Do Tattoo Removal Creams Work?

Each month more people search for ‘Tattoo Removal Cream’ than for ‘Laser Tattoo Removal’ so the idea of using a cream to fade or remove a Tattoo is pretty popular with people who have looked in the mirror and said ‘Tatts a Mistake’. The question is…do Tattoo Removal Creams work?

The Short answer is ‘Nope.’

The Shorter answer is ‘No.’

The slightly longer answer, but still pretty short is ‘At best they may fade your tattoo, but even that’s debatable’

Why Don’t Tattoo Removal Creams work?

Just in case you were asleep when you had your tattoo in the first place (or you’ve had your memory wiped by the Men In Black), tattoo ink is injected into the skin, under the skin surface and into the ‘dermis’ layer of your skin.

Does Tattoo Removal Cream penetrate the skin

So for a Tattoo Removal Cream to work it would either need to penetrate down into the dermis skin layer where the ink pigments reside, or peel of the layers of your skin until it reached the dermis layer. And there-in lies the problem. As Choice magazine pointed out, ‘the better a (cream) lightens, the more you should worry. Products that contain ingredients such as trichloroacetic acid – arguably the ingredients they would need to contain to have any reasonable efficacy – can burn and inflame the skin or pose cancer risks.’

Perhaps Dr Lawrence E Gibson puts it most succinctly on the Mayo Clinic Website when he says ‘There is no evidence that Tattoo Removal Creams Work’

Sure the ‘Mayo Clinic’ says they don’t work, but what about other Institutions?

Funny you should ask (he said tongue-in-cheek) because yes there is one single, sole ‘Institute’ on the web, whose ‘scientists’ have tested Tattoo Removal Creams and have declared that they do in fact work – the well-known and highly regarded ‘Tattoo Removal Institute’. What you haven’t heard of it? But it’s a whole institute dedicated to studying Tattoo Removal!

We’ve declined to put a link to them (they don’t deserve it) but you can google them easily enough. Have a look on their home page at their incredibly impressive looking building/office/campus. Except it’s actually a picture of Raigmore Hospital in Scotland which has no affiliation with the Institute Du Tattoo Removal. Perhaps the Institute was getting their building painted that day so they just ‘borrowed’ a picture of a different hospital.

So why do so many people search for Tattoo Removal Cream?

We can’t say for sure, but obviously the ‘idea’ of a tattoo removal cream is appealing. It costs less than Laser Tattoo Removal, is less painful, and can be done in the comfort of your own home. But something that’s cheap isn’t value-for-money if it doesn’t work. As Thomas McFadden MD points out ‘Save the money that you would have spent on a cream and apply towards laser treatments instead’

Finally, it’s worth noting that there’s been a spike in searches for Tattoo Removal Cream since February when a Canadian Phd Student received a lot of publicity for a new type of Cream he’s researching. As it’s still in the early development stage we can’t comment on its efficacy or otherwise, but the level of interest it received shows that the hope of a cheap, painless, DIY Tattoo Removal solution is alive and well – something that the current crop of Tattoo Removal Creams successfully play to.

Thinking DIY Tattoo Removal? Read this first

UK Mother burns arm using DIY Tattoo Removal Cream.

Yep, laser Tattoo Removal costs money and takes time. But as we’ve written previously, there’s no shortcuts unfortunately, as this 23 year old mother from the UK found when she purchased an online DIY Tattoo Removal kit from… guessed it….the Internet.

Warning: Graphic Images below

Jessica Hardy from Hereford in the UK had a tattoo of her ex-boyfriends name that she was desperate to get rid of but couldn’t afford laser removal. So when she saw a video on You Tube about a DIY Tattoo Removal kit she purchased it for £15 (about $30). But instead of removing the tattoo, it left her with horrible burns and a hole in her arm.

DIY Tattoo Removal
Woman left with severe burns by at-home tattoo removal kit Credit: BBC Inside Out

The BBC programme Inside Out had the DIY kit tested by the University of Birmingham and found it contained TCA, a corrosive chemical banned in cosmetics.

(Incredibly Jessica repeated the treatment 6 times before coming to the conclusion that the DIY Kit was a BAD thing)

Tattoo Removal Cream
Woman left with severe burns by at-home tattoo removal kit Credit: BBC Inside Out


Describing the pain of using the kit, Jessica said “‘It felt like someone had poured something flammable on my arm, lit it and then poured a kettle on it,’

But as we’ve said before, Tattoo Removal Kits and Creams are set up to fail. The Tattoo ink is below the surface of the skin, while you’re applying the cream to the top of your skin. In fact the only way it can hope to work is by doing exactly what this cream did – burn through the skin in a vain attempt to reach the ink below.

Or as the clinical dermatologist Dr Sean Lanigan told the BBC: ‘No, I don’t think they’ll work. It’s just not going to happen really. Because the tattoo ink is sat in the middle of the skin. These sort of things that just burn the skin off are not going to work.’

And here’s the irony. If your ever tempted to buy a DIY Tattoo Removal cream kit from the internet the best you can hope for is that is does nothing. Doesn’t burn your skin, doesn’t scar and doesn’t touch the tattoo. Unfortunately Jessica Hardy is proof of the worst you can expect – oh and now she’s waiting for the skin to heal so she can get laser tattoo removal.