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Can you Remove A Tattoo with Hydrogen Peroxide?
People are removing tattoos with hydrogen peroxide. Is it true or even possible that such a simple tool is out there for us to use? Are tattoo artists lying to us about how permanent tattoos are??
It seems to be all the rage that now tattoos are easily removed. So easy in fact, many claim most tattoos can be removed with simple household chemicals, a lot of disposable needles via Amazon shopping and some plastic bags draped over your mom’s favorite sofa… YouTube is laden with so many how-to-videos, all of which claim that Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) can be used to remove tattoos that a person is unhappy with. But is it true?
To get the answer out early here, you cannot remove tattoo pigment from the skin with hydrogen peroxide. People are wrong.
Video stars claim the bubbling action, “removes the pigment from the skin because the bubbles remove things like dirt and debris when you get a scrape or cut”. Others claim the bleaching action can remove the tattoo’s natural coloring. This cannot be further from the truth and in some cases, it can be extremely dangerous to your health.
Let’s jump into what H2O2 does with it comes into contact with a wound on your body after we watch this short video:
H2O2 and Some Chemistry
When hydrogen peroxide is injected into the skin, or exposed to air or light energy, it breaks down quickly into the byproducts: H2O2–>H2O + O. Yes, that is right, water and oxygen.
By mixing water and oxygen with the already injected pigment in the skin, the carrier fluid, in this case, the H2O2, causes nothing to happen to the already injected pigment. H2O2 when broken down is inert and will not cause any reduction in the content of the pigment in the skin by itself. The bubbles won’t grab ahold of the pigment and remove it from the skin because the pigment is being held fast by specialized cells, called macrophages. The pigment is not free-floating like a rock, dirt, or debris that is floating around a new wound when you fall off your bike and skin your knee.
The way hydrogen peroxide removes things from your skin and keeps it clean is pretty in-depth chemistry. Something we don’t need to get into it in this short article but, if you are like me and want to have a look at the science, links at the bottom of the page will take you to the NIH database so you can have a read. The thing to note is that a tattoo wound, when a tattoo is performed correctly, is nowhere near as destructive as a fall off your bike. The layers of skin damaged due to a fall and scrape are far more invasive than a simple tattoo, which should only damage the epidermis and the uppermost layers of the dermis.
More on skin and healing can be found by reading our article-
Because tattooed skin hasn’t been eviscerated like when you take a fall, the skin isn’t able to release the pigment like it would a foreign substance like dirt or something else… Beyond that, as you are working on healed skin while you try to remove a tattoo with hydrogen peroxide, the bubbling action doesn’t remove the foreign particles of pigment. A healed tattoo is very different than a fresh tattoo. Even more, it is far different than a fresh tattoo with a huge gash in it.
This stuff just won’t work!
Other arguments including how H2O2 can bleach the skin are just as erroneous. Yes, that is possible to lighten your skin, but using H2O2 for skin lightening only affects the bottom layers of the epidermis where melanocytes are located. This is still above where tattoo pigment is located, in the dermis.
Are the Byproducts of H2O2 Going to Hurt Me If I Try to Remove a Tattoo?
While oxygen is a free radical scavenger that can aid in wound healing, like the wound that has been caused by a tattoo procedure, it is not an effective product for removing black tattoo pigment. Oxygenating carbon black, for example, does nothing except make the pigment more industrially stable for use. Which is like a fancy way of saying it makes it more potent as a pigment. So, ya…
When it comes to color tattoo pigments though, things get a bit scarier. The breakdown of pigments may be possible, but their byproducts are not safe. If modern AZO pigments (which are banned in the EU as an additive or main constituent of cosmetic or tattoo pigment products) or other colorants used in tattoo pigments are broken down by the oxidation of H2O2 on tattoo pigments, the pigments can release known carcinogenic compounds into the body.
There are documents out there that state the process of oxygenation can and may break down these pigments effectively, but the processes are super in-depth. The processes require large machinery and very specific light energy profiles to break the pigment down. They use a machine that looks like this –->
Which isn’t the same as the UV lamp you got in your living room. By oxidizing the compounds that make up tattoo ink in your skin you will release things that are really, really bad for you into your bloodstream. So don’t try this at home folks.
Why Does It Seem to Work Though?
Why does pigment migrate out of the skin after using H2O2? Because trauma to the skin creates a wound, which in turn must be healed. During the healing process pigment that is already in the skin will be absorbed or ejected as the skin as it is remodeled during the healing process.
The tactic of using other solutions to “save money” is a snake-oil tactic and has been used by many to falsely inform that a possibility of tattoo removal is available to the layperson. While issues can be discussed as to the reasoning or ethic of such efforts, there are very few safe ways to remove a tattoo in today’s world. Tattoos are permanent and should be approached in such a way that respect is given to that permanency.
While the safety of H2O2 (Hydrogen Peroxide) being used is not really in question, as the hydrogen peroxide really can’t do much harm to the body as it is broken down into things that don’t normally cause harm, the harm possible for the person doing the tattoo procedure, especially if they are not a skilled tattoo artist, is present. Chances of scarring and infection are a real threat to client safety. Safe procedures, sterile tactics, and quality products are key to decreasing the potential health consequences of even attempting such a procedure.
Why not just get a coverup anyways? It is way cooler!
Rather than pursue this effort, or get laser treatment, which is extremely dangerous, care should be taken BEFORE the tattoo is done. If a client is sure of what they want, has gone through a rigorous process of selection and the vetting of a potential tattoo artist, they should be good to go.
Remember that all things on YouTube aren’t real, and the reviews you see don’t make ideas valid. Go do some research. The power is yours.