Lee Kleiman, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in Severna Park, Md., said he went down the same path as Dr. Dayan but never felt satisfied with the procedure. “It was always a problem getting people in, because they would get frustrated after six treatments, eight treatments, and they still had a tattoo,” he said. “And they just wouldn’t show up [for appointments], or they just would cancel. … The average person who was getting these tattoos off didn’t really have the means to keep coming for 10, 15 times to get their tattoo taken off.”
Explore This IssueFebruary 2015
Then, like Dr. Freehling, he learned about the PicoSure, and has found the results to be much better—and worth keeping in his practice. “We were all of a sudden going from telling people, ‘You need 10 to 15 treatments,’ [to] getting clearance of tattoos in anywhere from four to six treatments.” He said the laser can struggle with reds, and he frequently refers patients with bright reds to other practitioners with Q-switched lasers, which use a different laser technique and tend to perform better with that color.
What really makes the laser worth the expense and time is its ability, with the handpiece, to perform skin tightening and other procedures without the downtime for the patient that other lasers cause, Dr. Kleiman said. “What we found out after we discovered this other application and how effective it was in terms of its results and the patient acceptance of the procedure, is that it generated as much patient interest and volume as the tattoo [removal],” Dr. Kleiman said.
No matter how commonplace tattoos become, the market for their removal will always be finite because of the expense. “Laser tattoo removal, it’s a limited business,” he said. “Because someone comes in, they have a tattoo the size of an index card and you’re charging them $300 to $400 to take that off, and they need four to six treatments. They have to be willing to invest—and to really not like that tattoo.”
Thomas Collins is a freelance medical writer based in Florida.