Something new in getting rid of tattoos?

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli
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Dr. Scott Burger entered the business after
hearing tattoo complaints. Photo by Mark Rhodes

Want to say adieu to your tattoo? UnTattooU, a tattoo removal clinic in Vienna, says it is helping people do that with new laser technology.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the number of people undergoing laser tattoo removal went up by 43 percent from 2011 to 2012. A Harris Poll from 2012 said that one in five Americans had at least one tattoo, although most didn’t regret it (86 percent). 

UnTattooU, which opened in March, claims to be the first tattoo removal company in Northern Virginia to feature the PicoSure Laser. The technology was approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 2012.

“It’s very revolutionary for the process of removing tattoos,” says Dr. Scott Burger, chief medical officer and co-founder of UnTattooU. “In the past people’s options were potentially skin grafting — if they could find somebody who was willing to do it for them — or to use a type of laser called Q-switched laser (QSL).”

QSL can’t remove blue and green ink and requires more treatments than the PicoSure, Burger says. While PicoSure is more expensive per treatment than QSL, he says, the total net cost “pretty much balances out.”

PicoSure isn’t perfect, however. It doesn’t work well in removing red ink. UnTattooU uses QSL in those cases.

The cost of laser-tattoo removal depends on factors such as the size of the tattoo and the number of treatments required. Depending on what laser is used, the cost can  be as little as $75 per treatment to remove a small tattoo. However, using the Picosure Laser costs at least $300 per treatment. 

Burger says many people interested in getting tattoos removed don’t realize that the process can’t be completed in just one treatment.

“Unfortunately, it’s just not the reality of things,” Burger says. “It’s a process, and the old process was a year to two years to get a tattoo off, if they could even get it off … you have to set the expectation for people that they have to be patient with it.”

Some people also want to remove a tattoo only a couple of days after getting it. That doesn’t work, Burger says, because the body must heal before starting the removal process.

UnTattooU’s owners de­­­­cided to open in Vienna because they liked the area’s population density, proximity to Tysons Corner and access to major highways such as interstates 66 and 495. So far, business has been very good, Burger says. On busy days, the clinic has had as many as eight people.

“For the most part, people are fairly sophisticated in their understanding of this process,” Burger says. “They’ve researched it; they know they’re looking for the Picosure. They understand there’s a meaningful difference between the Q-switched laser and Picosure, and they are actively seeking us out.”

Burger, an emergency medicine physician, decided to enter the tattoo removal business after hearing so many patients complain about their tattoos.

“I thought it was a great industry to get into,” he says. “[Since] tattoos have become so popular … it would be nice to give people an option for a way to remove something that maybe they just don’t want to have anymore.”

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