Woman suffers serious chemical burns after using DIY tattoo removal kit

Sep 28, 2015 at 10:50 p.m. ET
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Like many people, 23-year-old Jess Hardy got a tattoo she regretted and wanted it removed, stat.

She opted to remove the forearm tattoo of her ex-boyfriend's name with an at-home kit she purchased online for about $23. But instead of removing the ink, the kit left her with horrible burns and, eventually, a hole in her arm.

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"It felt like someone had poured something flammable on my arm, lit it, and then poured a kettle on it," Hardy says in the BBC One documentary Inside Out. The reason: Most tattoo removal kits simply burn off the tattoo with corrosive chemicals like trichloroacetic acid, a substance that's banned in cosmetics in many countries, and hexachloroethane, a chemical used to make grenades.

And burning off tattoos isn't going to work since the ink is set into the middle of the skin, clinical dermatologist Dr. Sean Lanigan told the BBC.

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"People are not only wasting their money, they’re exposing themselves to a significant risk of damage," he said. "It’s highly likely to cause severe burns, quite possibly resulting in permanent scarring."

The only effective way to fade — and possibly remove — tattoos is through laser therapy done by a professional. It's also becoming more affordable, with treatments ranging from $75 to $300, depending on your location and the size and location of the ink-based art.

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It's too late for Hardy's tattoo, but let her horrific experience serve as a warning that going the cheaper route can actually cost you way more in the long run. "I’m shocked someone has actually sold that," she said of the home kit. "I want my arm back, my normal arm."