How To Remove Permanent Tattoos

Written by , Esha Saxena

Do you regret that tattoo? Sometimes, a spur of the moment decision can scar you for life. What may have seemed like a “great idea” back in the day, may just be plain embarrassing now. If you can relate and have decided to erase this impulsive decision, then don’t you worry – you aren’t alone, and there are several options.

Before that, here are some things you need to keep in mind before going in for tattoo removal:

  • Be clear whether you would rather do a cover up or be left with a partial tattoo because no tattoo removal procedure is fully guaranteed. Sometimes, they only fade partially and leave a ghost image or a permanent raised scar.
  • One treatment isn’t going to do the job – you will need multiple sessions with an average time between sessions ranging from 4-6 weeks as your skin needs to recover between these sessions. However, this differs from person to person.
  • The success rate of the removal procedure depends on various factors like – location of the tattoo, your age and whether it’s done by a professional or an amateur (tattoos done by amateurs are often easier to remove because they are done with an uneven hand so there’s a giant difference in saturation, depth and uniformity when compared to one done by a professional tattoo artist).
  • Older tattoos are comparatively easier to get rid of than something you got done recently.
  • You need to be educated and aware of the potential side-effects – the most common being hyper-pigmentation which is either a darkening or lightening of the area. This usually heals within 6-12 months. Other potential side-effects include scarring, burns, changes in the texture of the skin and infections.
  • It’s best to restrain from use of antibiotics when you are getting a laser tattoo removal as a majority of these drugs trigger sensitivity to light which may deteriorate your healing process.

It’s always important to do your research and if you’re in doubt, do not jump into the process. However, if you are mentally and physically prepared to go through with it, then it’s time for you to pick the most effective technique of removal.

As Science is progressing and tattoo removal has gained immense popularity, there are a fewer risks involved in the process. Below are some of the most sought-after ways to remove permanent tattoos.

How To Remove Permanent Tattoos – Surgical Methods

  1. Laser Tattoo Removal
  2. Intense Pulsed Light Therapy
  3. Cryosurgery
  4. Dermabrasion

1. Laser Tattoo Removal


This is the safest and most preferred tattoo removal technique with minimal side effects. The laser removes the tattoo by breaking up the ink’s pigment colors with a high-intensity light beam.

If you only have black ink, then lucky for you because black absorbs all laser wave-lengths, making it the easiest color to treat. Other colors can be treated with the help of selected lasers depending upon the color of the pigment.

There are two types of laser which can be used for the process – ‘Passive’ and ‘Active’ laser tattoo removal system.

i) Passive Laser Treatment

Just because ‘Passive Laser’ includes the word ‘laser’ in it, it does not become a fool-proof tattoo removal method. This is a cheaper way to get rid of your tattoo, but don’t get too excited – this technique will only partially fade your tattoo. You will find this technique offered to you by tattoo salons or beauty clinics. It’s best to know the difference between these and medical-grade active Q-switched lasers so you aren’t taken advantage of, only to end up with a partially faded tattoo in the name of “savings”.

ii) Active Laser Treatment

Coming to the single-most effective and efficient way of removing tattoos of nearly every color – the Active Laser. An Active Q-Switched (AQS) Laser removal technique is considered ideal by dermatologists. It requires various sittings and also has minimal risk of scarring. If proper aftercare is followed, these will heal within 6-12 months.

There are three types of Active Q-switch lasers – Nd:YAG, Ruby, and Alexandrite. Each targets a different range of the color spectrum. In most cases, more than one Q-switch laser is used during a tattoo removal treatment – and they all produce impressive results.

Get the difference?

2. Intense Pulsed Light Therapy


Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy uses a broad spectrum light which removes the top layer of the skin (epidermis). It breaks down the pigments in the tattoo into smaller components, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream and taken away from the site. In time, the affected area heals by skin regeneration.

However, this technique is not advisable for people of color as their skin is susceptible to permanent loss of skin color (hypo-pigmentation). Also, this technique is suitable for larger tattoos as it emits large light pulses.

