Tattoo Removal Creams……..Do they work?

I have never discouraged the usage of creams for tattoo removal.  They are sold on popular websites and come with many claims and guarantees of ink removal. The lure of something as simple as a ‘tattoo removal cream’ does spark the interest of clients. Removal creams are promoted as the ‘painless’ way to get rid of old and unwanted tattoos, so a tattoo removal cream is something that everybody who’s ever considered tattoo removal will check out. After all, it completely fades the tattoo to the point of invisibility in a few days, right?


I am no expert in removal creams, but like you I have scoured the web to research the topic. Scholarly articles agree that none of these creams will work to remove your tattoos. Manufacturers of the products claim otherwise, and consumers rate tattoo removal creams anywhere from a ½ star to a 5 star. Consumers that give higher reviews say that you have to be patient and that after many uses of a product they see tattoo lightening. My clients are usually seeking tattoo removal not tattoo lightening.


Here is what I do know:  tattoo removal creams are expensive, time consuming, require a commitment and at best may fade a tattoo over time. I also know that I treat many clients who have tried topical products, as an alternative to laser tattoo removal. My clients have spent money, achieved zero results, and then they come to see me to remove their tattoos with a laser.


When laser tattoo removal is performed, the laser works by getting deep into the skin and shattering the ink particles present in the dermis. The body, thanks to the immune system, flushes out these particles. Eventually, the pigments fade off and over time disappear.


What is a tattoo removal cream meant to do?


Much like the laser, tattoo removal creams are manufactured to fade out tattoos by breaking up ink particles. Cream is applied to the epidermis, the upper layer of the skin, with the hope that it will be absorbed by the body, reach the dermis where tattoo ink is placed, cause an inflammatory response and break up ink particles. A cream simply cannot do all that. Instead, the chemicals in the creams cause a reaction on the skin which is akin to bleaching the upper layer.


These creams usually contain Hydroquinone, Alpha-arbutin or TCA and claim to dissolve the tattoo pigment. These are basically acid or bleaching agents, after months to years they can fade a tattoo. When bleaching out a tattoo these agents can cause skin breakdown, irritation, burns and permanent scarring. Practitioners that are familiar with the agents and the way they work usually are careful to advise the use of them. Those that do will know that less is more. Meaning your practitioner will advise you to use less of the product then the manufacture recommends. This will preserve your skin integrity.


If you are eager to remove your tattoo, laser tattoo removal is still your best bet, and creates fewer side effects than removal cream. A laser works by piercing your skin with light and feels like sunburn when it’s over. It targets the ink much more efficiently and reduces the risk of scarring. Of course, to each his/her own! Pick the method that you think provides the best results.