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Tattoo removal: why use a medically-trained professional?

Tattoo removal: why use a medically-trained professional?
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We get tattoos for many reasons – a deep love of ink, the mistaken idea it would make you seem cooler or sexier, or just too many drinks on a night out in Thailand. The reasons we might want to remove a tattoo are also varied. 

As you’ve grown, the pull to remove the Chinese characters, your star sign, the barbed wire, the Southern Cross on your calf, may strengthen. Or perhaps you’re a glutton for pain and want to get rid of an old tattoo so you can put something new over the top. 

No matter the reason, removing a tattoo requires laser tattoo removal. The choice within this single removal option is whether to use a renowned dermatology clinic with trained medical staff and state-of-the-art lasers or a small pop-up shop with a former barista at the helm of a former hair removal device. 

Where you get your ink removed should be a carefully considered choice. The average inked will usually base the decision on location and price, and while important, those aren’t the only considerations. 

Not all tattoo removals are equal, and who and what removes your ink matters when it comes to duration, pain, expense and results. Not all tattoos disappear completely after treatment, typically due to a poorly-trained, inexperienced tattoo removalist who used incorrect settings or a removal device that was not up to the task. Making you think twice? Good.  

Who is qualified for tattoo removal?

The short answer is nobody and everybody. There is a call for high-powered light, laser, and radiofrequency devices to be administered only by specially-trained medical professionals. In Australia, there is no very little to no regulation regarding laser tattoo removal lasers or devices. Anyone who can afford it can set up a shop. And, set up shop they do.

Doctors believe they should remove tattoos

Some doctors think laser tattoo removal should be performed by a doctor or other medical professional like a trained nurse under supervision. 


The lasers that doctors use are powerful, often more potent than a tattoo-removal shop would use, but not always. High-powered lasers may land in the hands of minimally-trained operators, increasing the risk of mistakes and burns. On the other hand, lower-powered lasers or IPL machines may not do the best job of eradicating tattoos. 


Besides their extensive medical training and skin and laser treatment experience, a cosmetic dermatology clinic typically has far more and better lasers than a small tattoo-removal shop. This matters for several reasons that we’ll get to soon. 

Tattoo-removal shop owners believe they’re competent

A properly trained and experienced tattoo removalist with great equipment can perform tattoo removals competently. It’s not just the realm of doctors; that much is true. 

Tattoo-removal shop owners are concerned that over-regulating and over-medicalising laser tattoo removal might deter people from seeking much-wanted treatments, increase dangerous home tattoo removal attempts, and drive up prices, which are all legitimate concerns. 

Additionally, the fact remains that adverse outcomes are rare, and tattoo-removal devices are generally safe when used correctly. 

Tattoo removal is not classified as a medical procedure any more than laser hair removal. Tattoo-removal shops and beauticians often use the same devices, trained by the manufacturers. 

Your practitioner and laser matter – here’s why

A dermatology clinic has a suite of high-tech lasers covering multiple spectrums of tattoo pigments. Your local shop, by contrast, most likely only has one machine. These are often intense pulsed light (IPL) machines, which tend to just be good for one thing: small black tattoos. 

The minute you want to remove large or colourful tattoos, you start to snowball costs in time, money and pain. It’s this situation where your practitioner and their bevvy of lasers begin to matter a great deal more. Multiple state-of-the-art lasers at a dermatologist clinic are more efficient and cover a much broader range of colours; they’re faster lasers and, in most cases – significantly – hurt less.

How laser tattoo removal works

When removing a tattoo, the pigment absorbs the laser’s repeated pulse of intense heat and shatters into tiny fragments. Once broken up, these fragments are absorbed into your body and eliminated safely via your immune system between sessions. 

The lasers we use matter

But, laser heat doesn’t just impact the pigment but also the surrounding cells, causing pain and inflammation. This inflammatory process dictates both the pain experienced during sessions and the length of your recovery between treatments. 

More lasers, more frequencies, more colours

Lasers work by targeting specific light frequencies, which we see as colour. For example, when we treat a visible spider vein, we use the laser frequency attracted to red; for pigmentation, it’s brown, and so on. 

Lasers typically only have one or two different frequencies they target, and less commonly, three or four. No laser can target all the colours of the rainbow; this device simply does not exist. So having more lasers means access to a greater spectrum of colours, making light work of richly-coloured tattoos.

The PiQ04 we use is the best in the business

There are a handful of lasers used to remove tattoos in Australia. Still, one of the fastest (and in Dr Rich’s opinion, one of the best) is the PiQ04 – the picosecond laser we use for most tattoos at ENRICH Clinic in Armadale, Melbourne. 

The reason this little beauty is our first choice for laser tattoo removal is two-pronged. First, the 04 in PiQ04 reflects the device’s four unique frequencies, which means we can remove a much broader range of pigment colours with a single laser. Second, the PiQ04 works in picoseconds, much shorter than a nanosecond, which most other lasers use. 

Read more about the different lasers used to remove tattoos in this scientific clinical update.

Faster and more powerful means less pain and fewer sessions

The tiny picosecond energy burst from the laser means far less time for damage to neighbouring cells to occur. This quick and powerful pulse results in less pain and inflammation while being faster than many of its peers. If you’re looking down the barrel of months of treatments, less pain and fewer sessions add up. 

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