bulldog tattoo rejuvi scarring on chest

The Dangers and Risks of Non-Laser Tattoo Removal Methods

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Even though numerous tattoos look great and have some sort of meaningful reason or memory behind them, several are misguided or ill-thought-out mistakes. Thankfully, laser tattoo removal can help anyone remove regrettable words or ugly pieces of art from their body.

But despite the fact that laser removals are the quickest, safest and most efficient way to get rid of a tattoo, several people pursue other methods. Unfortunately, these don’t work as well and can be quite dangerous too, leaving the individual with harmful, sometimes permanent side effects.

In this post we aim to educate you about the dangers of non-laser tattoo removal methods, including invasive and “DIY tattoo removal” methods.

Dermabrasion tattoo removal

Before the advent of laser removal machines, people went to remarkable lengths to de-ink their skin. One of these extreme techniques was dermabrasion, which some people are still pursuing today in the hope their tattoos will disappear.

dermabrasion tool

Image source

Dermabrasion involves scraping away or sanding down the skin using an abrasive device such as a wire brush, diamond wheel, sterilised sandpaper, salt crystals or other mechanical means. The procedure typically requires a local anaesthetic due to the high level of pain the patient will undoubtedly suffer.

If the suffering and thought of skin scraping wasn’t enough to put you off, dermabrasion can also cause scaring, discolouration, bleeding and infection. It can take months to heal properly and might not even have the desired effect.

Side effects: Pain, burning, itching, weeping pores, bruising, swelling, scabbing, discolouration, bleeding, infection and permanent scaring.

Expert opinion

“Dermabrasion is not the best option for tattoo removal. There are many different lasers used to remove tattoos. Look for a dermatologist who has good before and after photos as well as all the lasers available depending upon the color of the tattoo pigment.”

William Portuese (MD), Plastic Surgeon at Seattle Facial, Seattle.

Salabrasion tattoo removal

Salabrasion is quite similar to dermabrasion, but uses water and granular salt in addition to an abrasive device. Rather than sheer brute force, the salty substance is meant to rub and peel away the upper layers of skin.

After vigorously rubbing the region, an antibiotic ointment and sterile gauze dressing is applied and left for a few days before the whole process is repeated again. The salabrasion-affected region of dead skin should start to separate from the healthy skin beneath, pulling the tattoo pigment away at the same time – apparently. damaged neck skin after salabrasion tattoo removal

Image source

However, just like dermabrasion, this method can be incredibly painful, will leave a visible scar and could result in infection. There is also a good chance that the procedure won’t go deep enough to reach the tattoo ink anyway.

Side effects: Pain, burning, weeping pores, itching, bruising, swelling, scabbing, discolouration, bleeding, infection and permanent scaring.

Expert opinion

“Salabrasion is not a reliable method for tattoo removal. It also carries a high risk of scarring that cannot be minimized. Spreading of ink within the body causing problems, other than allergy, (if you are allergic to the ink) is purely speculative. There has never been a confirmed report of cancer in relation to tattooing or removal. I would suggest you seek out laser treatment, ideally with PicoSure.”

Phillip Bekhor (MBBS, FACD), Dermatologist at Laser Dermatology, Melbourne.

Surgical excision tattoo removal

If you thought dermabrasion and salabrasion were bad, then you might not want to read what surgical excision involves, especially if you’re squeamish. For this procedure, the surgeon removes the tattoo using a scalpel and closes the wound with stitches.

That’s right, surgical excision involves cutting a tattoo out of your skin under local anaesthetic. While some will claim this is effective for smaller tattoos and offers improved precision, the cut doesn’t usually go deep enough and may not remove all of the ink or pigment. tattoo being removed surgically On top of that, side effects include skin discolouration, infection and raised or thickened scars, which won’t appear until three to six months after the procedure and may stick around for life. surgical excision tattoo removal permanent scarring Side effects: Pain, bruising, swelling, discolouration, infection and permanent scaring.

Expert opinion

“Excision will leave permanent scarring and dermabrasion will likely leave scarring as well as loss of pigmentation that may not be reversible. Laser treatment has improved dramatically in the past year and is by far your best option.”

