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Tattoo removal cream is often sought out as an inexpensive alternative to laser tattoo removal. But does tattoo removal cream actually work?

We here at Bare Tattoo Removal in Chicago obviously have an incentive to denigrate any alternatives to laser tattoo removal. As such, we’ll do our best to provide our own insight along with outside, independent research so you can form your own opinions.

Tattoo Removal Cream: Miracle or Modern Day Snake Oil

It’s easy for people to want to believe that tattoo removal creams work. And to their credit, the advertising can be very convincing. Often, people with tattoo regret justify trying tattoo removal cream with the attitude of, “well, it’s worth a shot!” And at prices ranging from $50 to $120, the cost is a relative bargain to the alternative the cost of laser tattoo removal. Unfortunately, this same attitude has kept snake oil salesmen selling fraudulent products in business for a long time.

So is tattoo removal cream a miracle or just another snake oil? According to Dr. Lawrence Gibson of the Mayo Clinic, the answer is, it’s snake oil. He says that there is, “no evidence that they work.”

We too found it difficult to find any evidence. We did, however, find a lot of upset customers who used the product and didn’t get results as advertised. We also discovered that products like Wreckingbalm are actually manufactured right here in Chicago – so at least some of the wasted money is flowing back into our local economy…

The Wall Street Journal reported on tattoo removal cream in an article published in 2011. They found that not only are tattoo removal creams unlikely to be effective (though some fading might occur), creams come with the possibility of serious risks, including burns.

What Chemicals are in Tattoo Removal Creams? Are They Safe?

Many tattoo removal creams have trichloroacetic acid (TCA) as a main active ingredient. At high concentrations this may cause some tattoo fading as the body attempts to heal the burned skin. At lower concentrations it’s simply not effective. Other skin-bleaching agents like hydroquinone and alpha arbutin are generally safe and effective at bleaching skin pigment, not removing tattoo pigment.

A tattoo removal cream is inherently designed as topical products. Tattoo pigment, however, is located in the dermis level of the skin. To effectively break up ink pigment located in these levels of the skin, laser tattoo removal is the only safe and effective method for removing tattoos. To be fair, we note that tattoo removal does have risks too and we will elaborate on those in a separate post.

Have you had an experience with tattoo removal cream or other tattoo removal methods? If so, we want to hear about your experience! Email us at