3. Cryosurgery

This method is most often used to remove skin cancers and warts but it’s also used in tattoo removal. During the process, the inked area is exposed to an extremely cold temperature by spraying a freezing-agent. Liquid nitrogen is most commonly used to do so. The area is then sanded through dermabrasion to remove the top layers of the skin. This is performed under a general anesthesia as it’s highly painful. The biggest drawback of this technique is that it may damage not just the tattooed-area but also skin tissue.

The method is least effective on green and yellow pigments. Also, this process is not recommended for people who have very sensitive skin or tend to scar easily. Although cryosurgery is comparatively less expensive than laser removal, it is not as efficient. It’s also considered to be a cosmetic surgery and is hardly ever covered by an insurance policy.

4. Dermabrasion


In this technique, the skin is abraded using a high-speed brush or a wheel. In essence, the skin is literally sanded down to reach and extract the ink-stained skin. The area is numbed by a general anesthetic. Like most tattoo removal procedures, this requires multiple sessions for treatment. There is a high risk of infection and scarring when it comes to this method.

These are some legit and scientifically-acknowledged ways to actually remove a permanent tattoo.

General DIY Methods That People Try At Home To Remove Permanent Tattoos

There are certain DIY methods that people try at home such as using lemon and honey, chemical peels, salt scrubs, apricot scrubs and by putting together all kinds of bizarre ingredients but you must remember that a permanent tattoo is a rather serious business (the whole idea lies in its permanence, right?) and its removal needs to be done by a professional using the safest possible technique.

However, if you are against Science and convinced that the ‘natural way’ is the best way to go and want to know more about these DIY tattoo removal methods, these are some old-school techniques that people often use.

Note:Some of these methods are the most painful and agonizing tattoo removal methods. If you have a low pain threshold, do not even consider them.

1) Lemon and Honey


Since lemon is a natural bleaching agent and honey is known for its skin regenerative and nourishing properties,this is a go-to method for most people. Mix one teaspoon of lemon with one spoon of honey and apply this mixture on your tattoo everyday. People have claimed that this has faded their tattoo to a certain extent.

2) Salabrasion


Salabrasion uses salt to scrub down the tattoo ink. Several treatments are needed to see results.

3) Salt and Lemon Juice


Mix 100 grams of salt with lemon juice. Soak a cotton pad in this solution and rub it over your tattoo until the solution is deeply absorbed into your skin. Repeat this process everyday, until you achieve desired results. The process of using salt for tattoo removal is similar to that of Salabrasion.

4) Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another common household item that is used to remove permanent tattoos. It’s known to lighten the ink or the pigmentation of the tattoo to a certain extent. You can use this solution over the tattooed area after you scrub the area with salt. It’s popular for its antiseptic properties and also helps to prevent infection.

5) Aloe Vera


If you have super-sensitive skin and can’t opt for other options – aloe vera is one way to fade your tattoo. You can mix fresh aloe vera jel with yogurt and apply this mixture on the tattoo everyday until you see a change. Also, this may work for really small tattoos.

[ Read: How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks with Aloe Vera ]

6) Apple Cider Vinegar

If you have a small tattoo, you can dab a cotton ball soaked in ACV everyday until it starts to fade. However, you need to rub your tattoo with sand paper for the ACV to effectively get absorbed into the area. Although it’s a tedious and painful method – some people have claimed that they’ve achieved results with this procedure.

[ Read: 28 Amazing Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar ]

People also buy tattoo removal creams hoping that they will completely get rid of their tattoos but that’s just wishful thinking. There are a lot of tattoo removal creams in the market today, and these target the top layer of the skin with its chemical content – this is of no use as your tattoo sits within the inner layers of your skin. At the most, if the creams manage to fade and give your tattoo a ‘worn-out’ appearance, that’s only because of your body’s increased immune response in fighting the damage being done to it. However, they will not help in fully removing your tattoo.

We don’t recommend removing your tattoo at home using primitive methods like rubbing salt on it or trying to scrape it off with sandpaper. It’s never fully going to work and you may end up with permanent scarring.

Have you had the misfortune of going through a tattoo removal and have you tried any of these methods before? Do let us know in the comments below!

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