Like many people with unwanted tattoos, you're probably considering laser tattoo removal. While this procedure is relatively risk-free, choosing a local dermatologist over a laser spa could be the difference between great and dastardly results. And the last thing you want is to replace your regrettable tattoo with scar tissue, discoloration, or a dangerous infection.
People undergo tattoo removal for all different reasons. Either they no longer like the style of their tattoo, they made the mistake of getting a lover's name tattooed on their body, or they simply don't want to have tattoos anymore. While the tattoo removal process isn't foolproof, it is surprisingly effective at lightening and even eliminating unwanted tattoos. But why is choosing a licensed dermatologist for tattoo removal so important? And how do you know which dermatologist is right for you?
What Is a Dermatologist?
Dermatologists are medical doctors who specialize in the skin and conditions affecting the skin. Some dermatologists also work with the hair, nails, and mucous membranes. A dermatologist might help patients deal with unwanted acne, administer cosmetic laser treatments, or help screen signs of skin cancer. But the list of ailments you might visit your local dermatologist for is practically endless.
It's imperative to distinguish between a dermatologist and a cosmetologist or esthetician. While many dermatologists do treat cosmetic concerns of the skin, they are physicians. Dermatologists have medical degrees and are very experienced with and knowledgeable about the human body. Dermatologists are also able to prescribe medications just like a general physician or any other medical doctor. Cosmetologists and estheticians do need to be licensed, but they have no medical training and are not qualified to treat your skin with prescription medications or treatments. You should visit a cosmetologist or esthetician for waxing or a facial, but never for laser treatments or injections.
Why Choose a Licensed Dermatologist for Tattoo Removal?
Tattoo removal might be a quick and relatively painless treatment, but it is still a medical procedure. Your local dermatologist has years of education and training under their belt, allowing them to provide the safest and most effective treatment possible. Untrained estheticians can misuse the tattoo removal lasers and burn your skin. Severe laser burns can even cause permanent scarring. But when you choose a licensed dermatologist for your treatment, the risk of this is much lower.
We always recommend going to a licensed dermatologist's office, either in a larger medical clinic or standalone, for tattoo removal. Some spas blur the line between dermatologists and estheticians, which is why we always recommend requesting information about your local dermatologist and their medical licensing. If you're ever unsure about the safety of the cosmetic treatments you're receiving, you should ask that your treatment cease immediately.
Risks of at-home tattoo removal
If you've been considering tattoo removal for a while, you're probably familiar with at-home alternatives to laser tattoo removal. These methods or D.I.Y. methods can be found online, on unreputable forums and blogs, and promise to lighten or remove your unwanted ink without a visit to the doctor. Unfortunately, these at-home tattoo removal methods are ineffective and often dangerous.
Some companies sell tattoo removal creams that supposedly penetrate the skin and break apart the tattoo ink. These products are nothing but snake oil and will not affect your tattoo.
Exfoliation for tattoo removal was originally offered by some professionals before lasers were an option. But we now understand that this is painful, harmful to the skin, and often does not affect the unwanted tattoo. While you won't find anyone willing to perform this treatment in a spa or clinic, some people still attempt this method at home. Risks of exfoliation for tattoo removal include infection and scarring.
More severe at-home removal methods include excision and burning. Excision is exactly what it sounds like: cutting away the skin tissue containing the tattoo. It leads to immense bleeding, scarring, and potential nerve damage. Burning away a tattoo is also pointless, you'll only leave behind scar tissue, infection, and nerve damage. And in both cases, the tattoo will still be present underneath all of that damage.
How Much Does Tattoo Removal with a Dermatologist Cost?
While tattoo removal isn't cheap, it's probably more affordable than you think. Most professional laser tattoo removal treatments cost between $200 and $500 per session. This cost can vary depending on your geographical location and the type of clinic you visit for treatment.
The final price of your tattoo removal depends on several factors like the size of your tattoo and the color of ink. Most tattoos require several sessions for complete fading or removal. But if you plan to cover up your unwanted tattoo with a new one, you can usually get away with fewer laser treatments. Your local dermatologist will be able to give you the most accurate price quote for your tattoo removal.
When searching for a local dermatologist for your tattoo removal, you might see advertisements for spas offering discounts on laser treatments. Patients often opt for tattoo removal at a spa because they're trying to save money. But these extra savings aren't with the risk of unlicensed laser treatments. Instead, consider asking your local dermatologist about financing options for your tattoo removal treatment. It can help make your treatment more affordable when you're on a tight budget.
