Tattoo removal clinics are popping up in Melbourne like hipster cupcake shops. Problematically, they are run by untrained practitioners (and their brand-new lasers), salivating at the price you will pay to delete your mistakes from your skin.
There aren’t a lot of skills required, bar a course put on by the laser maker, to operate a high-powered laser machine. This by no means makes them an expert. Skin is a living, breathing organ – our largest – and any Tom, Dick or Harriet saying they can remove your tattoo doesn’t mean they can remove it safely or effectively or at the agreed price. Scarring from burns is a very real risk when your practitioner doesn’t know what they’re doing. Lasers are not toys.
Don’t use learner drivers
When choosing a practitioner, get the facts on your laser operator.
- How long have they been removing tattoos?
- How many tattoos have they removed?
- Do they have insurance?
- Do they have examples?
It takes time to build up skill in any area, so don’t be the practice subjects for any learner practitioner.
The right machine for the job
Having the right laser to do the job is essential, and not all lasers are created equal. Ask your practitioner what laser they have, and then hang up, and go look it up.
The industry standard is a Q-switched laser, which is worth about $150,000. There are bad copies of this machine out there, but worse than a rip-off Q-switcher is a beautician’s IPL laser. An IPL laser costs about $12,000, and is not the right tool for the job due to the size and power of its beams – IPL is useful for many other tasks, but not tattoo removal.
If your practitioner has a poorly-suited machine, you will get poorer results and more damage. Good tattoo-removal equipment (which means appropriate equipment) costs more.
How does the tattoo actually get removed?
The laser works by breaking up the tattoo ink using specific wavelengths of the laser. The speed and efficacy of this process will depend on your skin type, the tattoo colours, and where the tattoo is. The laser beam is directed at the tattoo in bursts, which splits the ink particles up, and the body then absorbs the ink into the body to dispose of it as waste. This takes months and many treatments.
How many treatments does it take?
This depends on your tattoo, and how well your body reabsorbs the inks. Large tattoos with many colours might take quite a lot of treatments, and end up being quite expensive. You could spend more on removing the tattoo than actually getting it.
Yes, it can hurt a little. Lasers are not necessarily pain free, though most people find it to be only mild discomfort. Black ink is easier to get rid of, whereas green is the hardest colour.
An inexperienced practitioner may underestimate how many treatments you’ll need to get the tattoo off, which is annoying (and expensive) if you get through your suggested treatments and the tattoo is half-gone. Choose well when anyone touches your skin, because getting someone to correct a botched tattoo-removal job will not be cheap. Don’t get burnt by tattoo removal.