Perhaps you have fallen out of love with the person whose name is emblazoned across your chest. Or perhaps the tattoo was a little messed up to begin with (we’ve all heard the stories of Chinese characters gone wrong, misquoted song lyrics, and the woman who had No Regrets spelled as No Regrats).
Whatever the reason for wanting it removed, thankfully, advances in technology mean that most modern lasers can remove unwanted tattoos permanently and effectively.
Unfortunately, tattoo removal is often carried out by inexperienced and poorly or untrained operators, many times in non-medical practices.
Dr Dilip Gahankari, Gold Coast based Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon from Advanced Aesthetics believes that this procedure needs regulation or we will see more and more cases of scarring and burning due to the poor technique or cheap equipment.
“Laser tattoo removal is a medical procedure and carries the risks of scarring, wound infection and allergic reactions and further regulations are necessary,” says Dr Gahankari, whose own practice, Advanced Aesthetics uses the PicoSure (aesthetic picosecond laser).
“I have heard of many cases where patients have experienced severe burning, scarring and infection as a result of misuse of these machines.
“Lasers are fantastic machines and the results we see in our clinic are exceptional. However, the machine operator is as important as the machine itself. The nurses at Advanced Aesthetics are fully trained and qualified and use the machine safely and expertly – that is why they have such outstanding results.”
Dr Gahankari says fully-trained professionals such as himself and his nurses, have the experience that enables them to properly and accurately assess the skin tone, colour, and tattoo types so they can then choose the appropriate settings for tattoo removal for their clients.
“There are many cases where a beauty clinic simply purchases a machine, and they start using it with little or no training at all. This is just extraordinarily dangerous and it is why we are seeing a rise in problems,” says Dr Gahankari.
“I have heard of cases where they just turn the machine up as high as it will go to try and remove the tattoo quickly. The result is that the skin is simply burnt off and there will be a lifelong scar.”
“There is no safe method of removing a tattoo in one treatment. All single treatment methods such as infrared coagulation, surgical excision, dermabrasion and acid de-tattooing will damage the skin and leave a scar.
“The number of laser tattoo removal treatments needed depends on the amount, colour and type of tattoo ink, the depth of tattoo ink into the skin and the method of tattoo application. With the lasers, professionally applied tattoos may respond in six treatments or less, while self-applied tattoos may fade after only two laser tattoo removal treatments.
“Unfortunately, no matter how good the equipment, it is only as good as its operator. Scarring and changes to skin pigment can result from improperly applied light treatments for tattoo removal.”
Dr Gahankari advises patients to thoroughly check the qualifications of the practitioner who will be performing the laser removal and to only deal with clinics that offer a very thorough pre- and post-removal process in place.
“We have a very strict and thorough process in place, to ensure the best and most effective course of treatment is undertaken,” Dr Gahankari says. “We offer a free consultation, during which myself or our laser nurses will explain the process and answer any questions. We discuss medical history and any medications being taken.
“Our attention then turns to the tattoo and gathering detailed information about where it was done, by whom, what type of inks were used, and if the patient experienced any skin reactions when the work was first done.
“If the patient wishes to proceed, we then test several small sections of the tattoo to assess how it will react to the laser. Different colours may require the use of different lasers.
“When we begin sessions, each will last around 15 minutes, but the laser treatment itself is very fast. Tattoo removal treatments are conducted at six to eight weekly intervals.
“After each treatment the skin will feel a little like it’s sunburnt, but this will subside over the next few days.”
Dr Gahankari advises patients that if they are not offered a full and extensive pre-treatment assessment, such as that offered at Advanced Aesthetics, or the person operating the laser is not fully qualified, they should look elsewhere for treatment.
“Don’t take a chance with your skin and your health,” he says.