Getting an unwanted tattoo removed: what you need to know

body piercing

THERE may be situations in which you consider getting an unwanted tattoo removed or covered, and like when you first get one, it is best to know what to expect.

Last week we looked into covering up tattoos, this week we will talk about getting them removed.


There are many reasons why you may want to get a tattoo removed, especially because a new tattoo didn’t come out as expected, because you no longer like the look of an old tattoo or maybe because whatever you had tattooed no longer holds significance for you. It may also be because you find it is no longer appropriate in some aspects of your life.

As we mentioned last week, it is much less painful and less expensive to get a tattoo covered than it is to get it removed, so if that’s a possibility, you may want to consider it first. A professional tattoo artist will be able to help you change an unwanted tattoo into something you can show off and be proud of. However, if it’s not an option, read on to find out more about having a tattoo removed.

Know before you go

Whichever method you use to get a tattoo removed, you should know that it will probably leave a mark. The main forms of removal are laser surgery and surgical removal.

Laser removal is the best method, but make sure that you get it done by a specialist.

Colours: The same as with cover-ups, colours matter when getting a tattoo removed, as some are harder to remove than others. However, the more developed the laser technology, the better it can deal with all colours the same.

Good tattoos: While you may have taken care to find a super tattoo artist, it will be harder to remove a well done tattoo.

Location: The closer a tattoo is to large blood vessel, or to your heart, the easier it will be to have it removed. So tattoos on or near the feet and hands will be harder to remove.

Time: The larger or more elaborate the tattoo, the longer it will take to remove. You also need to know that the skin won’t immediately be back to normal, it will take time to heal.


Speak to a medical professional about laser surgery or surgical removal. They will be able to recommend the best option.

Laser removal

In most cases, this will be laser removal. Lasers are pointed at the tattoo and used to break down pigments until they are removed.


Tattoo photographed

Anaesthetic will be applied to numb the skin.

The area is frozen

The lasers are applied

The area is bandaged

Be aware: You will smell your flesh burning and it will be painful afterwards. You can also expects swelling, bleeding and blisters, so special care should be taken to treat the area and avoid infection. You can also expect scars, although there is treatment which can remove those too.

Surgical removal

With small tattoos, surgical removal could be an option, in which case, the tattoo is cut out of the flesh.


Anaesthetic will be applied to numb the skin.

The tattoo is removed with a scalpel

The skin is stitched together

Be aware: You will have a scar.


There is another process for getting an unwanted tattoo removed, called dermabrasion, which is not as effective and recovery takes longer, but it is less expensive. The top layer of skin is removed and then the ink is dyed to fade it. Recovery from this is between two and three weeks and can be painful.

Do home remedies work?

Generally speaking, the short answer is no. Steer clear of miracle creams and chemical peels, they MAY lighten the tattoo slightly, but they will not remove it and could cause skin problems.

The internet is full of ‘natural’ methods for removing tattoos yourself, which include rubbing them with salt, with salt and ice, with salt mixed with lemon juice, or with salt mixed with aloe vera, honey and yoghurt. Why salt? Well the idea is basically as if you were sandpapering away the tattoo, not a great idea, and frequently causes infection, scars and skin damage. So even if it sounds a cheap and easy option, we don’t recommend you trying it.

Other suggested methods include lavender oil, coconut oil, condensed milk, Vaseline, and more dangerously, hydrogen peroxide. Again, however natural these remedies may sound, we do not recommend them and it is highly unlikely that they will achieve the desired effect and much more likely that you will cause an even worse problem for your skin.

We hope this has given you some guidance about getting an unwanted tattoo removed, next week we will be telling you more about different types of tattoos.

If you want to get a tattoo that you won’t regret on the Costa del Sol or need a reputable tattoo studio to cover up a previous design, then check out Jaganath Tattoos and Piercing, Calle Ramon y Cajal 42, Fuengirola

Jaganath tattoos and piercing Costa del Sol

See designs by Jaganath Tattoos on Facebook and Instagram.

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Written by

Jennifer Leighfield

Jennifer Leighfield, born in Salisbury, UK; resident in Malaga, Spain since 1989. Degree in Translation and Interpreting in Spanish, French and English from Malaga University (2005), specialising in Crime, Forensic Medicine and Genetics. Published translations include three books by Richard Handscombe. Worked with Euro Weekly News since November 2006. Well-travelled throughout Spain and the rest of the world, fan of Harry Potter and most things ‘geek’.