I Cannot Afford Any Tattoo Removal Procedure. What's my Safest At-Home Removal Option?

I have consulted a surgeon & I cannot afford any tattoo removal procedure. However, I've had enough of the tattoo on my neck, especially because it held me from joining the military 7 years ago. I want it off this year so I can join before I turn 29. My question is, would it be safer to have a friend cut it out or sand it off? I understand it's dangerous & perhaps foolish but please understand that I can't live a life of regret any longer. Please...which option is safer for a tattoo on neck.

Doctor Answers 4

At home tattoo removal?

The most effective and least scarring method of tattoo removal is by laser.  Dermabrasion in experienced hands also works well and will take 2 to 3 sessions with healing time in between.  An old remedy that used to be successful was "salabrasion", which entails wetting the area and then pouring salt on it and then rubbing the salt into the skin with a gauze pad until bleeding occurs.  This is quite uncomfortable without anesthetic and requires proper post treatment care with topical antibiotics and dressings or it came become infected.  The results however can be quite good.

Miami Dermatologic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Tattos can be cut out but sanding does not go deep enough.

First I would not let anyone that is not properly trained try to remove your tattoo.  Excision, cutting out, a tattoo can be a less expensive option for removal than laser.  You should see a dermatologist or surgeon and get prices.  It may surprise you.  It is much less costly than laser.  The price depends on the size of the tattoo.  Most sanding procedures do not go deep enough to remove the pigment from tattoos unless they are one color and done by amateurs.

The other thing is a camouflage make-up like dermablend can be very helpful.  It is waterproof and does a great job at hiding tattoos.

Heather Haley, MD
Mobile Dermatologic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Do not risk serious medical complications from at-home self removal of tattoos. See a laser expert

Do not let a friend cut out a tattoo on your body. The risks could be fatal from severe infection and the scarring could be disfiguring.

Tattoos can be made to fade significantly, but scarring is inevitable, from salabrasion which was a sailor’s way in the olden days to rub raw the skin and as it healed, the tattoo pigment would be pushed up through the raw eroded skin and the color lightened.  Then after healing it would be done and repeated several times. Infection could occur. Not the entire tattoo would be eliminated, often, leaving a “ghost” of the tattoo behind.

Dermabrasion with a sterile diamond wheel does the same as salabrasion. Neither of these procedures should be done by non professionals as the risk of infection could be high and lead to serious consequences. If financial limitations exist, it may be possible to seek care by a university-based dermatology practice that has a teaching clinic that offers discounted procedures but no one should take this into their own hands and risk serious complications which could even be fatal.

The information provided in Dr. Shelton's answer is for educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice.  The information provided should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with a qualified health professional who may be familiar with your individual medical needs. 

Ronald Shelton, MD
Manhattan Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

How to Remove a Tattoo At Home

Unfortunately, I cannot offer you any advice as to how to remove the tattoo aside from laser. Microdermabrasian or "sanding" does not penetrate deep enough to remove a tattoo, even when done in a physicians office. Excising the tattoo is not a reasonable option, even if it was done by a plastic surgeon, as the neck contains lots of vasculature, and may not heal well with scarring. Not to mention, doing any of these options at home leaves the risk of bleeding and infection. The best option would be to consult a physician for a series of laser treatments. You could always speak with their medical care coordinator about a payment plan or opening up a CareCredit (medical credit card) account. Best of luck to you. 

Cameron Rokhsar, MD, FAAD
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.