What to Know About Taking off a Temporary Tattoo

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 17, 2021

Temporary skin tattoos don’t last long, which explains their growing popularity. They begin to crack and rub off bit by bit in around a week. However, sometimes you want to remove the temporary tattoo sooner. In other cases, they may last longer than expected — and you need to find a way to remove them.

Luckily, there are quick and painless ways to remove a temporary tattoo.

How to Remove a Temporary Tattoo

You will have a better chance at removing a temporary tattoo when you know the right products to use. For stubborn pieces, you’ll need more than soap and water or homemade scrub. The method of removal is also important to avoid hurting your skin.

Oil-based remover. Oil-based products are used in different ways in the skin-care industry. They are effective in removing makeup and also cleanse your skin. The theory behind their widespread use is that "like removes like." They remove foreign particles from your skin without taking away the skin's natural oils.

Most of the oils you have in your home can do the job, including:

Another reason why oil-based removers are effective is that most temporary tattoos are waterproof. Soapy water will not help to break them down.

To remove a tattoo using oil-based products, you can:

  • Apply some oil on the tattoo and spread it evenly.
  • Pay close attention to the edges as they tend to be stubborn.
  • Give the oil a few minutes to start breaking down the tattoo and its adhesives.
  • Remove the leftovers of the oil and tattoo components using a cotton pad or clean towel.
  • Wash the area with warm water and apply some moisturizer.

Exfoliating body scrub. Sugar and oil scrubs are the most common method of removing stubborn temporary tattoos. Brown sugar is especially effective where oil-based removers are not. Exfoliators break up the temporary tattoo. During the process, they help to remove dead skin and encourage the growth of new cells.

If you don't have commercially-made exfoliating products, you can make your own. A mix of brown sugar, olive oil, and vanilla extract makes an excellent exfoliator. Apply the mixture to the tattoo and rub gently in circular motions to avoid irritating the skin. The tattoo should start breaking up and removing itself from your skin. Wash the area, tap it dry, and apply some moisturizer.

Chemical remover for stubborn tattoos. Some products have chemicals whose combination can break up tattoos fast. They work by reducing their color and breaking up the elements.

These include:

Products and cleansers that contain lactic, salicylic, and glycolic acid can also be helpful. They also play a role in increasing skin cell turnover. Rub your product of choice on the tattoo in circular motions using a soft cloth. Do this in intervals of 20 seconds until the tattoo disappears.

Rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is a product you must have in your house — not just for tattoo removal but for other uses as well. Using it to break up a tattoo is safe and effective, even for your children. However, you may want to avoid it if the affected area has cuts or breaks as it may cause pain. Use the same procedure as outlined when using a chemical remover.

Hair Spray. Hair spray has elements that can break up a temporary tattoo. However, unlike chemical removers and rubbing alcohol, you need to leave the spray to sit in place for a while. After it dries out from the application area, use a soft towel to rub the tattoo until it peels off. Wash the area and apply a moisturizer.

Other products you can use to remove a temporary tattoo include:

Potential Complications of Removing a Temporary Tattoo

As you rub on the tattoo to break it and remove it from the skin, you may have temporary inflammation or irritation. When you use chemical removers for a long time, they can also cause skin irritations. If this happens, you can help ease the reaction.

If the skin becomes red and inflamed, a cool compress applied to the area can minimize the inflammation. You can also opt for other skin-cooling products like:

  • Cucumber gel
  • Aloe Vera gel
  • Coconut oil

The irritation should go away in a few hours. If it persists and the skin gets worse, contact your doctor for treatment.

Show Sources


American Academy of Dermatology Association: “HOW TO SAFELY EXFOLIATE AT HOME.”

Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology: “Glycolic acid peel therapy- a current review.”

Dermatology Online Journal: “Cutaneous reactions to temporary tattoos.”

Dermatology Research and Practice: “Cleansing Formulations That Respect Skin Barrier Integrity.”

eMedihealth: “DIY Coconut Oil and Aloe Vera Gel Moisturizer for Skin.”

European Patent Office: European Publication Server: “METHODS AND COMPOSITIONS FOR TATTOO REMOVAL.”

Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology: “Hair Cosmetics,” “Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders.”

Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery: “Complications of Tattoos and Tattoo Removal: Stop and Think before you Ink.”

Medical Archives: JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF MEDICAL SCIENCES IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: “Exfoliative Skin-Peeling, Benefits from This procedure and Our Experience.”

Natural Medicine Journal: Treatment of Dermal Infections with Topical Coconut Oil.”

Pediatric Emergency Medicine: “Isopropanol Poisoning.”

The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology: “A New Era for Tattoo, with New Potential Complications.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info