Should I remove a tattoo at home?

A question that I hear occasionally and see all over the internet is, “Should I try to remove my tattoo at home?”  The short answer is no, but there are several good reasons why home tattoo removal is ineffective and/or dangerous.  Lets start with the methods that just don’t work!

The Ineffective Tattoo Removers

Creams, rinses, rubs, peels – the list goes on and on.  Most of these are sold on the internet, and most of the things sold on the internet promise much more than they can deliver.  In this case, these products cannot deliver even 10% of what they promise.

There is some good science for why a topical cream or ointment cannot remove enough tattoo ink to completely fade a tattoo.  Topical creams are designed to penetrate the epidermis, where our skin is constantly renewing itself.  Tattoos are created by injecting ink into the dermis, which is a deeper layer of the skin.  Any product that cannot penetrate the dermis cannot remove that ink.  And any cream that does penetrate the dermis is bound to damage the skin instead of targeting the ink molecules that you want to remove.

Another internet remedy sold by auction houses and online retailers is the handheld laser.  Most of these handheld lasers cannot even be plugged into an outlet!  How would we expect a laser that runs on batteries to be both safe and effective?  We simply can’t expect that.  Our lasers (and most lasers approved by the FDA for removal treatment of tattoos) need a 220 amp service to operate.  A tiny handheld laser that runs on 12 or 24 volts most likely can’t generate enough power to penetrate to the dermis.  Any light that does get that far certainly won’t have the energy to destroy the ink particles within your skin.

The Dangerous Tattoo Removers

I’ve had two clients tell me that they almost bought a laser from China over the internet for thousands of dollars.  Thankfully for them, they came and talked to me first.  They were looking at purchasing lasers that could actually do the work of tattoo removal.  However, these lasers are dangerous, and do not come with safety or technician training.  These manufacturers have also been known to send glasses that do not protect your eyes from the intensity of the laser!

The technical specifications behind these lasers are also suspect.  Many advertise as Q-switched or nano-second pulse, but don’t actually perform when put up to the test.  Even the ones that pass that test usually won’t perform in a reliable and predictable manner.  In essence, buying a laser from a foreign company without FDA approval is a very dangerous idea.


I hope this has helped you make a decision about whether you should try to remove your tattoo at home.  In my opinion, the best option is a certified removal technician with an FDA approved laser.  If that isn’t the option you choose, please don’t buy the creams or handheld lasers that are trying to scam you out of your money!

If you’d like to set up a consultation, please feel free to give us a call or schedule a consultation online!