Redo that tattoo boo-boo with Picosure laser treatment

Click Play for Erin O'Hearn's report
December 11, 2013 7:21:55 PM PST
One in 5 Americans has a tattoo, but many aren't happy with theirs. In fact, many wind up regretting getting the decision.

Angelina Jolie has 17 of them. Mike Tyson has one on his face. Victoria Beckham has one down the back of her neck.

But, of course, body art is not just for celebrities. Neither is tattoo regret.

While getting rid of unwanted tattoos has been possible, it hasn't always been pleasant. Now, a new technique is offering some ink indulgers a clean slate.

Patty Monaghan got her first on a whim: "I was just like, 'Oh, let's get a tattoo.'"

Additions to the body art turned it into a sizeable dragon; one she has grown to cover more than flaunt.

"For my wedding, my hair was down," she told Action News. "If I'm at the beach, my hair is down, even if it's 100 degrees."

Now, Monaghan thinks her body art is a poor example for her 3 young children.

"They do ask me now, 'What is that?' And I say, 'It's a sticker,' and I brush it away. I change the subject."

She looked into tattoo removal about 7 years ago, went to 3 different dermatologists, but decided it took too many treatments (12-15), it was too long between appointments (2-3 months), and would be too expensive. She was told it would probably take only 3 treatments with PicoSure to get rid of her tattoo.

Nick DiLello, on the other hand, is proud of the tattoo he acquired while he was a Marine.

"t was just part of the culture. We all got tattoos." But he is aspiring to become a state trooper and any tattoo visible below a short-sleeved shirt isn't permitted.

"It has to be gone," DiLello said. "No remnants of it."

Both Monaghan and DiLello came to Dr. Franziska Ringpfeil for treatment with PicoSure, a fresh twist on a laser.

The wavelength of conventional lasers generally work on one color, which is fine if the tattoo is just black. But it makes harder than ever the job of removing multi-color or very complex body art . PicoSure is "color blind." It doesn't target the color, but the ink in general.

The device gets its name from a pico-second, which is a trillionth of a second. The bursts are much smaller than other lasers, so they don't create heat like other lasers meaning there's less chance of scarring.

Traditional tattoo removal lasers break tattoo pigment into particles. But treatments need to be repeated 10 or 20 times and still don't guarantee a clear complexion. PicoSure adds tiny pressure bursts to break the pigment into smaller particles from the start.

"Even with the very, very complex, they typically dissolve in 6, 7, 8 treatments," Dr. Ringpfeil says.

But, the treatment it's not pain-free.

Dr. Ringpfeil says the first session is the worst, because the ink is dense. But cold air, and ice packs helped Monaghan push through it.

"It feels like it's on fire," Monaghan said. "Like I have a really bad sunburn."

DiLello said his second session was much less painful. He's very pleased with the results so far.

Each session costs about the same as a traditional laser removal treatment, however, fewer sessions are needed, so the overall cost is lower.

Dr. Ringpfeil said she'd given up doing tattoo removal, because the results were so spotty, but PicoSure has changed her mind.


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