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Magnetic Tattoo Removal vs. Laser Tattoo Removal

Dr. W. Y Chung, MD - Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tattoo RemovalThough laser tattoo removal has proven a successful treatment for eliminating unwanted tattoos its success hasn’t deterred companies from marketing dubious removal systems such as fade creams, and powerful magnetic removal devices. Urban and internet legends abound about magnetic tattoo removal.

Urban Legend or Future Innovation?

Though it seems preposterous, researchers have been testing the idea of an ink made almost exclusively from
magnetite which would allow the ink to be drawn from the skin using a device with an ultra-potent magnet. In fact, a patent exists which suggests that someday a tattoo marking could not only be extracted, but also manipulated and revised using magnets.

Imagine a device which can turn a black cat tattoo into an anchor using a magnet to shift the magnetite particles beneath the skin’s surface. It would be like getting a new tattoo without having to inject new pigmentation. The idea is akin to how e-ink works where the ink reforms into a new image with the turn of a page.

Perhaps giving credence to the notion that magnets do indeed have an effect on tattoos, there have been reported instances where an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) has actually caused burns in tattooed areas. 

No one is completely certain why this occurs but some scientists believe that it is due to the iron oxide present in the ink, which is attracted to magnets and also conducts electricity.

For now a magnetite-based ink which can be easily removed or redrawn is still in the development stage. That hasn’t stopped products from appearing on the market which claim that tattoos can be removed using a magnet.

Iron Oxide and Other Ingredients in Tattoo Inks

Considering that tattoo ink is injected into the skin, you might assume that the ink would be a highly regulated product. But alarmingly, there is plenty of mystery surrounding the ingredients in tattoo ink. In fact, the FDA has not approved any inks specifically for tattooing purposes.


Tattoo inks can contain questionable ingredients and sometimes even toxic ingredients. Among the unsafe ingredients which can be found in certain ink products are lead, arsenic, mercury, formaldehyde, plastics and even some radioactive elements.

Black ink for example can be made from iron oxide, jet, carbon, and log-wood. Thankfully, there are plenty of responsible artists committed to using ingredients which have been proven to be non-toxic.

There is a slight chance, if your black ink tattoo is comprised almost entirely of iron oxide particles, that the magnet may have some effect. But if your black ink tattoo includes additional pigment sources such as crushed jet or carbon, a magnet isn’t going to budge that ink, the magnetic attraction would simply be too weak.

Also, tattoos are usually multicolored and each ink color can be formulated in multiple ways and of different ingredients there is no reliable way of knowing the content level of iron oxide.

Magnet Tattoo Removal: More Fantasy than Reality

The magnetic removal systems available on the market today receive very mixed reviews. Quite a few customers report little to no difference in the appearance of their tattoos. Why throw away money on a questionable product when laser tattoo removal has a proven track record.

Perhaps in the future we will have tattoos that can be easily redrawn or eliminated because of the makeup of the ink. Until then you can depend on a successful outcome with laser removal. Call us for a consultation at our Hawaii InkOff.MD center.

Inkoff MD Honolulu, HI

InkOff.MD offers the most advanced techniques for tattoo removals with fascinating results.

Contact us today for a consultation (808) 949-8346

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