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The Complete Guide to Tattoo Removal – Bonus Chapter


Bonus Chapter: Laser Tattoo Removal Alternatives
(like Tattoo Removal Creams and Surgery)


The Bad Old Days: Surgery, Scarring and Stitches!

As recent as the 1980s, options for tattoo removal were not only limited, but almost always result in scarring. The only removal options available at the time were:

  • *Dermabrasion – surgically, invasive procedure removing the top layers of skin with strong abrasive devices like a wirebrush or sterile sandpaper
  • *Cryosurgery – medically freezing the top layers of skin so ice crystals begin to form inside the cell and the top layers of skin dieoff
  • *Excision – tattoo removal by cutting out the tattoo with a scapel, often requiring a skin graft to replace the missing tissue.

As you can see, each of these methods required the physical removal of the skin. Although the ink would no longer be visible (in most cases), the treatments often required stitches and in some cases subsequent skin grafts. All of these practically come with a guarantee of some scaring.

Other early treatments included a variety of topical creams, few (if any) of which worked.

Tattoo Removal Creams

Warning: The doctors and staff here at Pasadena Aesthetic Laser Center do no recommend anyone try to remove a tattoo at home by means of chemical burns. It can be dangerous and cause serious damage to one’s skin.

There are dozens of tattoo removal creams available on the market today. But tattoo removal creams should always be used with caution since they can contain any number of dangerous ingredients. They are an unregulated product with no oversight by market authorities. TCA is one of the oldest creams used for tattoo removal. The full chemical name for TCA is Trichloroacetic acid. Using creams containing TCA is considered a “do-it-yourself” method because you can buy these creams off-the-shelf, and apply them yourself. However, there are many dangers that come with using TCA.

By using TCA creams the patient is attempting to remove the tattoo with a chemical burn. (Remember: it’s an acid!) Patients have reported a burning sensation with TCA that does not subside without further medical attention. Also, the use of TCA requires multiple applications (typically over a series of months) to achieve any degree of peeling.

This is a major disadvantage since the total concentration of chemical used will be high, increasing the risk of dangerous chemical exposure. Other types of tattoo removal creams carry many of the same risks as TCA.

The FDA, PubMed, and the Mayo Clinic have all researched tattoo removal creams and state that there is no evidence of tattoo removal creams being an effective method of tattoo removal. Research shows that tattoo removal creams are unable to penetrate down to the dermis layer of skin to actually get to the ink that needs to be removed. So using a removal cream essentially means you’ll be burning yourself with acid with no guarantee of actually removing the tattoo. Our advice is: don’t.

Here is an example of one documented case (by the US National Library of Medicine) of an individual using TCA creams. The patient sought medical attention after the burning sensation would not subside on its own. The first image is the chemical burn caused after 48 hours. The part of skin containing the acid had to be surgically removed to prevent further damage to the skin.

TCA image -1

(the left image is after 48 hours of the TCA being applied, the right image is how much of the skin had to be surgically removed because of the TCA cream)

Saline and Acidic Water Injections

One of the newest methods of tattoo removal is using a tattoo removal gun and needle to inject different solutions into the dermis layer of the skin in order to cause the ink the be rejected by the body. We advise caution when exploring this method as well.

One of these methods caused the chief health officer of Queensland in Australia to issue a public warning, citing that multiple people had developed severe burns and scarring during the process.

These injection methods are very new and have not been researched by any major health organizations. We suggest you approach with caution. Always do your research and check for credible medical organizations to back up these other methods promoted by individuals on various websites.

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Pasadena Aesthetic Laser Center (at Skin Deep Laser MedSpa) 425 South Fair Oaks Ave. Pasadena, CA 91105
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