Tattoo Removal Procedures Brisbane


Unfortunately, the internet is full of all sorts of guides for DIY tattoo removal and home remedies for removing unwanted tattoos and ink.

As medical specialists, we often see the aftermath of these unsuccessful DIY home remedy tattoo removals, which often include the use of skin needling, glycolic acid, dermabrasion, salt abrasion, TCA peels and various other eBay-based items.

This page is an overview of various tattoo removal procedures and the potential side effects.

What is TCA tattoo removal and why is this one of the most dangerous treatment methods?

TCA tattoo removal can easily be purchased online. For patients who are seeking a quick way to remove tattoos, TCA chemical peels are often viewed as a shortcut solution.

Specialists use TCA chemical peels in various concentrations ranging from 10% all the way up to 100%. For removing tattoos, guides often indicate that 80% or higher is needed. TCA can certainly remove a tattoo; however, be warned that scarring is almost always a side effect of this treatment course and prolonged wound healing is expected. Additionally, the use of TCA for tattoo removal (especially on the extremities) will result in an ulcer that may last for up to three months. 

Considering the numerous permanent and unwanted side effects that this treatment course causes, we discourage patients from using TCA for tattoo removal.

How does TCA tattoo removal work?

The basic science using TCA for removal of unwanted tattoos is that the chemical agent known as trichloroacetic acid essentially burns the skin and coagulates proteins. This is equivalent to a full-thickness burn essentially going down to the bottom layer of skin. This exfoliation and burn will remove your tattoo ink; however, the removal of ink is through scarring.

TCA peels essentially do the exact opposite of laser tattoo removal.  Laser tattoo removal spares the upper part of the skin’s surface whereas a TCA peel destroys it. 

Which other types of chemical peels can be used to treat unwanted tattoos?

There are various other peels that can be used to treat the tattoos, including the use of glycolic acid chemical peels.

In Australia, there is a trend whereby untrained medical practitioners can buy into a franchise that uses ‘laser free tattoo removal’. This method uses skin needling on the tattooed area followed by the application of glycolic acid under occlusion, which results in scarring in almost 90% of undergone procedures.

The thought process behind this procedure is that the skin needling exfoliates the ink pigment and the glycolic acid facilitates ulceration of the skin, thereby forcing the pigment out. This can certainly remove unwanted tattoos; however, this also breaches the upper part of the skin thereby causing ulceration and inevitably scarring.

As with TCA removals, this form of tattoo removal is not endorsed by any of our trained specialists.

Can IPL treat tattoos?

No. IPL or intense pulsed light therapy has been a global success for the past two decades in removing unwanted pigmentation and providing skin rejuvenation, but IPL cannot remove tattoos.

While IPL can quickly remove very superficial pigments, tattoos are located in the deeper dermal layers of skin (also known as the reticular dermis). Unfortunately, this area is beyond the of reach of IPL therapy.

Additionally, IPL produces a short pulse measured in milliseconds, but the destruction of tattoo particles needs a shorter pulse duration than IPL can provide. In fact, the most effective treatment option (energy packets delivered by laser) must be within a nano or picosecond wavelength.*

IPL applied to tattoos typically causes thermal burns to the upper layers of the skin; however, your tattoo will remain intact. In almost all cases, patients will experience severe blistering together with skin colour changes on the tattooed area.

Can cryotherapy or freezing help remove the tattoo?

Yes. In the 1960s, there were numerous papers published regarding the use of cryotherapy or cryosurgery for tattoo removal, but this treatment has been outdated for the last four decades.

Much like the use of acid, cryotherapy targets the upper part of the skin with freezing cold temperatures. This then penetrates the lower part of your skin which causes ulceration. When this treatment was used, a 15 to 20-second freeze/thaw technique was applied to reach the very deepest layers of the skin where a tattoo lies and causes a skin ulceration thereby exfoliating unwanted tattoo ink.

Once again, this leads to scarring in nearly all treatment cases.

Can plastic surgery/excision be an option for my tattoo?

Absolutely. In fact, this may be the optimal treatment of choice depending on your tattoo’s size and location. If your tattoo is in an area where skin closure is facilitated by low tension then excision of the tattoo is certainly possible. This is done by a plastic surgeon or dermatological surgeon.

The advantage of undergoing surgery for tattoo removal is that only one to three sessions are needed. If the tattoo is small, only one session is needed; however, we can perform what is known as serial excision for larger tattoos. Once the scar has healed, the use of a fractionated laser can markedly diminish scarring.*

In summary, this is a viable and sensible option for small tattoos in cosmetically acceptable areas. Our team at the Fiori Institute will assess your tattoo to determine whether or not you are a suitable candidate for this procedure.*

What is dermabrasion and how does it work for tattoo removal?

As with cryotherapy, dermabrasion was a well-described tattoo removal technique in the 1960s and 1970s. Essentially, it is a diamond-crusted grinder which exfoliates the top layer of your skin followed by the papillary dermis right down to the reticular dermis of your skin where the ink lies.

This form of tattoo removal was first pioneered in the 1950s and gained popularity in the 1960s. While it can be effective in the removal of tattoos, it is now considered out-dated technology in comparison to the invention of pico and nanosecond lasers.

Dermabrasion tattoo removal causes scarring in approximately 90% of all procedures. Additionally, all treatments of this nature will cause permanent skin colour changes.*

What is inkless tattoo removal?

Inkless tattoo removal involves the use of a tattoo gun with no ink applied to the unwanted tattoo. This process is essentially microneedling, as the practitioner uses this device to create hundreds of tiny holes in the skin’s surface. The depth can be controlled by the tattoo artist or the specialist and can be used as a method of transepidermal exfoliation for unwanted tattoo pigments.*

This procedure is a long and tedious process, resulting in the tattoo ink being exfoliated over a period of many months. We sometimes use this procedure to treat certain forms of ink allergies. Laser tattoo removal is not recommended for patients with known ink allergies, as the fragments can go into your immune system and cause itching throughout the body. This is when inkless tattoo removal or
a fractionated microneedling system is preferred.

This form of tattoo removal is performed by a specialist dermatologist in an operating theater, as this particular procedure has an increased rate of infections.

Aftercare following inkless tattoo removal is also extremely important due to the very high chance of infection. Wound healing takes place over a period of 7 to 10 days and multiple treatments are needed for fading.*

When using inkless tattoo removal, we often combine it with fractional erbium laser tattoo removal methods. This form of tattoo removal is extremely complex and is not performed at the Fiori Institute, but is performed by Dr Davin Lim in a medical laser theaters.

Can fractional lasers treat an unwanted tattoo?

Yes, it can. In fact, from a medical point of view, patients with a traumatic skin demarcation tattoo, for example, from a road traffic accident or an airbag explosion will often have large particles of pigment
embedded deep in their skin. 

A specialist often uses the fractional laser such as a CO2 laser or a microneedling device to help exfoliate the larger areas of pigmentation. Approximately 8 to 12 weeks after this procedure, we usually combine this with a laser such as the Pastelle. This is repeated three to four times, and with each session the pigment is reduced.

This is certainly a method to treat tattoos with large particle sizing as well.*

What is the International Gold Standard for tattoo removal?

As it stands, laser tattoo removal using the correct wavelengths with Q-Switch lasers and techniques still provides the safest, most reliable and most favourable outcomes for patients with unwanted ink.*

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