Tattoo removal cream is marketed as a quick and painless remedy to a problem that's gotten under your skin. This is appealing if you are like a growing number of Americans who are beginning to feel remorse for the ink they got a while back.
So, are you curious if tattoo removal cream works? And, if it does — what is the best product for you? We'll take a look at the top three creams on the market, discuss their claims, and then compare user experiences and ratings. But first, don't you want to know how tattoo removal creams work and if they are safe to use?
Comparison Of The Best Tattoo Removal Cream
What Is Tattoo Removal Cream And How Does It Work?
The goal of tattoo removal cream is to remove or, at the very least, lighten permanent tattoos. But tattoos, by design, are difficult to remove. Tattoos are created by inserting or injecting a small amount of concentrated pigment or ink under the skin. Using a needle to penetrate the skin, a tattoo machine deposits the insoluble ink with each puncture.
Since skin is always shedding its outer layers of dead cells, it’s important that the tattoo ink is placed deep enough. Most needles penetrate around one millimeter into the surface to remain indelible to regular exfoliation. Therefore, for a tattoo removal cream to be effective, it must provide a higher degree of exfoliation.
Tattoo removal creams, gels, and serums contain both organic and chemical acids and other compounds designed to remove a portion of skin cells in order to lighten or remove a tattoo. The FDA warns that they have not approved any do-it-yourself creams or ointments and is unaware of any clinical evidence that supports their effectiveness.
Additionally, the FDA warns that tattoo removal products may cause unexpected damage or reactions such as rashes, burns, and scarring, including changes in skin color. Before you use any do-it-yourself tattoo removal product, be sure to consult your doctor.
Skin is your body’s largest organ. It provides your first line of defense against infection, heat, and injury. There are three layers of living human skin: the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous layers.
The epidermis is the thinnest, outermost layer of the skin. The thickness of this layer depends on the area of the body. The epidermal layer of your eyelids is around 0.5mm. There are four to five separate layers of the epidermis. The last layer consists of skin cells that continuously die, flake off, then regenerate.
The dermis is the thickest layer of the skin. This layer contains hair follicles, blood vessels, nerve endings, and fibrous connective tissue that protects the skin organ from injury. This layer contains the deposits of tattoo ink. The dermal layer is 1.0mm to 2.0mm deep. Damage to this layer of the skin can cause permanent scarring.
This tissue is the deepest of your three layers of skin. This layer is made up of fat, larger blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue.
TCA Tattoo Removal Creams
Trichloroacetic Acid, or TCA, is a strong acid commonly used in at-home preparations for removing warts, corns, and calluses. These skin conditions happen because of the excessive proliferation of skin cells. Therefore, they can come off without causing damage to the outer layer of the skin. For tattoo removal, TCA works by creating a chemical burn to the skin at the dermis level.
Hydroquinone is a chemical called benzene-1, 4-diol, which is in the phenol class of drugs. Phenols, derived from coal tar, are a mildly acidic compound that attempts to bleach the skin by blocking your body’s melanin production. This action will do nothing for ink deposits in the dermal layer.
Therefore, hydroquinone is one of the least active ingredients for tattoo removal cream. However, it has the fewest side effects. It can cause mild redness, stinging, and burning to the skin.
Acid Peels (Lactic, Acetic, Glycolic)
Acid skin peels are popular in the practice of aesthetic or “spa” dermatology because of their ability to rejuvenate the skin. They are effective at peeling away the outer layers of the skin. However, these compounds can cause burns to the skin if a physician or trained clinician does not supervise their application.
Retinol Containing Creams For Tattoo Removal
Retinol creams are effective in lessening the signs of aging by promoting advanced exfoliation of the epidermal layers of skin. Over-the-counter strength retinol creams turn into retinoic acid on the skin and have limited effects.
No retinol impacts the dermal layer of the skin. Therefore, retinol would be an ineffective ingredient for a tattoo removal cream.
3 Best Tattoo Removal Creams
After poring over hundreds of reviews reading customer experiences and stories, we created this tattoo removal cream list from the highest rated products on the market. This list includes promising new products and others that have been time-tested. For consistency, we used Amazon to provide ratings and reference social proof.
The company behind this product states that their simple system is affordable, and “the most convenient of any tattoo removal method available.” The Tat B Gone system promises it will help fade away your tattoo and permanent cosmetics without the pain of traditional tattoo removal procedures.
Throughout a month or more, the solution promises to absorb into the skin where the “active ingredients interact with tattoo ink.”
