While tattoo removal cream may seem like a tempting quick fix, it may not be the right fix.
If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo removed - you’re not alone. Many people sit with regrettable tattoos.
According to the latest McCrindle statistics, one in five Australians regret getting a tattoo.
Fortunately, there are ways that you can remove those unwanted tattoos.
Unfortunately, some of those ways aren’t TGA (Therapeutics Goods Administration) approved and could end up causing more harm than doing any good.
So, in this article, we explore tattoo removal cream, whether it works and why you might want to investigate alternative tattoo removal options.
What Is Tattoo Removal Cream?
Before delving into whether tattoo removal creams work, it’s worth knowing what they are and what they purport to achieve when it comes to tattoo removal.
As the name suggests, tattoo removal is a topical ointment or cream that supposedly gradually fades the tattoo after applying it for a duration of time.
While these tattoo removal creams are advertised as an affordable and convenient way to remove an unwanted tattoo, they often contain harsh chemicals, such as:
- TCA, which is a chemical peel used to remove dead skin, sells and reveal the new skin underneath; and
- Hydroquinone is a skin bleaching agent used to lighten areas of the skin.
A TCA-based tattoo removal cream targets the top layer of the skin and removes it. If you apply the tattoo removal cream often enough, the idea is that you’ll continue to peel away the top layer of skin and eventually wear away the tattoo each time a fresh layer of skin is revealed.
A hydroquinone-based tattoo removal cream targets the skin’s pigmentation rather than the skin itself. By bleaching the skin, you’re essentially reducing its melatonin and fading the skin’s pigments found in the top layer.
Through lightening the skin, the idea is that you’ll also lighten and fade the tattoo.
Do Tattoo Removal Creams Actually Work?
Contrary to what many people might think, tattoo removal is not as simple as applying a cream and hoping for the best.
There are three main layers of the skin:
- the epidermis: the top layer of your skin and the part of the skin that is visible;
- the dermis: lies beneath the epidermis and is much thicker; and
- the hypodermis: the deeper subcutaneous fat layer.
When you get a tattoo, the ink doesn’t just deposit on the epidermis layer, but it also penetrates the dermis layer.
The two most commonly found active ingredients found in tattoo removal creams (i.e. TCA and Hydroquinone) function to either peel away the epidermis or lighten it.
So, not only are you applying pretty harsh chemicals to your skin, but logically it won’t work because neither chemical penetrates deep enough into the dermis layer to remove the tattoo ink.
From a scientific perspective, there’s no evidence that tattoo removal creams work. According to Dr LE Gibson at Mayo Clinic, they’ll maybe fade or lighten that tattoo - but that’s the best possible result.
It’s unlikely that a topical tattoo removal cream can dissolve tattoo ink that lies beneath the epidermis layer of your skin.
You would also have to consider the possible side effects of using a tattoo removal cream with chemicals such as TCA and hydroquinone.
Are Side Effects Possible?
Think about it - you’re essentially rubbing chemicals and bleach into your skin to burn away the top layer of your skin.
So, yes! The chemical makeup of a tattoo removal cream can have several side effects:
- chemicals and abrasive exfoliants can damage and irritate the skin, leading to severe damage;
- irritation and damage to the skin is likely to cause scarring;
- bleaching agents can cause skin discolouration; and
- if you happen to have an allergic reaction to any of the chemical ingredients contained in tattoo removal creams, you could end up with severe symptoms such as hives, inflammation and swelling.
Many of the tattoo removal creams can easily be bought as over-the-counter treatments, so, unfortunately, there is very little warning about the possible side effects.
If you decide to use a tattoo removal cream, we would highly advise you to make sure you read the package insert to know precisely how often you could use the cream and what you can expect from the experience.
Laser Tattoo Removal vs Tattoo Removal Creams – What’s the Verdict?
Thanks to advances in laser and light-based technology, the techniques used in laser tattoo removal today are much safer, less intrusive, more effective, and have fewer complications - if any.
Using a tattoo removal cream is mainly ineffective from a scientific perspective because it can’t penetrate the skin’s deeper layers.
If you can get your hands on a cream strong enough to penetrate beyond the epidermis layer of the skin, you could end up permanently damaging your skin.
Also, if it can penetrate deep enough, you may also risk spreading the ink particles rather than removing it. This can often seem as if the tattoo is fading.
On the other hand, laser tattoo removal technology can safely remove even the most stubborn tattoos.
Laser tattoo removal works by targeting pigment colours in the skin’s dermis, the layer of skin between the epidermis and subcutaneous tissues.
Light beams radiated by the laser are absorbed by tattoo pigments, which then fragment. The body then absorbs and eliminates these pigment fragments through its immune system.
After a series of successful laser treatments, most tattoos are pretty much gone.
You would think that because it’s so easy to get your hands on a tattoo removal cream that it would be a safe and effective way to remove your unwanted tattoos.
While it may be convenient, “safe and effective” couldn’t be further from the truth.
Tattoo inks are embedded deep within the dermis, so peeling off the top layers of the skin wouldn’t even affect most tattoos. And unfortunately, using harsh chemicals to do the peeling ends up causing more damage than anything else.
So you’ll need to think twice before opting for the quick and easy fix.
At the Tattoo Removal Institute, we believe that laser tattoo removal is the only safe and effective method to remove unwanted tattoos.
Each person’s tattoos are unique, and several factors will determine whether or not you would be a good laser removal candidate.
So, you can schedule a free consultation with us to assess your tattoo and see how we can safely start the process of removing it.
Get in touch today!
DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other health care provider. The information provided here is for informational purposes only. Please check with a physician if you have health questions or concerns about interactions or go to the TGA for a comprehensive list of TGA warnings. Although we attempt to provide accurate and up-to-date information, no guarantee is made to that effect.