The risks of do-it-yourself and over-the-counter devices for tattoo removal

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The tattoo removal market has boomed over the years following the increased prevalence of tattooed individuals around the world. Surgery and laser are currently the gold standards for tattoo removal. However, both of them have drawbacks. Surgery is better suited for small tattoos in areas of adequate skin laxity but leave a scar, while laser removal is a long and painful procedure, with no guarantee of a complete efficacy. Both are expensive procedures, and not all individuals are ready to fund them privately. Consequently, some individuals are in the search of faster, easier, and cheaper procedures that can be performed either by themselves or by laypeople. The unregulated market of internet provides a favorable ground for many websites to offer various tattoo removal methods. Besides, some tattooists and other non-medical laypeople have started to get interested by such a growing market, especially as some laser devices manufactured in Asia are now available at competitive prices, and due to weaknesses in the EU legislation regarding the use of lasers for cosmetic procedures by non-medical laypeople. We review here different do-it-yourself and over-the-counter tattoo removal methods. We discuss the potential risks for tattooed individuals and stress the importance of a better regulation of such a market.

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