Selecting the right doctor or facility to perform your tattoo removal may be the most important decision you make in the tattoo removal process. It is important to establish up front how much the removal is going to cost and how many treatments are expected to achieve a complete removal of the tattoo. If the doctor is confident about your probability of success, then ask him to guarantee his results.
For example, if he says that the tattoo will definitely be removed in six to eight treatments, then offer to pay for eight treatments, and then stipulate that you will not be required to pay for any treatments above that. If the doctor balks at this, maybe it is better to go elsewhere and find a doctor who can guarantee his results.
If you like the doctor and are willing to start the removal process knowing that no one can legitimately guarantee perfect results, then stick with it and re-evaluate your position after each laser treatment has time to heal and the tattoo is given the opportunity to fade.
In case you don’t want to visit a doctor, you might consider using a Neatcell Laser Pen at home. It is a safe, effective, and inexpensive alternative that can be used by anyone looking to get rid of a tattoo.
Just as with all kinds of specialists, the best way to find a good doctor is through referrals from patients who are happy with the doctor’s work. If you know anyone who has had a tattoo removed, it would be very helpful to find out where they had it removed and what their experience was with the doctor. In asking about the removal, find out if they received the type of results they expected and how far apart they spaced their treatments.
Ask about what type of tattoo they had removed and how many colors it had in it. Find out if their skin color is similar to yours and if the depth of the tattoo was similar. The more comparable your situation is to theirs, the more likely you can count on achieving a similar level of success through a similar course of treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask others if they know of a good tattoo removal doctor.
Even if you don’t know anyone who has had a tattoo removed, be on the lookout for someone who can steer you towards a great doctor. For example, don’t be afraid to approach someone at the mall who is sporting fresh bandages over a faded tattoo to ask where she is getting her removal performed and how satisfied she is with it.
Ultimately, you must take charge of your tattoo removal experience by researching doctors and removal methods in order to get the best outcome. Sometimes that takes real work!
If you don’t know anyone who has had their tattoo removed who can refer you to a reputable doctor, websites like Yelp are a resource to locating doctors who perform tattoo removal treatments. As with any service you locate online, it is important to do some background work before you trust the doctor to perform the procedure.
Ask questions about how many procedures the doctor has performed and what sort of success rate he or she has had. Ask for a list of clients you can speak to as a reference for the doctor’s work.
Remember, the doctor is likely to only give you a list of satisfied customers. If he has a hard time coming up with a list, that can be a red flag. Also, ask to see before and after photos of patients that the doctor has treated. Ask if you can meet with the doctor for a free consultation before you commit to your first laser treatment.
The doctor should be patient with you and should thoroughly explain all of the risks and rewards associated with tattoo removal. If the doctor is too busy to meet with you for an initial consultation or gives you a quick speech promising to remove your tattoo quickly and painlessly, then you are better off going elsewhere!
The best doctors listen thoroughly to their patients and devise a treatment strategy based on the individual patient’s situation, informing the patient of the pros and cons of any course of treatment. So, make sure your doctor gives you time to discuss all your concerns and thoroughly evaluates your tattoo before he or she gives you a promise to remove it quickly and painlessly.
Most doctors and tattoo removal centers have websites with specific information about their services. This can be a great way to find out more about the facility, and sometimes the websites even have information about the types of lasers used and the cost per treatment.
As always, it is vitally important to check the references, credentials, and photos of doctors who advertise online to make sure they are as reputable as they say they are.
Many websites use stock photos of tattoo removal procedures that are not their own work. Even when the websites do use photos of their own patients, sometimes the photos appear to be altered somewhat—either through deliberate manipulation, or by changing the lighting or other factors. Just as you wouldn’t necessarily trust the “before” and “after” photos of a company selling weight loss pills, don’t be too quick to trust the small, low resolution photos available on the internet.
It’s better to ask your doctor to see actual unretouched photos of his patients, and then decide for yourself whether or not you think the results speak positively of the doctor the effectiveness of the treatments offered.
When you finally meet with the doctor, be sensitive to the information he gives you. Tattoo removal is, essentially, a type of cosmetic procedure or surgery.
Some people argue that cosmetic procedures rely to a large extent on marketing and advertising to fuel the demand for the cosmetic procedure. Tattoo removal, like any cosmetic procedure, is different from a medical procedure performed to save your life, such as heart or brain surgery.
