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Undoing the Ink

If you're suffering tattoo remorse, be careful. Julia Szuflak looks at the dangers of the tattoo removal industry.

Imagine – after months of planning and discussion – you finally get that tattoo you’ve always wanted but once it’s done, you don’t like it.

Perhaps you got one years ago and you’ve fallen out of love with it.

Maybe you woke up after a three day bender with a bluebird on the inside of your wrist.

Either way, something needs to be done. As the number of people getting tattoos increases, tattoo remorse is a growing trend in Australia.

“34 per cent of 500 survey participants who had a tattoo regretted it,” explains Choice’s Head of Media, Tom Godfrey.

“One in seven were considering removal.”

Fortunately, laser technology has made tattoo removal easier than ever before. The light produced by the laser penetrates the skin and fragments the tattoo ink, which is then removed by the body’s immune system.

Unfortunately, tattoo removal is also more accessible and – with no government regulation on laser tattoo removers – it’s possible for anyone to buy one and open up a business.

According to Godfrey, the industry remains unregulated because it’s still relatively new.

Director of Nursing at Laser Dermatology, Lynne Bekhor, has between 20 to 30 people visiting her clinic each week for tattoo removal, whether it is for whole or partial removal.

Bekhor believes in the need for regulation, stating such a powerful laser should only be operated by trained professionals like a doctor or a registered nurse.

“There needs to be something done”, Bekhor says.

“There has to be something, because everyone can buy a class-4 medical grade laser in Victoria at the moment. They are potentially dangerous machines. They can scar, blind… All sorts of things.”

These aren’t the only reasons laser tattoo removal can be dangerous.

If not used appropriately, the laser can break the skin, create scars and can even result in infection.

Unfortunately, not everyone receives professional training, and more and more people are taking tattoo removal into their own hands. Without government regulation, consumers are taking unnecessary risks.

It’s relatively easy to source an untested laser on the web. Many lasers sourced online haven’t been approved and in some cases, they are imitations of the machines used by medical professionals.

If you are feeling tattoo remorse, don’t worry. You’re in good company: Johnny Depp, Megan Fox and Angelina Jolie have all regretted ink.

However, if you think you might make it onto one of those worst tattoos ever websites, it’s best to consult a doctor, who can provide a referral for a medical professional specially trained in tattoo removal.

Until the tattoo removal industry is regulated, it’s the safest way.


Julia SzuflakTHUMBJulia Szuflak is a third-year Bachelor of Media student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter: @JuliaSzuflak.

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