It happens – people get tattoos that they regret. Maybe it didn’t turn out as nice as you hoped. Or it represents something that doesn’t speak to you anymore. Perhaps you just want to make space for something new. In any case, now you want to know how to fade a tattoo. Here are effective ways to try.
Can you fade a tattoo away?
Have you ever gotten a fake tan? That’s easy to remove because the color sits on the epidermis, the surface of the skin. All you have to do is exfoliate or just wait a week for it to fade.
Tattoos, however, are much harder to remove. Scrubbing with salt, lemon juice, and hydrogen peroxide is just going to irritate the crap out of your skin. They can’t reach down to where the actual tattoo sits.
That’s because the ink is injected into the dermis below the epidermis. By design, it’s made to last. If you don’t believe me, find someone who’s had a tattoo for at least 10 years. It may not be as bright and clear as it was when it was new, but it’ll still be there (1).
Sure, if the tattoo is on a part of the body that gets exposed to a lot of friction or sunlight, like fingers, it’ll fade faster. One buddy of mine has had a stick and poke tattoo of his initials on his left hand for over 30 years. The black ink has faded to bluish green but the letters are still readable.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to fade a tattoo, there isn’t one. The best way to fade a tattoo is to get laser tattoo removal done by a professional.
How can I make my tattoo fade faster?
I’ve seen all sorts of dangerous advice about fading a tattoo while it’s healing and how to fade a new tattoo fast.
Lots of people google terms like “lemon juice tattoo removal before and after” and “how to fade a tattoo with hydrogen peroxide”.
Please, please, please don’t get suckered into trying any of these things. The tattoo may be ugly but it’s better than a scar or worse, a skin infection that put you in the hospital.
There is no safe way to fade a tattoo naturally. If you don’t believe me, ask a professional, licensed tattoo artist, or a dermatologist.
However, if you’re desperate, you might be able to gradually lighten a tattoo with tattoo remover cream. But don’t expect dramatic results because you won’t get them.
Anything that exfoliates or brightens the skin like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, etc., only work on the surface of the skin. None of it reaches the ink in the dermis. The most it can do is force the surface of the skin to shed and renew faster and that might remove (eventually) any ink that settled in the epidermis.
Products like Wrecking Balm and Tattoo Destroyer are sketchy at best. They don’t list ingredients and they don’t have reliable reviews. The company websites are all about selling the product with as little information as possible. They will end up costing more than you realize, too. In the small print, one of them says the container is only good for two weeks of treatments but the promotional material tells you it will take months to see changes.
Wrecking Balm Tattoo Fade System
This kit comes with exfoliating gel and an exfoliating brush, batteries for the brush, recovery cream, and concealer. The directions say to use apply the gel and use a brush for 3 minutes every other day to scrub away an unwanted tattoo. In the meantime, you can use concealer makeup to hide the ink.
Will it work to fade a tattoo? The reviews are a mixed bag – some people say yes, others say no, plus there are plenty of complaints about ending up with scabs and scars.
Don’t waste your money.
How can I fade my permanent tattoo at home?
Let’s imagine that you have a brand-new tattoo that’s still healing. The artist told you to keep it clean, keep it moisturized, and not go swimming, expose it to intense sunlight, or wear tight clothing over the top of it (2).
Aha – now you have clues as to how to fade a tattoo. Warning: any of these steps may lead to an even uglier tattoo, or worse, infection and scarring. You’d be better off talking to the artist or a dermatologist about getting rid of the tattoo safely.
So, you could soak in a pool or the bathtub. It’s faster than getting a sunburn since modern inks are much more colorfast and less likely to fade under UV light. Submerging the skin might loosen the ink but it could open you up to a nasty infection and distort the tattoo, making it look even worse.
Please don’t bother lightening a new tattoo with chemical exfoliants, hydrogen peroxide, or lemon juice because you’ll be pouring those onto an open wound and damaging the skin. It will hurt like bleep, too.
There is another option…
Blue Light Pen Machine
Online retailers carry this little device that’s described as a picosecond laser. Technically, a picosecond laser should be able to remove a tattoo. Theoretically, it works by heating and breaking up the ink so that the skin absorbs the particles and the tattoo fades away.
It sounds good on paper but the reality is disappointing. This handheld laser doesn’t have the power to penetrate down to the dermis. Even though it has 9 settings and 4 intensities, it’s just not powerful enough.
The only bright spot is that it comes with protective glasses.
Save your money for a consultation with a tattoo removal parlor or a licensed dermatologist.
How to pull ink from a new tattoo
Sometimes tattoo ink has metal particles that make it slightly magnetic. You can confirm this by getting an MRI as tattoos will sometimes smudge the image. But even if the ink is magnetic, there’s no way to pull it out of a tattoo.
If you want to lighten a tattoo that is too dark, talk to the artist about a touch-up or check into professional tattoo removal.
How to hide a tattoo
Avoid the scams promising you a miracle when you want to get rid of a tattoo. It’s much cheaper to hide it instead.
If it’s small, slap a bandage over it. There are flesh-colored adhesive bandages, elastic bandages, and all sorts of wraps to cover up various parts of the body.
