ACID INJECTION PRODUCTS: Don’t Ruin Your Skin
by Thomas Barrows, M.D.
Microneedle Tattoo Removal
Every few years or so we need to educate the public about the latest bad ideas to remove tattoo ink. While some of these schemes are just ineffective and waste money (tattoo removal creams), some are just downright scary and destructive and can cause serious injuries to the skin. Last fall, I wrote about the dangers of “microneedling” to remove tattoos (see Microneedling Tattoo Removal). Microneedling is a process in which tissue-destructive substances are injected directly into the dermal layer of the skin using tattoo needles resulting in necrosis (death) of the tissue. Whereas lasers attempt to minimize damage to the surrounding tissue by selectively targeting cells containing tattoo ink, Acid injection and other microneedling techniques act like a sledgehammer, indiscriminately destroying all the tissue whether the cells contain tattoo ink or not. This results in open wounds with prolonged recovery time, risk of infection, and a very high risk of textural changes and scarring to the skin.
Acid Injected into the Skin
Watch for red flags in the ingredients lists before letting someone injection anything into your tattoo. Big red flags include: lactic acid, trichloracetic acid, glycolic acids have been used to attempt tattoo removal in the past often with serious complications. There is a significant risk of scarring with these types of treatment and they should be avoided. The injuries that result from injecting acid under the skin are well-documented and are often irreversible (see case report: “Caustic Tattoo Removal by Lactic Acid Followed by Disfiguring Scar” – Diagnosis and Therapy of Tattoo Complications. Curr Probl Dermatol. Basel, Karger, 2017. vol 52 pp 139-229.). Their approach is to induce multiple wounds in the skin which are then allowed to dry out and form scabs. The scabs eventually loosen and fall off causing ink the be sloughed off. However, open wounds heal better and with less risk of scarring when they are managed by moist rather than dry wound healing. So the aftercare wound management practices are also concerning.
No FDA Regulation and No Physician Oversight
There are companies currently promoting such products and they are actively marketing to tattoo studios around the country to attempt to get them to use this product. It is only a matter of time before a tattoo shop near you makes a bad decision and inflicts this treatment on unsuspecting consumers. Tattoo shops performing these procedures are doing so without medical supervision, minimal training, and will not be able to manage the complications of this procedure. It is very unlikely that they will carry medical liability insurance to perform this procedure so in the event of an injury, you may have little recourse to collect damages. Buyer beware.