Because tattoo removal is totally optional, (whereas heart or brain surgery rarely is), some patients have found that doctors try to “sell” them on the procedure by making it sound as pain-free and as easy as possible. Some doctors go as far as to minimize the number of treatments the patient will likely need, and to underplay the amount of pain involved.
For example, when a doctor says that laser removal feels like a rubber band being snapped gently against the skin, it’s obvious that either the doctor has either never felt the pain of laser tattoo removal, or he’s lying!
When I joked with this analogy once with a laser tattoo removal technician who was going through tattoo removal himself, he said, “Yeah, if the rubber band is about 50 feet long and hits you at 75 miles per hour.”
Another person I know likened the laser treatment to an ice pick entering your skin over and over again. Tattoo removal is rarely without pain. Even when a doctor administers a numbing agent, such as lidocaine, to dull the pain during the procedure, the aftermath is still messy and the days or weeks spent healing can be quite painful and uncomfortable.
It’s best when doctors don’t try to sugarcoat the truth. Perhaps being upbeat about the ease of a medical procedure has some merit when the patient has no other choice than to have the procedure or face certain death. Unlike a required procedure, tattoo removal is totally voluntary. Patients should be informed of all of the pain and mess involved before they embark down a path that requires the expenditure of a lot of time, money, and hassle.
I knew my doctor was trustworthy when he told me it was going to be “messy, uncomfortable, and painful”. At last, someone had told me the truth! I preferred this much better than my first doctor, who assured me that my tattoo would be gone in six treatments and that it wouldn’t hurt too much in its removal. It’s better to be prepared for the truth of what lies ahead than to make your decision about tattoo removal based on mistaken beliefs and half-truths.
Selecting the right doctor to guide you down the path of tattoo removal is so important that you cannot simply hope to open the phone book (as I first did) and find the right one. Blind luck will only carry you so far, and mistakes in selecting a doctor can prove costly, painful, and may even harm your future chances of removal.
Obviously, obtaining a referral from a trusted friend, relative, or co-worker is the best way to find a doctor. If you cannot get a referral, then you may have to resort to sifting through online reviews and websites before checking a place out in person. Either way, it is important to first interview your doctor before he or she begins treatment to make sure that you both have the same ideas and expectations regarding removal of your tattoo.
Be wary of the doctor or technician who makes great promises with little evidence or experience to back up those promises. Your doctor should be happy to talk with you about the process before you outlay your hard-earned cash and commit to undergoing the procedure.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions—your doctor is the expert, after all. When I was interviewing doctors for my own tattoo removal, I came up with a list of questions to ask at my first appointment. Use this list as a starting point for your own list of questions to ask the doctor:
How many tattoo removals have you performed?
Be wary of the doctor who does not have a lot of experience with tattoo removal. Although this is not necessarily a deal-breaker, you want to make sure that your doctor has experience with different types of tattoos and is not simply jumping on the tattoo removal bandwagon to make a quick profit.
How long have you been performing tattoo removal procedures?
Ideally, your doctor should have been performing tattoo removal procedures for several years. This will give him or her the time needed to treat enough patients to have real experience in the area. If your doctor has just started performing tattoo removal procedures, it will be of even greater importance for you to find out what kind of training he or she has had in the specialty.
If there are only few doctors in your area, you may have to settle for a less experienced doctor to perform your tattoo removal procedure. In most major metropolitan areas, you should be able to find a doctor with a good amount of experience. If you live within driving distance of a big city, it may be worth the extra driving time to go to a doctor you know has experience with tattoo
What other sorts of procedures do you perform in your practice?
Finding out what other sorts of procedures a doctor performs will inform you about his or her specialization in tattoo removal. Some doctors are highly skilled in tattoo removal, and have full and thriving dermatological practices covering a gamut of procedures. Other doctors may only dabble in tattoo removal, focusing the bulk of their practice on other types of skin conditions.
It is important to know how tattoo removal fits into your doctor’s practice. If his specialty is not tattoo removal, you run a greater risk of him not knowing the most up-to-date information on removal, and having the most technologically advanced equipment.
Of course, going to a doctor who only performs tattoo removals will not guarantee that you will receive the best treatment possible. But, in the situation where a doctor’s practice primarily focuses on tattoo removal, it is more likely that he or she will keep up to date on new technique and treatments as advances in laser technology emerge.
