Laser tattoo removal as we know it now is the standard, proven and most widely used method to remove unwanted tattoos or fade existing tattoos enough to facilitate a cover-up. While the history of lasers being used for tattoo removal was truly in its infancy during the 1960’s. It wasn’t until the early 1980’s that technology could catch up with the objective to remove tattoos efficiently, and the first commercially available lasers specifically for tattoo removal didn’t become available until the late 1980’s. Over the last 30+ years the technology has advanced, protocols have been refined and lasers are considered to be the most effective, non-invasive procedure to remove tattoos.

Over the last few years there have been several alternatives to laser tattoo removal treatments come to market, most of them either leave the skin in an unacceptable manner or are ineffective. Several clients trying alternative, non-laser tattoo removal treatments have come into our office frustrated at the lack of progress or with damaged skin.

We strongly advise against any of these at-home or professional alternatives to the time-proven laser tattoo removal treatments we’ve been offering in our office since 2012.

Salabrasion Tattoo Removal

Salabrasion Tattoo Removal

This tattoo was originally black and grey and done about 30 years ago, according to the client. After deciding they didn’t want it a few years ago they did an at-home salabrasion treatment, essentially using a cloth and coarse salt with water mixture. The end result revealed the black ink had an indigo base, later confirmed by the client as home-made tattoo with unknown tattoo ink (likely a mix of India Ink and other inks), along with a textural change to the skin and hypopigmentation. The photo above is how the client came into our office prior to us treating them.

Dermabrasion Tattoo Removal

Similar to salabrasion, dermabrasion is a skin resurfacing technique often using a medical grade equivalent to sand paper or fine wire brushes to remove unwanted and dead skin from the surface, resulting in a refreshed look and glow to the skin. When this method is used for tattoo removal, too much of the epidermis needs to be removed to access the pigment in the dermis, resulting in potential long-term scarring, rough texture to the skin and excessive bleeding.

Acid / Injectable / Tattoo-able Tattoo Removal

Non-Laser Tattoo Removal Acid

Going by several name brand and alternative names, this method involves using a proprietary, somewhat secretive solution that is tattooed into the skin. The delivery method is very similar to tattooing, needles are used to penetrate the epidermis and inject the solution into the skin. Detailed in the website of one of the businesses that promote this process, what follows over the next few days to few months are thick, heavy scabbing whereas the solution bonds to the pigment and is brought to the top. These scabs need to remain intact and are not to be picked off. By their own marketing, this method is supposed to be safer, faster and more effective than lasers. The results we have seen in our office almost always include visible hypertrophic scarring and skin discoloration similar to the above photo.

This invasive method of removing tattoos is most heavily promoted within the tattoo industry (the service is typically offered a a tattoo shop). The major manufactures along with the practitioners will use marketing tactics to indicating how safe the process is, focusing on the significantly fewer number of treatments that will be needed and how the process can remove all colors for all skin types. The truth is, we’ve seen the most damage to skin from this process, from clients local and traveling several hours, so it’s not isolated.

To date we’ve never seen anyone who has started this process that has achieved enough fading to facilitate a cover-up. Only a portion of the tattoo can be treated at each office visit so the overall weight of the tattoo can’t be reduced. We’ve also never seen what we’d consider a successful removal using this method, where a client has been happy with the results.

Complicating matters, the substance used to do this process is closely guarded and simply referred to as a proprietary solution. Some reports indicate the solution contains lactic acid, trichloracetic acid, glycolic acids, however these won’t be confirmed by the major manufactures as they choose to keep their solutions a privately kept secret.

Non-Laser Tattoo Removal

This client came into our office after spending $1,600 on treatments with the non-laser tattoo removal specialist in their town, only to be left with these small circles, a full two years after starting the process. The texture of the skin has changed to a rough, callus texture and slightly discolored. The client had hoped to fade the tattoo for a cover-up. By comparison, our laser tattoo removal cost is $200, with discounts available for pre-payment.

This client started laser tattoo removal with another clinic and became impatient with the time it takes to remove a tattoo. Generally speaking, laser tattoo removal will take about 3 years, it’s not a quick fix or an easy solution, it does take a good deal of time and some patience. Attracted to the marketing of non-laser treatments, this client did one treatment and more than a year after the process was done, their skin is still visibly damaged, discolored and of a different texture.

Non laser tattoo removal with scarred skin

Another client who had such an awful heal from just one non-laser, acid tattoo removal procedure they didn’t think there would ever be able to get a different tattoo where this one is. The skin is now covered with hypertrophic scarring.

The scarring in these four examples is due to the healing process and aftercare procedures provided post treatment. This process is invasive and creates an open wound, the client is then instructed to allow the area to dry out, a scab will form and that is what the acid has bonded to and when the scab loosens and falls of, along with it goes the ink it bonded too. Open wounds are healed much better with far less chance of short or long term scarring with a moist rather than dry heal, so the healing process is counter-intuitive and will almost always result in less than optimal outcome.

Laser Tattoo Removal After Non-Laser Treatments

In most cases, our office can still fade and remove tattoos after non-laser treatments have been done, however the level of scarring that remains will usually limit what we’d consider a successful full removal. During an initial consultation we will set some realistic expectations based on your specific tattoo and needs.

Laser Tattoo Removal after Non-Laser Treatments

An extreme example of a client who had two non-laser tattoo removal treatments done and then one laser tattoo removal treatment with another company and had mostly given up hope. Our office has done 10 following treatments and managed to not only achieve a massive amount of pigment reduction but also has helped in the process of reducing the scars that were left from previous treatments.

Scarred Non-Laser Tattoo Removal

The scar tissue remains but we have started reducing all of the black in this tattoo with just one treatment so far. The client is hopeful that within a handful of laser tattoo removal treatments and a skilled tattoo artist they will be able to have this covered in the future.

Nothing speaks more about the quality of work a business does then a solid portfolio. For this reason we’ve made it our mission to only share our own work, meaning every before and after photo we post is a client of ours, that has been in our office. These images aren’t borrowed from the laser manufactures, digitally enhanced or manipulated in any way. Since 2012 we’ve been setting realistic expectations here in our Allentown office, sharing both success stories and also sharing some of the more stubborn cases, doing our best to explain both to everyone, so an educated decision can be made on where you go for treatment.

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