But what if the bandage would call too much attention to that part of your skin? Or what if you can’t pull down a sleeve to cover it? Then you need makeup.
Unfortunately, there’s a whole scam industry for tattoo cover-up makeup, too. Don’t flush your money down the drain. Get full-coverage foundation or concealer that actually works.
Dermablend, Dermacol, and a few other brands are used by professional makeup artists to hide tattoos, birthmarks, scars, bruises, etc.
Dermablend Quick-Fix Body Makeup Full Coverage Foundation Stick
Dermablend is trusted by people around the world who need flawless coverage. It lasts up to 16 hours if you set it with powder and it won’t melt off if you sweat or get rained on.
Moreover, it’s safe for sensitive skin and it comes in a wide selection of shades for pretty much every skin tone.
The full coverage stick is easy to apply with just your fingers. It will turn out even better if you use a sponge to blend it and if you have a brush for the powder.
How to cover up a tattoo with makeup? Run the stick over the tattoo, leaving a thin layer of makeup. Blend it into the skin with fingers or a sponge so that the edges disappear and you can’t tell where the makeup ends and the skin begins.
The first time around, the tattoo might not be completely hidden. That’s okay. Pat on a generous amount of setting powder and wait 3 minutes.
Lightly dust off the excess with a brush. Add another thin layer of makeup and more powder, repeating the process until the tattoo has disappeared. (In my experience, you’ll need at least 2 layers, possibly 3).
In case you’re wondering if you really need the setting powder, the answer is yes if you want the makeup to perform as promised. The powder keeps it from smudging, rubbing off on clothes, and dissolving if it gets wet.
But if you’re on a budget, you can also try drugstore makeup like Maybelline’s Facestudio Master Conceal foundation. Still, don’t forget the finishing powder.
How does laser tattoo removal work?
If you’re ready to take the plunge and truly rid yourself of the unwanted ink, you need laser tattoo removal. We’re talking the real deal, not about using a hair removal laser at home. (Please don’t use an IPL laser like the one for your legs on a tattoo. You will burn yourself and no harm will be done to the ink).
Here’s the downside: laser tattoo removal is expensive and painful, and it can take weeks or months to complete. It may not be able to completely fade a tattoo, either. But don’t take my word for it – go talk to a professional – in fact, get a second opinion, too.
Lasers work for fading a tattoo because the light penetrates down to the dermis where the ink is. The rapid burst of light breaks up the ink. Then your body’s immune system disposes of the particles.
You might need a topical anesthetic because it feels kind of like bacon grease burning the skin. Furthermore, your skin will have to heal just like it did after getting the tattoo in the first place.
The process may take weeks or months to complete and it may cost anywhere from $200-$5000 depending on the size of the tattoo, how much you want it lightened, and the colors involved. But if you really want that tattoo gone, this is the way.
On the bright side, instead of completely removing a tattoo, you could simply fade it with a session or two of laser treatments and then get a cover-up done by an artist. Hopefully, you will love the new ink!
What is the best laser for fading a tattoo?
Tattoo removal used to be done with q-switch lasers but picosecond lasers are faster and more capable (3). They can handle a wider range of colors as well.
For example, you’ll need a laser with a 1064nm wavelength for fading black ink and other dark colors. But it’s the 532nm wavelength that takes care of yellow, orange, brown, and red and 755nm for blue and green ink. In any case, the hardest colors to remove are pink and white because sometimes they turned dark when treated with a laser.
Once you start learning about tattoo removal lasers, you’ll hear names like PicoSure and Enlighten Cutera. Don’t hesitate to shop around to get the best deal, but make sure that wherever you go that you deal with professionals who are licensed and trained.
What are the easiest tattoos to fade?
By now, you might’ve already heard that the easiest tattoos to remove are the ones with dark colors, not the ones with blue, green, red, yellow, pink, or white ink. That’s because dark colors soak up the laser light easier.
What’s more, old tattoos are generally faster to fade than new tattoos. And those closer to your heart (no, really – the location matters) will break down faster than those on arms and legs because they get better blood circulation to carry away the broken down ink.
What other methods of professional tattoo removal are there?
If you don’t want to do laser tattoo removal, dermatologists can also perform chemical peels. The acids they use burn deep into the skin. Sadly, sometimes this can lead to scarring.
Another option is to have surgery to simply cut out the tattoo. But again, you’re looking at scarring and may possibly need plastic surgery to repair the damage.
In summary, laser treatments are the best way to fade a tattoo as they carry the least risk and are the most effective at breaking down the ink.
We hope this article helped you find what you need today. Feel free to leave us a comment if you have other questions about tattooing, tattoo aftercare, or tattoo removal.
1. https://www.livescience.com/60503-tattoo-ink-body.html What Happens to Tattoo Ink After It’s Injected into Your Skin? by Amanda Onion, published September 25, 2017
2. https://www.allure.com/story/tattoo-fading-how-to-prevent This Is Why Your Tattoo Faded So Much, by Marci Robin, published December 22, 2020
3. https://theuntattooparlor.com/what-is-the-best-tatoo-removal-laser/ by The UnTattoo Parlor