Roy G. Geronemus (MD), Dermatologic Surgeon at Laser & Skin Surgery Center, New York.

Acid tattoo removal

Similar to a salt solution, some people are using acid to get rid of their tattoos, as it causes a reaction and removes the top layer of skin. However, numerous health professionals strongly advise against this method due to the dangerous chemical properties of the acids being used. The most common acid procedures include:

  • TCA Peel – TCA stands for TriChloroacetic Acid and will burn away outer layers of the skin. The amount of time this chemical peel is left on the skin will determine how many layers are burnt away. However, all a TCA peel will do is bleach the skin and make it seem as though the tattoo has been removed, when in fact the skin has just been lightened.
  • Glycolic Acid Peel – This contains a mixture of lactic, tartaric, malic and glycolic acid and can be administered at home or by a dermatologist. The solution is meant to inflame the skin so your body can expel the tattoo ink, but it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Therefore, it isn’t very effective and could result in pain or scarring. Whatsmore, a recent study showed that fluid lactic acid tattoo eraser caused depigmentation and hypertrophic scars.
  • Acid injectionsThis invasive treatment involves taking a tattoo-like needle filled with acid and injecting it into the patient’s body. This attempts to flush out ink and bring it to the surface. Scabs full of the tattoo colour appear and when they fall off, take the ink with them. But Dr Jeannette Young, the chief health officer in Queensland, Australia said: “My issue is that we have heard of some serious complications because of it. There have been other people who have developed infections, there’s also been risks of altering the pigmentation of the skin.”
acid tattoo removal burnt fingers

Image source

Side effects: Pain, burning, weeping sores, itching, bruising, swelling, scabbing, discolouration, cicatrisation, infection and permanent scaring.

Expert opinion

“The best method for tattoo remove is through the laser. Chemical peels and other modalities do not penetrate deep enough to remove the ink from the tattoo that is in the deeper dermal layer of the skin. “

Michele S. Green (MD), New York Dermatologist

Tattoo removal creams

The prospect of a DIY and pain-free cream, which will get rid of your tattoo in next to no time, is one that appeals to several people. But the phrase “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is,” definitely applies here.

These creams usually contain chemicals including hydroquinone, kojic acid, alpha arbutin and TCA, which are meant to dissolve the tattoo from your skin. And while they may slightly fade your tattoo, these removal creams cannot access the layer of skin where ink is stored known as the dermis.

cream tattoo removal

In addition to burning and irritating the skin, tattoo removal creams cause scaring, lots of false hope and a rather pointless dent in your bank account.

Side effects Pain, burning, bruising, swelling, itching, scabbing, discolouration,infection and permanent scaring.

Expert opinion

“You will be best served by not wasting your money on any of the advertised tattoo removal creams as they are unable to have any effect on the tattoo pigments residing within the deep layers (dermis) of your skin. The gold standard for tattoo removal is with the use of an appropriate laser. “

Jacque P. LeBeau (MD), Plastic Surgeon at LeBeau Clinic, Florida

Cryosurgery Tattoo Removal

Cryosurgery, also known as cryotherapy, is the process of removing unwanted layers of skin by freezing them off – much like you would do to a wart as seen in the picture below.

cryosurgery on a wart

Image credit: Jere Mammino, D.O., FAOCD

The process is not for the faint-hearted, though; it involves spraying on a freezing agent which induces frostbite, and then sanding layers of skin off the affected area. Because it can be extremely painful, cryosurgery is performed under local anaesthetic.

Cryosurgery is one of the least popular types of tattoo removal in the UK because it isn’t entirely effective. It also has a number of drawbacks. These drawbacks include:

  • Results vary wildly, and depend on how your body reacts;
  • Scarring is common;
  • People with sensitive skin are discouraged from this treatment;
  • Cryosurgery can damage nearby tissue.

Because of its varied results and other drawbacks, cryosurgery is not recommended for tattoo removal.

Side effects: Pain, blistering, scabbing,, swelling, discolouration, infection and permanent scaring.

