expansion

Tissue Expansion

Tissue expansion

This is a surgical procedure that consists of inserting a small balloon under the skin and inflating it, allowing the skin surrounding your tattoo to stretch out by cell division over the next few months. Once the skin is properly stretched, the tattoo is cut out by excision and the new skin is stitched back together. This procedure is very rarely used, due to the pain and scarring involved, as well as the deformity caused while the balloon is inflated under the skin.

Ink extraction by acid injection



This procedure consists of a solution of benzoic acid or glycolic acid being injected into the tattoo with a machine, the same way that the tattoo ink was initially implanted into the tissue. This solution is said to bond with the ink particles and draw the ink to the skin’s surface by way of a scab. Not only is it a bad idea to inject such acids into the skin, but there have also been many reported cases of heavy scarring with this method.

Fading creams and chemical peels

Many “miracle” removal creams and do-it-yourself chemical peels are now available, whether at local pharmacies, online, or at beauty supply shops. These are basically skin bleaching agents or acid-based solutions which are applied to the epidermis (outer layer of the skin). Because tattoos are embedded in the dermis layer (which is deeper than the epidermis), the vast majority of these creams and peels will only bleach or burn away the surface of your skin, and not your actual tattoo. This can create an illusion of the tattoo getting lighter, when in fact, it’s the skin above it that’s getting lighter. Many cases of changes in skin pigmentation have been detected, and the overall safety of these topicals is questionable. Not only have there been countless reported cases of rashes, allergic reactions, scarring and burning, but some fading creams and chemical peels also contain high-risk ingredients such as hydroquinone and TCA (trichloroacetic acid). The skin safety and success level of these topicals have not been completely proven yet. On its website, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) gives this tip to consumers: “Do not buy or order online do-it-yourself tattoo removal products. These acid-based products are not FDA-approved and can cause bad skin reactions.” 1

1 Think Before You Ink: Are Tattoos Safe?. (2009). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved February 3, 2014, from http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm048919.htm