Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

Snake Oil, and Medicine Shows

January 3rd, 2009 by

Myth and Urban legends abound. Quite a few in the world of tattooing. One of my favorites was one that apparently originated during the 30’s with the story of an early debate about the reusing of needles and sterilization, or lack there of as the case may be. The story goes that a man little more than a hobo settled the argument by showing a tattoo on his arm and proclaiming that he was once a tattoo artist. His claim was that the parlor he worked in was below a house of prostitution and the needles used for the tattoo were put in the gutter where the ladies would dump their bath water night after night. After a week or so they retrieved the needles and did the tattoo with no ill effects.

Now anyone in their right mind would know that the story is a load of pure bull. At the very least had such a thing been done the rusty needles would have given him a good case of lockjaw, gangrene, and possibly more STD’s than any person on record.

One of the worse urban legends floating around is the one used to sell a product that anyone with more than three functioning brain cells would know better than to use. The home tattoo removal cream.

I’m not a big fan of tattoo removal in the first place, but people are people after all, and we do make mistakes. Mostly do to fad thinking. While I can appreciate the upswing in business for tattoo artists, if your thinking about getting a tattoo because it’s the “in” thing to do….don’t! It will save you tons of money and heartache in the long run. On the other hand, if you have made a mistake in choice, well let’s just say I prefer cover up to removal any day of the week. At least then you have a better tattoo.

The last thing you want to do is try out one of these home tattoo removal creams. The FDA banned one of the biggest suppliers of this crap, Tatex, in 1992. Basically the crap was nothing short of a mild acid that ate away your skin. Duh! After several complaints about skin irritation and infections the FDA got involved and put an end to the garbage, or so they thought.

Enter the next generation of snake oil salesmen, eager to make a quick buck with the same old song and dance. (Drum roll, please.) Wrecking Balm®!

Hell, even the web site looks like one of those old west medicine show presentations, and if you pay attention to the pure bull shit they have listed on it, you should be able to spot the con almost immediately.

First, they claim that it fades the tattoo, just like Tatex use to, then go on to describe it as “the breakdown of ink injected skin cells”. That’s a polite way of saying it eats away the skin, kiddies. Even worse, it is a supposed 3 step process where you “sand” the skin before applying the balm. Even if the balm were nothing more than Neosporin┬«, any fool should know that if you continually “sand” the tattoo it will “fade” over time. It’s called Dermabrasion, and for the longest time was the only way to remove a tattoo in the first place.

The testimonials are an even bigger joke. Ever notice how these things always seem to be just the person’s first name and last initial, nothing else? People who really use a product, and find it satisfactory enough to crow about, have no problem letting you know their full name, as well as where they are from. This is the same dodge used in the old mail order scams and you can bet your bottom dollar the testimonials are most likely made up. Even if they are not, these are some of the most gullible people on earth, as it is most likely the ongoing Dermabrasion that is actually “fading” the tattoo.

How long? according to their propaganda, “It takes 4 to 6 weeks for cells to naturally regenerate and complete one cycle.” Trust me, if you were stupid enough to sand your tattoo at home, and put a antibiotic cream on it for that length of time, I will guarantee the tattoo will start to fade. Please don’t, though…’s about as dumb a thing as you will ever do.

If you have a tattoo you want to get rid of, try a cover up with something you can be proud to own. If you are still determined to remove the tat all together, do the same thing you should have done to get it. Go to a licensed professional. Trying one of these stupid “at home” tattoo removal things is about as smart as performing your own kidney transplant.

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