In 2014, Cynosure (Westford, Mass.) introduced a handpiece for its PicoSure laser that allows the laser to be used for acne, scar removal, skin tightening, and other cosmetic procedures. The laser is expensive: Dr. Freehling spent approximately $330,000, including taxes, and a maintenance agreement adds another $17,000 a year. But, she said, she has already covered her initial investment. “Patients are really, I think, happy with it,” she said.
Explore this issue:February 2015
Steven Dayan, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in Chicago, has had a different experience with tattoo removal. He has tried it—not once, but twice—only to abandon it both times, though he adds that it can be right for some practices. “I thought it made a lot of sense,” he said, noting that a lot of people between the ages of 25 and 35 have tattoos.
With the laser he used, he found that, in many cases, the results were not sufficient to make tattoo removal a consistent part of his practice. “Patients have to follow up and in the past when we would offer this, the patients wouldn’t follow up that much,” Dr. Dayan said. “You’d think they would, but it’s a lot of commitment to it, and we’d be lucky to get people to come in for more than two or three treatments. Unless your product’s good, you can only get so far.”
He still performs tattoo removal in easier-to-remove cases when directly approached by a patient, but he no longer markets for it. And he won’t perform the procedure on the more professionally applied tattoos with intricate designs and an array of colors.
But he stressed that it is possible, under the right circumstances, for physicians to incorporate tattoo removal into their practices, as long as it’s undertaken carefully. “Tattoo removal with the right laser can be successful, but the lasers on the market are very pricey, and it takes a strong, concerted effort in marketing—in addition to time and labor—in order to make it work for a practice,” Dr. Dayan said. “I didn’t find success, but others have and do.”
Physicians who find that tattoo removal isn’t right for them but want to add new cosmetic services to their practices have alternatives, he said. “Why not just put the time, energy, and effort into a neurotoxin or a filler treatment? It’s a lot easier to do, a lot less expensive to invest into it, and more likely to return happier patients.”