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My Experience Lightening and Removing My Tattoo at Home

Updated on February 4, 2016

I wrote this article detailing the process I went through after getting a tree tattoo that I wasn't very happy with. I also had an older barbed wire tattoo that I wanted to be gone.

I researched every possible means to remove or lighten them both. I wanted to find something that I could handle and that wouldn't scar horribly. I wasn't sure what was going to work, but I tried a lot of different things.

You can see pictures of what I tried below. In the end, lasering the tattoo was the most effective thing for me.

My Supplies

What I Tried

I started using these a few days after getting the tree tattoo.

  • Neostrata 10% Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cream

I thought using a cream every day that exfoliates might help fade the barbed wire so I started using it on that. Plus it had 10% glycolic acid which will fade a tattoo.

At only 10% this might not even work well enough to see any sort of change, but you never know. I started putting it on the tree tattoo as well to try and lighten it.

  • Skin Doctors SD White

This contains emblica which has the same effect as hydroquinone which is a skin lightener. Emblica is safer to use. I am fairly certain that some of the official tattoo removing creams contain emblica. This process could also take some time as results may not show for weeks after you begin.

I started with those two products while I was still researching other options. Exfoliating with glycolic acid and lightening with emblica seemed like a good start, but I would not be seeing fast results. I would need a much higher dose of glycolic acid to see fast results. I went shopping again, but I continued to use these products.

  • Soluver Wart Treatment (20% Salicylic Acid)

I figured I'd need to open the skin before using this as the instructions say to scrub off the top portion of your wart and then apply the salicylic acid, meaning it needed to get under the skin to work. 20% salicylic acid will burn like crazy when put on an open wound. Keep that in mind!

  • Three Pumice Stones

I needed a way to open up my skin so the wart treatment could get under it. Yes this hurt. It wasn't so much the rubbing away of the skin but applying the acid into it that will burn your brains out.

I only rubbed away a small portion of my barbed wire, as a test. I plan on doing this slowly, in small spots. This is unlike going to a dermatologist who will use a sander on your entire tattoo during your dermabrasion tattoo removal appointment.

As I researched more I found out some other helpful information.

  • Vaseline

I learned that Vaseline is horrible on new tattoos and will draw the ink out, so of course I had to get some. I had no idea if it would effect my barbed wire tattoo since it was older. But I reasoned that if my barbed wire had a wound in it, it might draw the ink out since the new tattoo is just a really a big wound.

It is also not a good idea to smother your new tattoo. It's best to keep it dry and let it heal on it's own. I was doing everything in reverse here.

  • Polysporin Triple Action

This is another big no no to put on new tattoos so of course I put it on my tree, along with the small parts of barbed wire I used a pumice stone on.

  • Nair

This was probably my craziest experiment. I put this on a small portion of my barbed wire and left it there, and would put on salicylic acid afterwards. When it was dry I would add Polysporin and Vaseline and cover it.

Then I let it air out and form a scab. I had no idea if Nair was actually doing anything while it was on my skin. I couldn't feel anything. I only felt something when I took it off. Then I realized it had indeed burned my skin.

First Week

 The white spots are the salicylic acid. The tree looks lighter overall but I cannot be sure if it's from my treatments or if it was going to lighten to this level on its own anyway.
The white spots are the salicylic acid. The tree looks lighter overall but I cannot be sure if it's from my treatments or if it was going to lighten to this level on its own anyway.

Week Three

I've also started trying hydrogen peroxide to lighten at least the tree tattoo, and I've seen major results. I, of course, cannot pinpoint what exactly is working and what isn't. It could be a combination or mainly one or two things. I have stopped the dermabrasion and the Nair burning.

I had a laser tattoo removal consult to go to during my third week after the tree tattoo, and wanted my arm clear enough in case I wanted to get anything done. I might actually just get the barbed wire lasered off.

We did a few spots today to see how well I would deal with the pain, and it's ok! So some of it is already in the process of going bye bye. As for the tree, I'd never be able to pay for that to be removed, I am planning on adding light, interesting colors to it to brighten it and have it not be so black and fierce.

I will continue the creams on the tree but as for the barbed wire, it's gonna be lasered.

Photos From the Third Week

I've been able to lighten the tree a bit. The barbed wire, however, is a different story.
I've been able to lighten the tree a bit. The barbed wire, however, is a different story.

