What Can Remove a Tattoo Besides Laser?

I got a new tattoo (less than a week ago) on my left shoulder it's all black and 1cm wide and 5 inches long, though came out wrong. I want to know how to remove it or at least fade it enough to just gt microdermabrasion or a new smaller tattoo. Preferably removal though. I am very afraid of laser treatment. What do you recommend? Is Wrecking Ball an option? And how long do I have to wait?

Doctor Answers 5

Other methods to remove tattoo.

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The best and most effective way to remove tattoos is the laser treatment.  They are excisions that can be done for smaller tattoos.

Dallas Facial Plastic Surgeon

Laser tatttoo removal

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Before you forget about laser removal of tattoos, you should see an expert in consultation as the results are better than any other treatment.  Microdermabrasion would have to be so aggressive to draw blood and you would have to do it multiple times with the risk of hypertrophic scarring or keloid, and a change in coloration of the skin, lighter or darker, and these risks might be even greater than that with laser.

Ronald Shelton, MD
Manhattan Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

Tattoo removal options

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With a tattoo 5 inches long, I would caution you against surgical excision as you are likely to end up with a scar that is even larger than the your tattoo. Wrecking ball and many of the other topical products may cause some minimal fading, but will never give the results of a laser. This is because the laser will break up the tattoo pigments into small fragments which your body will get rid of. No cream or ointment can do this. I agree with Dr Shelton that Dermabrasion would also be very risky as it would induce a scar since it would need to go very deep to remove the tattoo pigment. Microdermabrasion, which just removes the uppermost layer of skin, would have no effect whatsoever. Once your skin has healed completely from the tattooing process, you can discuss removal options with an expert. 

Best of luck

Travis L. Shaw, MD
Richmond Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

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Tattoo Removal - With or Without Laser

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If the tatoo is small enough, it can be fully excised and the edges of skin on each side can be brought together with sutures.  If the sutures are placed under the skin (vs. the outside), they will leave a single linear scar as opposed to "railroad tracks."   If the tattoo is very big, sometimes a series of excisions can be performed over several months, until the tatoo is gone.

Also, one can have the tatoo dermibrated, but this will leave a different kind of "patchy" broad scar.

In some cases, people have tried Aldara or Zyclara (imiquimod cream) off label and they have been able to have some of the tatoo pigment sluff off -- usually this treatment would have be continued for several months.

Deborah Sarnoff, MD
New York Dermatologic Surgeon

Methods for Removing Tattoos

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Hands down, the best option for removing a tattoo is a laser. Though you could use an excision, this will likely leave you with a bigger problem than you had in the first place, as you will undoubtedly have a scar. Microdermabrasion only removes the very outermost layer of skin. Ink of a tattoo is placed within the dermis, and therefore is mostly unaffected by these procedures. What is that worries you about the laser procedure? With the use of numbing creams, injections, and precise settings, the process is comfortable and easy. 


Best of luck!

Cameron Rokhsar, MD, FAAD
New York Dermatologic Surgeon

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.