Are Tattoo Removal Creams Cosmetics?

PetePete Member

Hi All,

After seeing a programme on TV showing how painful laser removal of tattoos is, as a chemist I was curious to know if there was an anternative.

A quick look on Google came up with lots of creams that claim to remove tattoos ( and

These look to be marketed as cosmetics and yet, at least in the last example, claim active ingredients. This seems to go against what I have learnt from this forum and out of curiosity, would be keen to hear any comments around such products which I assume have not undegone extensive testing.




  • BobzchemistBobzchemist Member, PCF student
    Anything applied to human skin is either a cosmetic or a drug. Anything labeled with an "active ingredient" is likely to be considered an unapproved drug by the FDA.
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • ZinkZink Member
    Phenol peels? lol
  • PetePete Member

    So, presumably if they do not state that the creams contain an active ingredient, they are cosmetics because they are only changing the appearance of the skin - even though that entails removal of dyes?

  • Bill_TogeBill_Toge Member, Professional Chemist
    the former is a skin peeling cream containing TCA (which presumably stands for trichloroacetic acid), making it an unlicensed medicine

    what makes it particularly egregious is that it's sold in Europe, where TCA has been banned from cosmetics since 1979!
    UK based formulation chemist. Strongest subjects: hair styling, hair bleaches, hair dyes (oxidative and non-oxidative) I know some stuff about: EU regulations, emulsions (O/W and W/O), toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoos, other toiletries
  • PetePete Member

    Thankyou for your input. They sounded a bit unlikely to me.



  • Get at least 1-2 inquires every couple of months---Have stayed away from that business.Numerous skin problems from Tatooing and removal!
  • johnbjohnb Member
    A blood alcohol test before a tattoo is carried out would do a lot to avoid tattoo problems and their subsequent difficult removal.

    But that doesn't answer the question posed. The truth is that these creams do not work. The makers of the products themselves state that they take several months (therefore $$ or ££ or €€) to show any effect and then it is only minimal as the TCA content is only enough to impart a characteristic odour.
  • PetePete Member

    Haha. Agreed with the first comment #johnb.

    I thought it was interestig as I guess the tattoo craze will end in the not too distant future. Not so easy to remove as a beard!

    I had a bit more of a read and see that these products might work to some extent if the tattoo has just been done.

    From what I can tell, the only serious product is still under development and uses bisphosphonates in liposomes. A nice drug repurposing exercise, but definitely not a cosmetic.



  • problems on skin are from the ink and mainly bacterial infections as I have been told
  • johnbjohnb Member
    edited April 2017
    problems on skin are from the ink and mainly bacterial infections as I have been told

    Am I missing something here? I don't understand the relevance of this observation.

  • Risk/Benefit ratio for these products favor high risk--re-read query not only do they not work high infection rates are posssible???
  • how can people believe a cream is able to remove a tattoo?  :o
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    People believe lots of things they want to be true.
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