Pricing and Reviews on Amazon
The Tat B Gone product is rated 5.0 out of 5 stars on Amazon. You can purchase a two-month supply of the two-step system for between $$$. However, it is a new product for Amazon and has only a handful of reviews. One customer happily reports that her “dark back tattoo” is much lighter after using the tattoo removal cream for a week and a half.
What is in Tat B Gone?
That’s a great question. Amazon offers no answers. Ingredients are also unavailable on the Tat B Gone website. However, the company claims that the Tat B Gone formula does not contain harmful ingredients like Chromabright, acids (TCA), and hydroquinone.
The product information claims that this TCA (Trichloroacetic Acid) peel is additive free and is ACS certified for quality and purity. RePair sells exclusively on Amazon and has no external website. This product contains 50 percent strength trichloroacetic acid.
It specifies not to use this product as a facial peel. The label states that this formula removes skin tags, tattoos, and warts.
Pricing and Reviews on Amazon
RePare Skin Care 50 percent TCA is available on Amazon. The selling price is in the $$ to $$ range. This product has a rating of 3.6 out of 5 stars, making it one of the highest rated products in the tattoo removal cream category. Dozens of reviews confirm that the compound works for lightning tattoos.
Many users complain of severe burning and advise using the product with a chemical neutralizer, which is sold separately. This product is also available in 75 percent strength medical grade TCA and 100 percent strength medical grade TCA. These have similar ratings and all claim to remove tattoos as well.
This product is available on Amazon. It will cost you around $$. This cream contains 50 percent lactic acid derived naturally from ingredients like licorice extract or kojic acid and bearberry extract.
The product claims to help lighten skin and tattoos by promoting the production of collagen. The botanical ingredients also increase cell turnover rate to create a brighter and more balanced texture.
Is it Effective for Tattoo Removal?
This product has 3.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon with over a thousand (mostly positive) reviews. When searching "tattoo removal cream" on Amazon, Perfect Image Lactic Acid Peel is one of the top results. However, none of the reviews reference the product’s effectiveness for removing tattoos.
Effective Alternatives to Tattoo Removal Cream
The FDA recognizes two treatments it says are safe and effective for permanent tattoo removal. Neither are as inexpensive and painless as tattoo removal cream. However, unlike over-the-counter fading creams, both of these methods are highly effective.
"Laser" is an acronym for the term “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” Laser therapy is also known as laser rejuvenation or laser surgery. It is the most current and preferred method of removing unwanted tattoos. Laser therapy offers you a low-risk option for taking your ink off. It has very few side effects.
A dermatologist or surgeon uses a high-intensity laser to treat the skin. Unlike tattoo removal cream, laser beams work by breaking up the pigment colors. The kind of laser used depends on the pigment colors. There are separate lasers or different settings that work best for various colors.
Commonly, a Q-Switched laser is used to remove tattoos. This laser targets and removes your tattooed skin selectively without damaging any of your surrounding tissue. This ensures that there is no scarring. The significant drawbacks of laser tattoo removal are its cost, discomfort, and the need for multiple treatments.
In the United States, laser tattoo removal treatment can cost between $$ to $$$ per session, and dependent upon the coverage area, it may take several sessions to remove the tattoo successfully. According to research, the laser doesn’t cause intense pain. However, you will feel a stinging and burning sensation.
Dermabrasion, called surgical skin planing, works through skin-resurfacing. Basically, it removes the top layers of the skin in a process similar to sanding. During this procedure, a dermatologist or plastic surgeon removes both the surface layers and the middle of the tattoo.
Following the dermabrasion procedure, the skin layers grow back without the tattoo. Dermabrasion is an outpatient procedure. Therefore, it doesn't require a hospital stay. According to reports, there is pain involved during the immediate postoperative period and profound itching during later phases of healing.
Dermabrasion tattoo removal costs can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the size of the tattoo and factors like the size of your local market.
Tattoo Removal Cream Take-off
If the term “cream” makes you think of a thick, luxurious lotion-like product, then we can safely say that there are no good tattoo removal creams on the market. TCA or trichloroacetic acid is available in liquid form and works by causing a chemical burn to the skin.
This injury will cause a scabbing over of the area as the skin tries to regenerate. Depending on how deep the “burn” is that you receive, part of the tattoo ink may also come off when the scabs peel. However, as the FDA warns, the process is not painless or without risk.
Finally, other “creams” on the market, like Tat B Gone, offer far too little information regarding ingredients to consider safe. While the product's early reviews seem promising, much remains to be seen. Creams containing active ingredients like hydroquinone cream and natural acids are less likely to cause severe side-effects like burns, and pain, but they are also less effective.