Do Tattoo Removal Creams Work? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

There is nothing worse than getting a tattoo that you regret later. That lower back or tribal bicep tattoo you thought would look cool; yes, they don’t, and since you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of that.

So what do people do when they want to get rid of a tattoo? They are looking for the best, most effective and cheapest tattoo removal options. And here we are; tattoo creams seem to be the #1 option for the majority of people. And why wouldn’t they be? just imagine rubbing cream on the tattoo and it magically disappears. It’s stuff from the Harry Potter saga.

Now let’s get serious. Tattoo removal creams are a thing, there’s no doubt about it. But, we couldn’t help but wonder if these creams worked. They just sound too good to be true, so we had to check that out. So if you’re wondering the same thing, hop on board and let’s get straight to it!

Your guide to tattoo removal creams

What are tattoo removal creams?

As the name is quite simple and self-explanatory, a tattoo removal cream is a topical product that is supposed to lessen or diminish the appearance of a tattoo. The majority of tattoo removal creams claim to somehow whiten the epidermis or top layer of skin, or peel off that layer and release tattoo ink or pigment. Now, that sounds pretty invasive; almost like surgery. So why would one choose a cream that works by “whitening” or “peeling the skin”?

How do tattoo removal creams work?

Well, tattoo removal creams contain exfoliating agents (like trichloroacetic acid or TCA) or glycolic acid to “whiten” or “peel” the surface layer of skin. However, these creams also claim to be able to penetrate the skin and potentially remove pigment from where the ink is placed, which is the dermis layer of the skin. The dermis is the inner layer of the skin where the ink is permanently placed.

Now, it is important to mention that these creams do not reveal how much TCA they contain. The TCA in these creams is unregulated, and this acid is generally only used by healthcare professionals, in regulated amounts.

Now we also have to say that no cream in the world can penetrate the skin so deeply and reach the dermis layer of the skin. The creams generally remain on the surface. In the case of moisturizing lotions and creams, the epidermis simply soaks them in to stay hydrated. Other than that, no cream can penetrate the skin or remove anything from inside the skin.

Why do these creams fail in tattoo removal?

So, to finally address the title of this article; tattoo removal creams do NOT work! As we mentioned before, no cream can penetrate the dermis of the skin and magically make the ink disappear; life is not a Harry Potter movie. Now, these creams don’t work for many reasons;

  • They just stay on the surface of the skin, like any other cream or ointment (creams only penetrate the epidermis or the superficial layer of the skin)
  • It is impossible to apply the cream directly to the tattoo because the ink is placed in the dermis of the skin and not in the epidermis
  • They contain questionable ingredients, such as TCA, glycolic acid or hydroquinone

Now these creams fail to remove the tattoos as expected. But, there is something that these creams almost always succeed in; causing damage to the skin. Let’s talk more about it in the following paragraphs!

Do tattoo removal creams cause side effects?

Yes; Tattoo removal creams will cause skin damage in almost all cases of application. These creams are neither regulated nor approved by the FDA, so the ingredients and their amounts in the creams are highly questionable and often dangerous. Now, what kind of side effects are we talking about here? Well, tattoo removal creams can cause;

  • Skin pigmentation issues – these creams (especially those containing hydroquinone) act as skin lighteners. Upon application, they can cause skin discoloration and permanent skin lightening. You should avoid these creams, especially if you have a darker complexion.
  • Skin damage – due to their “peeling” and “bleaching” effects, tattoo removal creams can cause serious skin lesions, in particular permanent scars, acid burns, skin inflammation, redness and rashes. Of course, there can also be peeling of the skin, which is incredibly painful.
  • Allergic reactions and other life-threatening side effects – tattoo removal creams, because o questionable ingredients, can trigger serious and life-threatening allergic reactions. Symptoms of such reactions include; rash, swelling of the tattooed area, hives, breathing problems, nausea and vomiting, as well as anaphylaxis.

So, are there other tattoo removal options?

Any tattoo removal is expensive and takes time to show results. So, when people opt for this type of tattoo removal creams, we understand it. Everyone is trying to save money, but also to get the best results.

However, when you get a tattoo, you should already know that removing it can cost you even more than what you had to pay for the tattoo in the first place. It’s just common knowledge; tattoos are incredibly difficult to remove, and when they are removed, it will cost you a fortune.

So why is tattoo removal expensive? Well, mainly because of the security issues as well as the efficiency of the removal procedures. Let’s talk about other tattoo removal options for a better understanding (some of them are safe, some are not);

Laser tattoo removal is the best and safest tattoo removal option. This is done using Q-switched or picosecond lasers, which are designed to send out pulses of concentrated heat that heat the ink in the skin and break it down into smaller cells.

Now the rest of the process depends on your immune system and your response. For example, when ink is broken down into smaller cells, your body’s white blood cells, called macrophages, target these ink cells and remove them from your body. As a result, over several sessions, the laser manages to fade the tattoo almost completely.

Laser tattoo removal can be quite painful and in some cases cause skin scarring. However, this only happens with untrained people performing laser removal. When done by a professional, using high-end equipment, you should expect a smooth and seamless process.

So how many sessions will it take to get rid of a tattoo? Actually it depends; Regular black and gray tattoos can be done between 8 and 12 sessions. However, colored tattoos (especially those with lighter ink shades) can take up to 20 sessions. So, considering that a session can cost between $200 and $500, we can wrap this up by saying that laser tattoo removal gets expensive pretty quickly.

Also known as surgical excision, surgical tattoo removal means your tattoo is surgically cut out. The procedure involves cutting out the tattooed skin and stitching the rest. Of course, this procedure will lead to surgical scars. Now, due to the invasiveness of the procedure, it is recommended to only be done with smaller tattoos and specific tattoo locations.

Dermabrasion is a procedure performed using a sanding device, such as an abrasive brush to scrape the tattooed skin. Even though it looks almost perfect, this tattoo removal is not recommended for several reasons. First of all, it is extremely invasive and painful. Of course, your skin is numbed beforehand by local anesthesia, but once the anesthesia has stopped working, you will feel a lot of pain.

In addition, the skin after the treatment is completely raw and will remain so for at least a week. During this period, you should do everything in your power to prevent and avoid infection or scarring of the skin. And finally, there is no guarantee that the procedure will remove the ink. This procedure is usually ineffective and you will also most likely end up with a large scar instead of a tattoo.

Chemical peels are usually done by a professional in a doctor’s office. They are also done using TCA (acid found in tattoo removal creams that we discussed earlier), but in much higher amounts so that the acid can reach the dermis of the skin.

The peel is supposed to remove the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin, and with them the ink as well. As you might expect, this procedure is painful and will create an open wound. Thus, proper follow-up is essential to avoid infections and skin damage. The wound is expected to heal in 5-7 days. Of course there is always the possibility of scarring, but if done correctly there should be no problem.

Chemical peels for tattoo removal are only recommended for small tattoos placed where the skin is thicker and there are fewer nerve endings.

Last takeaway

So to reiterate; tattoo removal creams don’t work and it’s more of a scam. So, to avoid skin damage or allergic reactions, stay away from creams and products that claim to remove your tattoo. Instead, seek professional information on other tattoo removal options, like the ones we mentioned earlier.

There are several ways to get rid of unwanted ink. we surely think laser removal is the best and safest option, but be sure to explore other options and see which one works best for you. Also, make sure the procedures are performed by experienced professionals in the doctor’s office.

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