One of the fastest growing procedures in the field of aesthetic and cosmetic medicine is laser tattoo removal. Driven largely by the growth of people getting tattoos as a spontaneous practice, only to later want that ink off of their skin, tattoo removal is a fairly simple procedure to administer. It comes with low risks and side effects and a monetary upside that can help to increase your clinic or medical spa revenues. If you are attending SCALE 2019 Music City there will be opportunities for you to further explore how these services can benefit your practice.
By The Numbers: Tattoo Removal
As noted by a chain of tattoo removal clinics, there are some key numbers reported about tattoo removal, demonstrating why and how this is a growing trend, especially among women and millenials. (Source).
- 70% of US business owners do not favor tattoos on employees
- Tattoo removal clinics have grown by 400% in the past decade
- 11% of all people with tattoos have them removed
- 26% of inked millennials regret their tattoo
- Laser tattoo removal clients are 70% female
This is enough to make businesses open and expand in large urban areas that are focused solely on providing tattoo removal services – but there is plenty of room for it to be an add-on to any business that is already helping people improve their looks. The makers of one of the laser treatments, Astanz, points out that, “Few cosmetic laser procedures are as exciting and profitable as laser tattoo removal. The popularity of tattoos matched with the high prevalence of “tattoo regret” has caused millions of patients to seek tattoo removal… Tattoos transcend all demographics and defy all stereotypes. They have become mainstream in America, with celebrities, athletes, and even politicians getting inked. Statistics about the tattoo market indicate the potential for tattoo removal market growth…. As the evidence shows, the average tattoo removal patients are young and female, and they have small, easy-to-remove black tattoos. There is a large crossover between tattoo removal patients and consumers of other aesthetic procedures.”
The FDA also reports consistent growth from 2011 to today for those seeking tattoo removal. This is a market that is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Tattoo Removal Options
There are a number of different technologies and procedures that purport to be able to remove tattoos. They include several devices that are actually cleared by the FDA, and there are endless ways that people claim tattoos can be removed that have not passed muster with the regulatory agency. In this blog post we are only going to focus on those that are currently approved for use.
As the FDA notes, tattoos are supposed to be permanent, so their removal is not easy. “Artists create tattoos by using an electrically powered machine that moves a needle up and down to inject ink into the skin, penetrating the epidermis, or outer layer, and depositing a drop of ink into the dermis, the second layer of skin. The cells of the dermis are more stable compared with those of the epidermis, so the ink will mostly stay in place for a person’s lifetime.” (Source).
There is no approved cream, or ‘DIY’ approach for tattoo removal that is proven effective. The two technologies that are recognized by the FDA are Laser and Microdermabrasion. IPL (intense pulsed light therapy), while not FDA approved, is also effective. Here is how they work.
Lasers penetrate the skin into the dermis, and when the ink absorbs the light, it breaks up the pigment. This actually works best with black ink, so these are the easiest to remove. Thus, those with small black tattoos are the simplest clients to treat. Other colors of ink require treatment with lasers that have lights at frequencies set for those colors. This can get complicated and requires a more sophisticated machine and practitioner. Laser tattoo removal requires several treatments and it is not without discomfort. However, tattoos are also painful and so most of the clients you see will equivocate those levels and not need any type of anesthesia.
The process was described in an article in Business Insider as:
Tattoo removal lasers, also called Q-switch lasers or ultra-short pulse lasers, are extremely hot, operate in a very narrow frequency, and are very, very fast. The tattoo removal laser in the video, called the PicoLaser, works on a scale of picoseconds, or a trillionth of a second. This speed and heat is crucial to cracking the ink particles apart.
To break up an ink particle, you need to heat it to make it expand due to thermal expansion, but the zap has to be quick enough so that half of the particle remains cool. The opposing cool and hot forces then rip the ink particle apart. This process, called photothermolysis, is also used in laser hair removal.
Microdermabrasion is a process used to, quite literally, sand away the skin in the area of the tattoo. This process, while effective, can easily cause damage to the skin and result in scarring that may need to be treated separately. As a practitioner it may be wise to focus on energy-based tattoo removal to avoid these complications.
IPL is also an energy-based tool for tattoo removal. Generally requiring 2-10 sessions, this high intensity light is used in a similar manner to a laser. It can be more effective and less painful than a laser, but it carries a higher price tag for you, and thus the client.