How Tattoo Removal Works

Written by carlye jones
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How Tattoo Removal Works
(Karen Andrews)

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The most popular, and currently the safest and most effective method of removing a tattoo, is laser removal. A beam of laser light is focused on the tattoo, causing the ink to break down. As the ink is broken down, it is processed out of your body. Since the laser can only reach the topmost ink, it can take many sessions to completely remove a tattoo, with a little more being faded or removed each time.

Pulsating Light

Pulsating light, like laser treatment, breaks down the ink in a tattoo, letting the body remove it. Rather than a laser, high-intensity light is used in "pulses" on the tattoo. Pulsating light can break down the ink deeper and quicker than a laser, but each treatment is also more expensive.


Not as effective as laser or pulsating light treatment, saline treatment is used to fade tattoos. Depending on the age of the tattoo and the amount of ink, saline can either fade or remove a tattoo. The saline removal process is the same as receiving a tattoo, only a special saline solution is tattooed over the original tattoo, displacing the ink.


Dermabrasion is sometimes effective for removing a tattoo, depending on the individual's skin and the age and depth of the tattoo. Dermabrasion involves essentially sanding the skin to remove the tattoo. It can cause skin damage and scarring. A rotary tool is used on numbed skin to "sand" away the tattoo.

Surgical Removal

In some extreme cases, surgery is used to remove a tattoo. Surgery removal involves cutting away the skin where the tattoo is located and sewing the remaining skin back together. Although very effective in removing any trace of the tattoo, surgical removal is painful and leaves a scar.


Cream tattoo removal is controversial, with some experts claiming that creams work and others insisting that they don't. Most creams claim that they accomplish removal by breaking down the ink and gradually fading the tattoo. They can take months to work, if they do work, but should not cause any permanent damage to the skin such as the scarring that can occur with other tattoo removal methods.

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