The tribal band tattoos of the 1990s didn’t retain their popularity; the unicorn on the shoulder lost its favor; the boyfriend whose name is permanently inked on the forearm ended up not being “the one” after all. According to the Pew Research Center, more than one-third of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 and nearly half of the population between the ages of 26 and 40 have at least one tattoo. These trends helped the tattoo industry bring in what INC estimated in 2007 to be $2.3 billion in revenue annually. It is no surprise then that with the growth of the tattoo industry, so too has the demand for tattoo removal. Indeed, according to a 2003 Harris Interactive Poll, 17 percent of tattooed Americans regret their ink. And it is estimated that more than 50 percent of individuals who have at least one tattoo whether they regret it or not want to get it removed.
In recent years, more and more non-medical practices have entered into the laser tattoo removal arena. But while many view the increased availability (and sometimes affordability) of laser tattoo removal favorably, not everyone shares that sentiment. As reported by the Boston Globe, many doctors have serious concerns about the growing use of these powerful lasers by inadequately trained professionals. Indeed, while a majority of states consider laser tattoo removal to be a medical procedure, only six require a doctor to be present on site. And according to the National Laser Institute (ALI), California is the only state that requires a nurse to actually perform the laser procedures. By contrast, in Massachusetts, where laser tattoo removal is considered the practice of medicine, a technician can operate a laser and perform laser removal treatments on patients after completing a cursory, two-week out-of-state training course. Indeed, ALI, which offers these two-week training courses boasts on its website that “anyone can become a certified laser technician – soccer moms, secretaries, sales professionals, teachers and more.”
The trends in the tattoo industry and the increasing demand for tattoo removal services are the main reasons why Ronen Morris decided to open Delete – Tattoo Removal & Laser Salon, a modern, hip tattoo removal salon in Boston. But while Delete was not the first tattoo removal business to open in the area, it is the first to specialize in tattoo removal and use board-certified medical professionals to deliver all of its services. Although state regulations do not require it, Delete’s laser removal treatments are performed by a Registered Nurse operating under the license and direction of a board certified physician. “There are a lot of tattoo removal horror stories out there,” says Morris, “and they are caused by inexperienced technicians, use of an inappropriate laser, or using the laser on an improper setting.” And indeed, botched laser removal treatments can leave the skin looking worse than it started. “Of course, using medical staff adds significantly to our overhead, and using a basic technician would cut costs,” says Morris of the increased financial burdens of hiring medical practitioners to deliver treatments, “but in the end, our model is based on our ability to deliver the highest quality services possible and this can only be accomplished by using the most advanced technology and the most skilled and expert treatment providers.” And while it has increased the company’s overhead significantly, Morris says that using medical professionals has paid off in terms of results and customer care. He also adds that using medical professionals allows Delete to offer its patients localized anesthesia injections to make the otherwise generally painful experience of laser tattoo removal as pain-free and comfortable as possible, a service that, in Massachusetts, cannot be delivered by a technician.