How to Choose the Best Local Dermatologist
Now that you know why a licensed dermatologist is so important for tattoo removal, how do you choose the best local dermatologist for your treatment? Below are some of our top suggestions for finding a qualified dermatologist that meets your needs. But above all else, it's essential that your chosen dermatologist makes you feel comfortable and in good hands. Don't move forward with a dermatologist that makes you feel uncomfortable, even if they're fully qualified.
Even if your area doesn't have many dermatologists to choose from, it's important to go over each of these factors before moving forward with your treatment. If no one in your area is qualified, or you don't feel comfortable with your local dermatologist for whatever reason, you might need to travel for treatment. It may cost a little extra in time and money. But having a positive, effective tattoo removal experience is worth the cost.
Ask to see before and after pictures
Before and after images are an excellent way to see real results from your local dermatologist. Tattoo removal before and afters may show the difference between the first and final session. Or they may show the gradual progression through each of the patient's required sessions. When looking at these images, it's important to remember that your tattoo's application can play a role in the removal process. Even if you're able to look at a range of before and after pictures from your dermatologist, they aren't guaranteed to represent your personal results.
While your local dermatologist might have a collection of before and after images in their office for you to look through, it also doesn't hurt to do your own research. You can look up past patient results and see completely unbiased before and afters on websites like RealSelf. You also might find independent before and after images on social media and local forums.
Request a consultation
No matter what type of medical procedure you're undergoing, it's always a good idea to meet with your chosen doctor before moving forward. The same is true for a tattoo removal treatment. Meeting with your local dermatologist will allow you to speak with them directly. They will also have the opportunity to see your tattoo in person. And give a more accurate idea of what your treatment will look like.
When meeting with your dermatologist for a consultation, you can also take a moment to establish whether they make you feel comfortable or not. If your local dermatologist makes you feel unwelcome or dismisses concerns you have about your tattoo removal treatment, it might mean you should look at other options.
Check past patient reviews
Before and after photos aren't the only information you can gain from past patients. Search for reviews of your local dermatologist online before setting up an appointment for your tattoo removal. Even reviews about other cosmetic treatments will give you an idea of your dermatologist's bedside manner and professionalism.
If you find anything in a patient review that concerns you, it's a great idea to bring it up during your initial consultation. Allow your dermatologist to address your concerns. And from there you can make an educated decision about whether they are a good fit for your treatment.
Ensure they are licensed
As we mentioned before, some spas choose to toe the line between medical treatment and cosmetic treatment. Before moving forward with any treatments, always make sure that your local dermatologist is actually a dermatologist. If their licensing isn't readily available in their office, you should be able to look up their education and certification online.
Some clinics will also keep dermatologists on their staff, but nurses or other members of staff perform the actual treatments. Ask your local dermatologist if they will personally perform your laser removal treatment, or if someone else will. Even if a licensed nurse administers your laser treatment, your dermatologist should still be present throughout the entire procedure.
Visit their clinic or hospital
When you meet with your local dermatologist for an initial consultation, you can also ask to see their treatment room and other facilities. You can use this opportunity to check for cleanliness and proper sterilization procedures. You also might have the chance to meet nurses and other personnel who will be present during your tattoo removal sessions.
If your local dermatologist is a part of a larger medical office, like a hospital or clinic, this means they have access to doctors and equipment that independent dermatologists might not. Fortunately, laser tattoo removal carries very few risks, so the likelihood of needing these additional resources is practically nonexistent. But it can still be great for your peace of mind.
Ask about their experience
Not all dermatologists have the same experience working in the medical field. Make sure to speak with your local dermatologist about their experience performing tattoo removal treatments. Ideally, you want a dermatologist who regularly performs tattoo removal and has done so for many years. Even if your chosen dermatologist has decades of experience, their expertise is of no use to you if they rarely perform laser tattoo removal.
You can also ask about the equipment currently used in your dermatologist's office and when it was last updated. New laser technology is constantly entering the medical field. And, ideally, you want to find a dermatologist who stays up to date on new developments.
Reinvent Yourself with Professional Tattoo Removal
Whether you've outgrown your first tattoo or want to remove an ex-lover's initials, laser tattoo removal can be a life-changing treatment. But choosing to undergo treatment at an unlicensed spa can mean subpar results and potential health risks. That's why we always recommend opting for professional tattoo removal from a licensed dermatologist.
Once you decide it's time to remove your unwanted tattoo, choosing the right dermatologist might seem daunting. But if you follow our suggestions for meeting with and researching your local dermatologist, we're sure you'll find someone who makes you feel at ease. Then, it's just a matter of time before you can stop regretting your tattoo and move on with your life.