New procedure delivers improved tattoo removal

A new type of technology designed to blast the unwanted ink away may offer a welcome option.
Monday, June 16, 2014
An estimated 45 million Americans have a tattoo. Of that number, doctors say the "remorse rate" is pretty high. While traditional tattoo-removal lasers may work for some, they don't work for all. But now a new type of technology designed to blast the unwanted ink away may offer a welcome option.

What's left of Stuart Yellin's arm-band tattoo is the hardest part to get rid of. Twelve years ago, the Woodland Hills resident felt almost immediate tattoo regret.

"I loved it once I got it but less than a week later, it started bleeding and distorting and I quickly changed my view and hated it," said Yellin.

But removing a tattoo takes lot more effort and money than what it took to get one. Yellin already received 27 treatments with a device called the Q-Switch laser. That technology has been around for more than decade. It works, but not for everyone. And it can take up to 20 or 40 treatments.

Now Dr. Gary Lask is using a new device called PicoSure.

"The treatment basically just shatters the ink and breaks down the ink and makes it finer particles, in which case either it can reabsorb into the body or in some cases gets so small you don't see the pigment," said Lask.

Four treatments with the PicoSure, Yellin is seeing more immediate dye removal than he did with the old technology.

"I now can finally see an end to the tunnel, and a year ago I couldn't really see any results," said Yellin.

The UCLA Dermatology Laser Center is one of a few local places to offer the $300,000 device. Studies show it can cut the amount of procedures in half, although doctors say it still has difficulty removing non-standard colors.

And it's still not painless.

"In general, that laser hurts, all these devices do hurt, so they have to be numbed, whether it's topical numbing cream or a shot," said Lask.

Dr. Lask says with a few more treatments, he can get the tattoo to disappear like a distant memory with no more inky reminders.

"I would think hard before you get a tattoo because it's definitely, in most cases, a permanent thing," said Yellin.

How many treatments people need depends on how big or dark their tattoos are. Each PicoSure session runs about $600. Fading takes place during the healing process. Appointments are scheduled about a month apart.

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