Two Days After a Small Laser Session and Three Weeks After Getting the Tree Tat

I do believe this portion of the barbed wire is practically gone after one treatment. If it's that easy to get rid of it, I'm ecstatic! How does it feel? Like nothing really. It's a small area, and I can't say I have even noticed any pain. Easy!

I'm still trying to lighten the tree up as much as I can at this point. I did a round of salicylic acid which lightly scabbed up the portion of the tree that I worked on. I'm thinking about getting a portion of the tree removed by laser as well.

Laser session on barbed wire.
Laser session on barbed wire.
Another angle.
Another angle.

Four Weeks After Tree Tattoo and the Second Laser Session

I had my second laser session done, and this one hurt bad!

She did a larger area of the barbed wire. You have to try to remember to breathe during this, but I couldn't. My whole body was stiff and I didn't breathe the whole time. It was almost like going to the dentist.

When it's done it's fine, but during? WOW. This won't stop me from continuing my quest! I have one more section of barbed wire to do! And then I start on the tree!

This is the first section of barbed wire I had done. It's only a few weeks after that session and look how light it is! There are still six more weeks of healing and lightening to go as well so I am pretty excited!
This is the first section of barbed wire I had done. It's only a few weeks after that session and look how light it is! There are still six more weeks of healing and lightening to go as well so I am pretty excited!

Early Results From 1st Laser Session

I am pretty amazed at how much lighter this section of barbed wire is, after only a few weeks of one laser session. I definitely won't need many treatments here.

I have decided to laser off that entire branch right next to it as well. Without that there it'll be a little more simple, and I'll also be taking off a bunch of branches all over and flowers.

I continue to attempt to lighten the entire tree at home, but I have to stop on the areas I'm going to get the laser on. But I always work on the parts I can work on, when I can. If I can at least lighten it as much as possible before the laser, I'll hopefully need less treatments on the tree.

Results after first laser session.
Results after first laser session.

Early Results From Second Laser Session

This part of my barbed wire has lightened considerably and still has a long time to go to lighten more. I am very happy with results after just one laser session.

I will probably need two sessions in total over all the barbed wire and I still need to do the bottom of my arm and for that I bought some Emla which is a numbing cream, because I know that is going to be painful!

Third Laser Session, This Time on the Tree

The pain getting this part done was nothing compared to my old barbed wire! I was very pleased with that to say the least. I really have no idea how well it will lighten as it is a brand new tattoo, but I really wanted this part removed along with all the little flowers.

I'm going for a less busy look but I might even be moving towards removing the entire tree now. I'm still not happy at all with it. The only part I like is a tiny little butterfly that I don't feel the urge to remove. I'm glad I'm getting this far!

It's usually every two weeks that I get a section done. The healing process is nothing to complain about and basically this whole process is easy and quick with fast results.

After getting my tree lasered
After getting my tree lasered

Update After Lasering on Tree

It's been slow going but I am really happy with what I have gotten done so far. Here is an updated picture of the part of the tree that I had lasered. I am so surprised that it is as light as it is now, being a brand new tattoo and all. I still use all my creams but never on freshly lasered areas. I'm still exfoliating and lightening.

Healing from this one has been the hardest! I have never been so itchy in all my life. The other areas that I got done never itched this bad. I still can't complain about pain, but I can now complain of being itchy!

I am really beginning to hope that I do not decide to get rid of the entire tree. I think with enough 'tweaking' I will like it. The barbed wire needs to be 100% gone, the back of the tree, and lots of branches and flowers. Only then will I really know.

Updated photo of tree after getting it lasered
Updated photo of tree after getting it lasered
WOW. Look at the difference. The laser has helped a lot with the flowers and petals here, but have my creams really lightened the overall tattoo up as much as it appears?
WOW. Look at the difference. The laser has helped a lot with the flowers and petals here, but have my creams really lightened the overall tattoo up as much as it appears?
Side by side comparison. The difference is awesome. On the left is the first day I got the tat, on the right is about 2+ months of constantly using my creams and doing laser treatment.
Side by side comparison. The difference is awesome. On the left is the first day I got the tat, on the right is about 2+ months of constantly using my creams and doing laser treatment.

Last Update

After all my experimentation, it was the laser that got the tattoo off as much as it has. Nothing else really worked. I might cover up what is left of this tree with something else as my arm scars are showing again now. Anyway I am very amazed at the progress!