What special training have you had in tattoo removal?
Some doctors have taken advanced courses in tattoo removal, and are quite knowledgeable on the science behind removal. There are no regulations barring doctors from performing laser removal, so knowing if the doctor has specialized training is helpful. Some dermatologists have studied tattoo removal specifically.
Others may know a lot about the use of laser in other contexts, such as laser hair removal or fading of birthmarks, but may not know much about the application of lasers to tattoo removal. Knowing how much your doctor has studied on tattoo removal may make you feel more at ease under his or her care.
Do you have photos that you can show me of tattoos you have treated in the past?
Many doctors take photos of their patients prior to treatment, during treatment, and after removal of the tattoo. If your doctor has a flip book handy, it will give you an idea of how many treatments you may need, and what sort of success you can expect to encounter. If the doctor cannot show you any photos, ask why he or she does not keep such records.
It is one thing for a doctor to promise complete fading of a tattoo, but another thing to show you that he or she has achieved complete fading with other patients in the past. If nothing else, looking at photos from other patients may give you peace of mind and also may set your expectations at a reasonable level for your own progress during treatment.
Do you have your own your own lasers in your office at all times?
Some doctors rent their lasers and only have them in the office on certain days.
Other doctors own their own lasers or lease their lasers and have them available in their offices at all times. By asking this question, you will get an insight into how convenient it will be to visit your doctor to have the tattoo removal performed.
One doctor I know of only has lasers for tattoo removal available in her office on two Saturday mornings per month. This means that her patients must visit her on Saturday mornings, an inconvenient time for some people.
Some doctors only have the laser available on a certain day during the week.
If this does not fit well with your other commitments, it is best to find that out up front so that you can find another doctor whose availability is more convenient for you. Also, by only having the laser available at certain times, it may be harder to secure an appointment because more patients will be trying to be seen during the limited time available. You may have to make an appointment further in advance, or you may have to wait longer to get in to see the doctor for your treatments.
What types of lasers do you use in your practice?
Some tattoos respond better to different types of lasers than others. If your doctor only has one type of laser available, this can be problematic if your tattoo is multi-colored, or if it fails to respond to the one type of laser he has. A doctor may use different types of lasers on your tattoo during different points in your treatment to target different colors in the tattoo.
Knowing that your doctor will have flexibility to try out more than one kind of laser during the course of your removal may give you added confidence in your doctor and will also give you more options in your treatment plan.
How will the colors in my tattoo respond to laser treatment?
Not every tattoo responds to laser treatment with equal success. Some colors are much more difficult to remove using lasers than others. In general, black ink is said to be the easiest to remove and green is the hardest.
White is a very difficult color to remove because the ink may oxidize and turn black when the laser hits it. It will be informative for you to hear what your doctor has to say about the reaction he thinks the colors in your tattoo will have when treated with the laser.
Have you treated many patients with my color of skin before?
Just as tattoos respond differently to laser treatment, varying skin types react differently, as well. In general, lighter skin is known to respond better to laser tattoo removal because the laser can select out the color of the tattoo pigment better from the skin. Darker skin colors are more difficult to treat and may require a more experienced doctor.
If most of your doctor’s patients are light-skinned and your skin is dark, it is important to ask him how successful he will be in treating your skin type.
He should be able to give you a list of clients he has previously treated with your skin color and what their reactions were to treatment. Your doctor should also be able to tell you how he feels the laser will affect your skin, and if he foresees that laser treatment will cause any skin discoloration, such as hypopigmentation (a lightening of the skin).
Just because a doctor has not treated your skin type does not mean that he is not capable of doing a great job. However, it is important to be aware that not all doctors have experience with all skin types, and this may affect your treatment and your ultimate success in removing your tattoo.
Make sure that your doctor is knowledgeable about treating your skin type and that he is willing to vary the treatments to respond to the different and unique demands that your skin may have.
Will you perform the treatment, or will a nurse, technician, or other assistant perform the procedure?
Many times, the doctor will not perform the actual laser tattoo removal treatment. A technician trained in the specifics of operating the laser will be on hand to set the intensity of the machine.
