With the recent news about tattoo removal patients receiving burns and scarring from inexperienced Tattoo Removal Clinics, we thought it time to write a ‘buyers guide’ on choosing the right Tattoo Removal Provider. There’s cost, time (and a bit of pain!) involved in Tattoo Removal, so choosing the right clinic is crucial. These are our 4 Top Tips on what to look for.
1. What type of Laser are they using?
There are 2 main types of lasers used for Tattoo removal – Q-switched and picosecond lasers – but they go by various brand names which can make things confusing. These use nano-second and pico-second light pulses respectively to break up the ink pigments and different people will tell you one is superior to the other (usually based on what machine they have!) but in most cases either will be fine. What you want to avoid is IPL lasers, most commonly used for beauty treatments such as hair removal
“What you want to avoid is IPL lasers”
IPL lasers function in milliseconds rather than nano or pico-seconds and the burst of light is too large for the job required, often causing distortion of the tattoo and scarring and burning.
If your provider is recommending an IPL laser it’s time to keep looking. If their using Q-switched or Picosecond then read on.
2. How much experience do they have?
In most states of Australia, tattoo removal is unregulated. That means I can buy a tattoo removal laser, do a laser certification course (which only teaches me how to use the machine safely) and then start offering tattoo removal services. Want to come over and I’ll give it go? Thought not!
Tattoo removal is a skill you gain over time so the longer you do it, and the more frequently you do it – the more experienced you become. So you really want to think about the following:
- Do they specialise in tattoo removal, or do they have staff that specialise in tattoo removal – and will they be available for all your treatments?
- How long have they been in operation? The longer they’ve been open, the longer they’ve had to develop their skills. If it’s only a short time, how long have the staff that will be treating you been doing it. e.g were they performing tattoo removal at a previous location?
- Do they have before and after shots of actual patients they have treated in their clinic not just generic before and after images supplied by the laser manufacturer?
3. Price is important, but not all-important.
The cost of tattoo removal is a function of the cost per treatment x the number of treatments it will require. So if you’re quoted a price of $200 per treatment and expect to need 8 treatments, then the total cost is going to be $1,600
Newer machines with the latest technology will generally cost more per treatment but usually be able to achieve the same result in less treatments.
No-one wants to spend more than they need, but a price that seems too good to be true, probably is. Just like getting your tattoo in the first place, you get what you paid for!
Think about getting a couple of quotes from reputable clinics before making a decision – to get an estimate – and think about the total price (not the price per treatment) but don’t let it be your sole criteria. Especially look out for a quote that is:
- Significantly less than the others. There’s quite often a (bad) reason
- Someone who quotes significantly less treatments required without a sound reason for suggesting it. It might show lack of experience or a lack of ethics – they know once you start, your committed to seeing it through even if it goes beyond the quoted number of treatments
4. The initial consultation
Any reputable tattoo removal clinic will require an initial consultation and so should you. Often these will be free – but price isn’t the issue – it’s the fact that they spend the time to understand your tattoo, your medical condition and what you want to achieve. Things that you should expect to be covered in your consultation include:
- An assessment of the tattoo(s) to be removed
- A discussion of your expectations – are you hoping for total removal or just fading?
- An honest discussion on cost and number of treatments, and any issues that might limit the success of the treatment. Factors such as ink used, skin type, professional vs amateur tattoos are all factors and you should expect an experienced provider to discuss these with you
- An assessment – usually written – of both your medical history and your skin type.
- A discussion on pain, pain management and pre and post-procedure care
And just in case you love lists (and who doesn’t) we’ve compiled a checklist below you might consider taking with you to a consultation, adapted from the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery
A 16 point check-list when choosing a Tattoo Removal provider
- Which tattoo removal procedure is the correct one for me? (What are the options?)
- What is the estimated cost of the procedure?
- How long is one appointment?
- How often will I need to receive treatment to remove my tattoo?
- How far apart are the treatments?
- What are the common side effects or complications associated with the procedure?
- How can I prepare for the treatment/procedure?
- Does tattoo removal hurt?
- What are my pain management and anaesthesia options?
- How long is the recovery time associated with my procedure?
- Do you have before-and-after patient images to help to prepare me for what to expect?
- Will someone walk me through the process before going in for treatment?
- What are the risks?
- What should I expect after the procedure is performed? (i.e., short-term and long-term effects; activity restrictions; expected recovery period)
- Was my medical history taken?
- Was I given an initial evaluation to determine if the technique or procedure is appropriate for my skin type?
- Was I shown before-and-after photos?