Update One Year Later: Laser Works

I have not been able to come to terms with this tattoo. I dislike it still (a lot!) and want it gone. Above is the top portion of the tree done. Honestly, I can't say anything bad about the results I've had so far with the laser.

Yes it hurts to get it done but the healing process is amazingly easy for me. The only thing I can complain about here is the itching! It's practically unbearable, but I deal with it and try not to scratch at all because I don't want scarring.

And that's another wonderful thing about laser, there is no scarring! Your skin heals up perfectly fine! Soon I will be getting the bottom half done, and then the barbed wire. Eventually my upper arm will be a clean slate, and I will probably keep it that way! I do still want my nice feminine tree, but not there.

I've decided to laser off the entire tree! This is a few days after getting the laser. (Notice how faded the barbed wire is too! That is just from one session.)
I've decided to laser off the entire tree! This is a few days after getting the laser. (Notice how faded the barbed wire is too! That is just from one session.)
After lasering.
After lasering.

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    • profile image

      Dee 6 months ago

      I had a tattoo covered a week ago. What a mess it is now! I plan to have pico laser treatments since its all black ink. Is this the laser you had for those results? Looks great! Gives me some hope!

    • profile image

      Mike 11 months ago

      Use salt and a rag and slowly rub it in

    • profile image

      Chris Owen 2 years ago

      Was an awesome tattoo god knows why you wanted it gone in the first place.

    • profile image

      thanks 2 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. I was researching how much fade is possible at home using glycolic acid, etc and this is very helpful.

    • profile image

      Nas 3 years ago

      Can you please tell me what kind of laser they are using for your removal. I have had 4 treatments done and see no difference except the expense. I really would appreciate any help ypu can give.

    • profile image

      Lala 3 years ago

      Hey Jenna I just read through your process, I am going through a similar experience and I really would love to talk to someone about this who understands. I see your post was three years ago but if there is any way that you get this, and would be willing to talk to me about it, my email is lcourt2@students.towson.edu. Hope it all turned out well for you!

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 5 years ago from Canada

      I'm glad that you discovered that the only thing that really works to remove a tattoo is laser treatment. You're other treatments sounded down right scary. There is nothing worse then a bad tattoo..oh wait there is, skin infection and permanent scaring. Hope your tattoo removal journey ended well.

    • jennajen26 profile image
      Author

      Jenna 5 years ago from Halifax, NS

      ok people.....i gave up trying to get this thing off myself.. once i had my first laser session there was not going to be anything else that was going to work for me..honestly laser is AWESOME and the only real good way to go. and it DOESN'T SCAR! the sd white and neostrata stuff made my skin really soft n smooth lol i'm not sure where i'd be right now if i was still using it on the tat....the sd white is a skin lightener but the tattoo is under the skin quite a bit..so i dont know if i got it light with that or it just got lighter on it's own..hard to tell...but LASER PEOPLE!!! only way!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      nick 5 years ago

      just wondering if you found anything that worked good besides laser surgery that i can try at home:]

    • profile image

      jano9 5 years ago

      Don't leave me hanging here, girl. I'm ready to go out and get the Neostrata and the SD White if it lightened your tat that much in two months. Any warnings? Or do you recommend it?

      J

    • profile image

      jano9 5 years ago

      Hi. I recently had a disastrous experience with permanent makeup - specifically, eyebrows. I look like the angry baby from The Simpsons. It's been two and a half weeks since application and it feels like two and a half months. I live on the net trying to find remedies for fading it and have another laser consultation next week. The first laser consultation guy was a bit of a nob on first impression and he wanted to shave my eyebrows. No way.The only place I need to get rid of is closest to the mid-line of my face. That is where I was experiencing natural eyebrow loss and that's what I wanted filled in with permanent makeup...just not so thick and dark as I ended up with! At any rate, I thought I might try to exfoliate it with salicylic acid but after two applications, the tat actually seems a bit darker. I think I'm either irritating the skin underneath and making it red so the tat appears darker, or exfoliating the skin brings the pigment closer to the surface and that's why it appears darker...it might actually fade if I keep going.

      Thoughts? Opinions?

    • jennajen26 profile image
      Author

      Jenna 6 years ago from Halifax, NS

      not in canada...can't get anything here

    • profile image

      WreckingBalm 6 years ago

      Wrecking Balm is $50 at Walmart.