If you’re interested in tattoo removal, consult your dermatologist about the options. Don’t attempt tattoo removal on your own. Do-it-yourself tattoo removal creams and other home treatments aren’t likely to be effective and may cause skin irritation or other reactions.
Tattoo removal is usually done as an outpatient procedure with local anesthesia. The most common techniques for tattoo removal include laser surgery, dermabrasion and surgical removal.
During dermabrasion, the tattooed area is typically chilled until numb. Then the tattooed skin is sanded down to deeper levels with a high-speed rotary device that has an abrasive wheel or brush. This allows the tattoo ink to leach out of the skin. The affected area may feel sore and raw for up to 10 days after the procedure. During this time, it’s important to treat the affected area gently. You may need to use antibacterial ointment and cover the affected area with special bandages. Dermabrasion might not completely erase the tattoo.
During surgical removal, the skin is numbed with an injection of a local anesthetic. The tattoo is removed with a scalpel, and the edges of skin are stitched back together. After the procedure, you may need to use an antibacterial ointment for several days to promote healing. Surgical tattoo removal is effective — but it leaves a scar and may be practical only for small tattoos.
Complete tattoo removal is very difficult, especially for people who have dark skin or multicolored tattoos. Some degree of scarring or skin color variations are likely to remain, regardless of the specific tattoo-removal method.