How Were Tattoos Removed in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, tattoos were seen as a sign of social status, spirituality, and even used for medical purposes. However, as time passed, people started to regret their tattoos due to various reasons such as the change in personal beliefs or societal norms.

So, how did people remove tattoos in ancient times? Let’s delve into the different methods used by our ancestors.

The Scarring Method

One of the earliest methods of tattoo removal was the scarring method. This method involved making a deep cut into the skin and rubbing ashes or sand into the wound until it became infected.

As a result of this process, the skin would scar and eventually push out the ink particles. This method was painful and could lead to severe infections.


Salabrasion was another technique used to remove tattoos in ancient times. It involved rubbing salt on the tattooed area until it became red and raw.

Then, an abrasive object such as a pumice stone was used to rub off the top layers of skin until the ink faded away. This method was also painful and could cause scarring.

Chemical Removal

Chemical removal is one of the most popular methods of tattoo removal today, but did you know it dates back to ancient times? In ancient Egypt, they used a mixture of vinegar and acacia gum to remove tattoos. In China during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), a mixture of herbs such as Chinese violet and thistle were used to lighten tattoos.


Excision involved cutting out the tattooed skin with a sharp instrument such as a knife or razor blade. The wound would then be stitched together or left open to heal naturally. This method was painful and could lead to scarring.

Laser Removal

Although not an ancient method, laser removal has been around since the late 1960s. It involves using a high-intensity laser to break up the ink particles, which are then absorbed by the body’s immune system. This method is less painful than the previous methods mentioned and results in less scarring.


Tattoo removal has come a long way since ancient times. Although our ancestors had some unique and often painful methods to remove tattoos, we now have access to more modern and safer techniques such as laser removal. It’s fascinating to see how tattoo removal has evolved over time, but one thing remains constant – tattoos are still a popular form of self-expression and art.