The doctor will usually tell the technician what levels to set after looking at your tattoo and seeing how well it responded to your last treatment. A nurse, assistant, or sometimes the doctor will then perform the laser treatment using a wand to draw over your tattoo with the laser.
While it is nice if the doctor actually performs the treatment, the most important thing is to make sure that he is the one overseeing the setting of the laser’s intensity. He should be available to answer questions, and should look at your tattoo before each treatment to see how well the fading is progressing.
What percentage of your patients achieve full removal of their tattoos?
Your doctor should give you a realistic idea of how many of his patients have been able to completely remove their tattoos. Not every tattoo will be able to be removed completely—often there is residual scarring that may be due to the tattoo itself.
By opening up this dialogue with your doctor, he or she may be able to give you a realistic idea of what to expect with your own tattoo. For example, if your tattoo has scar tissue underneath, is raised, or has some other underlying condition, the skin where your tattoo is may never look exactly like the rest of your unmarked skin.
If the doctor says that most patients do achieve full removal, ask if those patients have tattoos similar to yours. This may give you a better indication of what to expect down the road and will prepare you for what may otherwise be a disappointing outcome.
How many treatments does it usually take for your patients to achieve complete removal?
The doctor should be able to give you an estimate of how long most of his patients require treatment. Some doctors will give an estimated time frame based upon published research, such as six to eight treatments, but it is important to find out what the doctor’s experience tells him.
Asking how long his particular patients take to achieve complete removal will clue you in on how well he knows his patient roster, what sort of experience he has, and if he is giving you an accurate portrayal of tattoo removal.
Can you guarantee that you will be able to remove my tattoo?
No doctor should be able to guarantee that he can remove your tattoo! Ask this question to see how honest the doctor is being with you. There are a variety of factors that go into tattoo removal—and not all of them are within the doctor’s control.
The type of ink used in your tattoo may be particularly resistant to laser removal, or the tattoo may be very deep and therefore difficult to remove. You may build up scar tissue, which will make laser removal difficult since you will still have an underlying scar once the tattoo fades.
So, ask this question to see how honest the doctor is being with you and to see if he is trying to sell you on a procedure that may or may not be successful. A doctor should not guarantee
your tattoo removal—if he does, ask him to put his money where his mouth is by asking him to only require you to pay for a certain number of treatments, after which time all treatments will be complimentary until the tattoo has completely faded.
Is there a cap on how much I will pay if my tattoo proves to be difficult to remove?
This question is especially good to ask when the doctor guarantees that the tattoo can be removed in a certain number of treatments. If, for example, the doctor says that he is certain that he can have complete removal in eight treatments, then ask what his policy is if it takes more than eight treatments.
Ask to pay only for eight treatments, and stipulate that the doctor guarantee that all further treatments will be free until you achieve complete removal. Be sure to have the doctor put it in writing. For example, ask that he make a notation of your agreement in your chart, and then ask for a photocopy of your chart as you leave the office.
In the United States, a doctor’s office is legally required to give you a copy of your chart if you request it in writing. If you request your chart, you will have a record of the doctor’s agreement and will only be required to pay for the number of treatments he says it will take for you to remove your tattoo. If it only takes a few treatments to remove your tattoo, then you are fine. If the tattoo proves very difficult to remove, you will save yourself a lot of money by having the doctor agree to limit the fees in writing.
Is there a discount for removing more than one tattoo at a time?
Some doctors will offer discounts for removal of more than one tattoo, whereas other doctors do not offer such discounts. When you have more than one tattoo you want to remove, it’s best to check around with other doctors to see if you can work out a deal.
Some doctors price their tattoo removal based on a per square inch basis. In this case, a second tattoo will not receive a discount. Keep in mind that many doctors are becoming flexible in their pricing structure, especially as competition from new doctors performing tattoo removal enters the marketplace. It never hurts to ask for a discount, and if you don’t ask, then you’ll never know.
Can I have a discount on my treatment if I refer one of my friends?
It does not hurt to ask if your doctor will offer you a reduced price if you refer a patient to him and the patient receives treatments. If you are happy with your treatments and you convince a friend or family member to follow in your footsteps, then, by all means, you should ask the doctor to give you a free treatment, or at least discount one for you.
My point here is that it never hurts to ask for a reduction in office fees. In most cases, everything is negotiable. Tattoo removal is expensive, so any help you can get in lowering the cost is wonderful!