A quarter of millennial Australians have a tattoo, so it goes without saying that some of them want theirs removed. But who should they trust to remove them? Removal techniques have improved in recent years as skin grafting, and other lesser lasers used to be the norm. These days they are gradually disintegrated by using Q-switched lasers set to specific wavelengths.
It turns out, though, that you don’t need medical training to do this treatment on someone. Scarring and burning is a real concern for less qualified removers and can result in a really terrible experience. Here are what some dermatologists and tattoo removers had to say about what you should be looking out for, and who you should hire.
The skills that remove the gills (on the fish tattoo on your arm)
Don’t be fooled by terms like “certified laser practitioner” or “accredited clinician”, because that just means the maker of the laser made had them take a course. It’s just about safety, not a technique for removing tattoos. The fact of the matter is, this is a skill that requires time and practice to learn and can result in a lot of pain to unsuspecting customers.
Rage for the correct machine
There is, as it turns out, quite a lot of use of cheaper knock-off versions of the industry-standard Q-switched laser, as well as use of IPL lasers, which can cause distortion of the tattoo as well as burns and scars, because they are not as precise. These will not be as effective and can be quite a bit more painful. But as you suspected, the lesser versions can run one-tenth the price of the real thing, and that makes it very attractive to go into business.
The price is right (or wrong)
How many treatments you’ll need, and, therefore, how much you’ll have to pay, varies based on your immune system’s response to the laser, the colour and the location, of the tattoo, and your skin type. Prices in Melbourne run about $4500 -$19,500 for your standard removal of a small to a medium-large tattoo.
Large, colorful and dense tattoos will take the longest to remove and be the most expensive. Green is the most difficult color to remove, and some people won’t even try.
Also, if you smoke, your tattoo is larger than 30 sq. cm, or it’s more than three years old, you may have less response to the laser.
Your remover may also purposefully tell you it won’t take as long and then string you and your wallet along because you’re already halfway there.
Creams and other topical treatments might interest you, but can be produced in places with little to no regulation. Also, some ingredients can cause severe skin irritation and increase cancer risks. Finally, they are a bit of a disappointment because they really only lighten the tattoo over time.