Expert Opinion

“I do not recommend cryotherapy for tattoo removal to my patients. The lasers that are available are much better targeted at tattoo particles than cryotherapy. I would expect significant scarring if one used cryotherapy to remove a tattoo as opposed to using an FDA approved laser. If your dermatologist does not own a laser for tattoo removal, I suggest you seek one who does.”

Shawn Allen (MD), Dermatologist at Boulder PC, Boulder.

The right way to have a tattoo removed

It is clear to see that all of the aforementioned methods and procedures have harmful and painful flaws, which usually fail to remove the tattoo anyway.The only way you can guarantee safe and effective results is to choose laser tattoo removal and treatment.

picosure laser treating tattoo on back

You may experience some side effects such as blistering, scabbing, swelling, but these are signs that the treatment is working and the body is healing.

What’s more, the latest removal device, the PicoSure laser has a 75 per cent or greater clearance after one treatment. Along with removing tattoos in fewer sessions, PicoSure is FDA approved and has a 90 per cent recommendation rate worldwide.

For more information about PicoSure or other laser tattoo removal options, get in touch with Andrea Catton today.

Andrea Catton

Andrea has over over 40 years experience delivering beauty and skin care treatments and has over 20 years laser experience. Regarded as the number one PicoSure laser technician in the UK, Andrea is trained and qualified to use Aculight HR IPL, Chromolite IPL, N-Lite laser, Ellipse, Episoft MD IPL, ADL Sapphire Nd:YAG, RevLite & PicoSure. Andrea is also a member of the British Institute & Association of Electrolysis, British Medical Laser Association and is fully qualified to teach IPL & laser hair removal.

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14 Responses to “The Dangers and Risks of Non-Laser Tattoo Removal Methods”

  1. happy

    I would like to know does laser tattoo remove treatment could have negative effect to pregnant women? Thanks for sharing a very important information with us.

    • Jim

      I just read laser removal causes cancer, be very careful, specially if you are pregnant. Take care of your children.

      • Natalie c

        What doesn’t cause cancer now a days? People should be more concerned about the ink they put in their body which is unregulated and used also in making children’s toys! Thats probably the cause of any cancer risks.

        • Nick

          The issue that some people raise with laser removal is that because tattoo inks are unregulated (and therefore untested) in many jurisdictions, there is a small risk that by breaking the ink into small particles (that may be sloughed OR absorbed by your body) you are increasing the chance of introducing potentially toxic or carcinogenic substances into your body. I still think laser is the way to go and is certainly my preferred approach to removal… probably would suggest waiting until after you finished breastfeeding…. but that is just my unqualified opinion.

  2. Mo Sho

    it’s really expensive for normal people to pay for picosure, bear in mind it doesn’t take long to pay of all that money. abusing the needs

  3. Hashtag2.0

    Well this isn’t biased at all……yes laser removal is probably the best method, but the attacks on the other methods are a bit much. Most of them are a terrible idea, such as demabrasion and excision etc. but the attempt to make all the other methods look like they were sent by the devil and laser is here to save us all…….too much.
    Some creams won’t cause “permanent scarring” as is said here, it won’t completely get rid of the tattoo but could help fade it. Everyone should just do their research.

    • Adela Pisarevsky

      I’m having a bit of saline removal by a permanent makeup person. It’s only a small strip above one of my eyebrows which old tattoo was done higher than the other. Luckily it won’t cause any side effects or anything, but….it may not work? I had my first session and after I wait 6 or 7 weeks to heal, if it didn’t remove most of it i won’t continue. My eyebrows were done decades ago so they are extremely light but still there and ugly, so I don’t know whether it will remove this shadow of a tattoo? Anyway, if you or others here have an opinion I’d love to hear it. Thanx. 🙂

    • DudeWheresMyBike

      How is it bias when it’s the best option? It costs the most money because it’s the best way to remove a tattoo with any age ink and any color ink.

  4. Rj

    The bible says do not take shears to hair, blade to face. No tattoos, piercings, or any modification to body, God says I made you perfect already. Hmmmmm.

  5. lexi

    Rejuvi causes HORRIBLE scaring that can not heal from unless you pay for surgery to have it removed even than good luck. This cream is shit not worth it and a fucking scam. Get rid of this shit good old acid on the body to eat your tattoo away.


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