Not all tattoos stand the test of time! If you are having second thoughts about some inking you’d got done but are not keen on surgery, some natural remedies can step in to help. And no, they do not involve questionable creams and devices peddled online!
Be warned that many DIY over-the-counter products and devices are part of a large, unregulated, and often dubious market. They may cause adverse reactions such as:1
- Heat burns and scarring
- Contact eczema
- Chemical burns, scarring, and disfigurement
However, do note that natural remedies cannot remove your tattoo entirely. When you get inked, a tattoo needle penetrates beyond the epidermis or outer skin layer and injects the ink into your dermis, the inner layer of skin. And the ink stays entrapped there. Natural remedies only help you slough off or lighten the top layer of skin but do not reach what’s beneath in lower layers of the skin.
The methods that follow can help lighten your tattoo to some extent and are inexpensive and easy to do. More importantly, they are safer than the many dubious options available online which could result in serious reactions. Of course, you should always do a patch test even for these remedies to be sure you are not allergic to these foods/natural products.
1. Use Lemon Juice To Lighten Tattoo
With natural lightening agents, the results won’t come overnight nor will they be significant. It will take weeks or months of regular, diligent application for the skin or ink to lighten a little.
Thanks to the citric acid in it, lemon juice might be able to lighten your tattoo slightly. While a research study on the subject wasn’t able to prove this, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this remedy – especially when it is used regularly.2
Just dip a clean cotton ball in lemon juice and apply to the tattooed skin. Rinse once dry.
2. Exfoliate Inked Skin With An Oatmeal Scrub
Other natural bleaching and skin lightening agents that can help include:3
- Cucumber juice or peel
- Fresh apricots
- Cranberries and strawberries
- Green grapes
Using a natural scrub or peel can help slough off the top layer of old skin to reveal fresh new skin below. This may help lighten the ink visible at the surface. Make a simple scrub with 2 tablespoons of oatmeal and 2 tablespoons of yogurt. Rub it lightly on the tattoo and leave for 15–20 minutes. Rinse off once dry.4
Just take care not to use a scrub or peel too often (not more than 3 times a week) and never scrub too hard. Be extra cautious if you have sensitive or dry skin.5
3. Use Papaya To Fade The Tattoo
Though salabrasion or scrubbing the tattoo with salt is one of the oldest methods of removing tattoos, it may lead to scars and may not show the best results either.6
The papain enzyme in papaya can also help lighten your skin and remove any blemishes. The alpha hydroxy acids the fruit contains are a good exfoliant. The fleshy side of the raw papaya or green papaya can be rubbed to the area where the tattoo is on your skin. This is the method used to lighten spots and marks on the skin and may work with your tattoo as well.7
4. Use Makeup To Cover Up Tattoo
Use makeup and concealers to lighten or fully cover up your tattoo. As tattoo veterans will tell you, this is one fail-safe way to ensure the tattoo is covered up when you need to make it go away. This is not a permanent solution and is tedious, but is safe. You could try making your own homemade concealer using skin friendly materials that are pure and organic like shea butter, aloe vera gel, argan oil, and clay.
Apply Aloe Vera For Tattoo Removal Aftercare
As with laser surgery for tattoo removal, even with home remedies aftercare is important.8 Aloe vera gel can help soothe skin which may be irritated after using a natural scrub, peel, or lightening agent and help with healing. Enzymes like the bradykinase found in aloe vera can ease inflammation when used topically.9. It may even help with lightening the mark of the tattoo, given that it helps lighten things like age spots.10
Even Surgery/Laser Treatment May Have Adverse Effects
Surgery and laser treatment remain the more effective “the gold standard” in the industry for tattoo removal. They are relatively effective and safe if you go to a trained/licensed physician, dermatologist, or plastic surgeon for the treatment. The downside, though? Besides the pain and the costs involved, they do not guarantee results and may not completely get rid of the tattoo for everyone. It may also be a long process requiring multiple sitting. A lot will depend on both the skill of your doctor and how your body and tattoo respond to the treatment!11
Henna Is A Temporary Tattoo Option You Can Consider Next Time
Be sure to buy genuine red henna and not black henna which is often made with black hair dye or chemicals that can harm your skin.12
If you’re contemplating another tattoo and are in two minds because of how permanent and irreversible they might be, how about getting one that is temporary instead? Traditional henna tattoos can give you the experience of having the ink on your body but will fade away in a few weeks. Henna is a natural dye made from the dried and powdered leaf of Lawsonia inermis. It leaves a reddish-brown stain on the skin and this has been used by cultures in Asia and the Middle East for centuries to create intricate body art. It is safe to use and instances of allergic reactions are rare.13
Pass Up On Those Foil And Water Transfer Tattoos
While you can add some sparkle with a gold or silver foil tattoo or a colorful water transfer tattoo, remember that the FDA does not approve all temporary tattoos. Some reported side effects include redness, pigment loss, blisters, and even scarring that’s permanent. That said, some water transfer tattoos have colored dyes that are approved for use and may be safe. But the onus is on you to choose and use them carefully.14
Suntan Tattoos May Raise Risk Of Melanoma
You’ve probably seen arm or wristbands with cutouts on them designed to leave a sun-kissed pattern on your body. So how does it work? The part of the band that’s covered up by leather, plastic, or fabric shields your skin from the sun. As a result, it stays its original color while the rest of your skin takes on a golden brown look. When you remove the band, you essentially have a tattoo from the suntan. Unfortunately, the downside to this is pretty significant.
If you avoid using sunscreen to create a more dramatic contrast in skin color, you could increase your risk of skin cancer. And that is a risk not worth taking. Alarmed by the popularity of sunburn tattoos, the Skin Cancer Foundation cautions against this trend. Intentionally allowing sunburns can be painful and dangerous, speeding up the aging of your skin and increasing your risk of cancer. Having just five or more sunburns doubles your risk of developing a melanoma. Not a risk you’d want to take for a tattoo.15
|↑1, ↑11||Kluger, Nicolas. “The risks of do‐it‐yourself and over‐the‐counter devices for tattoo removal.” International journal of dermatology 54, no. 1 (2015): 13-18.|
|↑2||Chapel, J. L., M. W. Leonard, and Larry E. Millikan. “Lemon juice, sunlight, and tattoos.” International journal of dermatology 22, no. 7 (1983): 434-435.|
|↑3, ↑10||Stepanovs, Juta. Skin Saver Remedies. Harald Tietze Publishing P/, 1999.|
|↑4||Tourles, Stephanie L. Herbal Remedies for a Lifetime of Healthy Skin: Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin A-222. Storey Publishing, 1999.|
|↑5||Evaluate before you exfoliate. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑6||Koerber, Walter A., and Norman M. Price. “Salabrasion of tattoos: a correlation of the clinical and histological results.” Archives of Dermatology 114, no. 6 (1978): 884-888.|
|↑7||Tietze, Harald W. Papaya the Medicine Tree. Harald Tietze Publishing P/, 2003.|
|↑8||Laser Tattoo Removal. National Health Service.|
|↑9||Surjushe, Amar, Resham Vasani, and D. G. Saple. “Aloe vera: a short review.” Indian journal of dermatology 53, no. 4 (2008): 163.|
|↑12||Temporary Tattoos May Put You at Risk. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.|
|↑13||de Groot, Anton C. “Side‐effects of henna and semi‐permanent ‘black henna tattoos: a full review.” Contact dermatitis 69, no. 1 (2013): 1-25.|
|↑14||Temporary Tattoos May Put You at Risk. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.|
|↑15||The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Official Position on Sunburn Art. Skin Cancer Foundation.|