To get the valuable information consumer magazine Choice offers, it costs $1.91 a week. Most people think it's an additional expense they can do without until the fridge or the washing machine packs up. Choice gives consumers access to hundreds of independent online tests and reviews on just about everything we buy. This week they have released some information about their investigation into tattoo removal, and it's a real concern.
The way the laws stand at the moment, there's a good chance you will be badly burnt or scarred for the rest of your life because tattoo removalists in Australia are not required to have any medical training. But they make you think they have by using medical-sounding assurances like "certified laser practitioner" or "accredited clinician." All this means is that they have done a course offered by the maker of the laser.
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Last year Dr Cathy Reid, secretary of the Australasian College of Dermatologists raised concerns and called for a national regulation scheme but so far, nothing has happened.
From the Choice article.
Removal techniques have come a long way since the days of skin grafting, skin removal or the use of infra-red and other non-medical lasers. Best practice these days dictates that unwanted tattoos be gradually broken apart through the use of Q-switched lasers set to specific wavelengths depending on skin type and the colour and location of the tattoo.
The lasers are used in short bursts that break up the ink; the immune system then goes to work and gets rid of the dispersed particles over the course of many months and treatments (up to 15 treatments, six to eight weeks apart, for multicoloured tattoos).
Dr Phillip Bekhor, director of the Laser Unit at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital said "In Victoria, your local butcher could sideline in laser tattoo removal, and many removers scar up a lot of patients before they develop any real skill. In reality, the process is extremely slow, not every colour responds well, and it can be painful. It's an invasive procedure with the capacity for injury" he said.
The cheaper versions of the Q-switched laser or worse, the use of IPL lasers, are the main cause of a botched tattoo removal and here's the bottom line - proper Q-switched machines cost $150,000 and an IPL laser costs between $10,000 and $15,000.
Tattoo removal is a growing industry and will become an essential service in the future, yet there are still no regulations in place. It's an obvious money spinner and doesn't cost much to set up business - rent a shop, buy a cheap machine and away you go. Many beauticians now offer tattoo removal with an IPL laser.
So be careful, and spread the word.