Think before you de-ink: Six ways to avoid tattoo-removal burns, scars and infection

Laser treatment is one of the most popular and effective ways to remove a tattoo you no longer want. Unfortunately, many Queenslanders are getting their skin (as well as their hip-pocket) burned by unlicensed businesses and untrained operators.
Queensland Health authorities recently launched a crackdown on unlicensed operators around the state and are now warning consumers about the dangers.
Think before you de-ink.
Some simple steps can significantly reduce the chance of permanent burns, scarring and infection:
Ask to see their licence and qualifications. Laser tattoo removal is a specialised industry and licences are needed to possess and operate the high-powered ‘Class 4’ lasers that are used. If you are considering any form of laser treatment, ask to see the possession licence for the business and the individual operator’s use licence before accepting their services. You can also check the register of all licensed laser operators in Queensland.
Do your research. While you should never seek treatment from an unlicensed operator, the licensing requirements for lasers are only a minimum safety standard.  Ask to see examples of previous work in tattoo removal, or check reviews and recommendations. Do a quick search online of the business and the operator to find out about other people’s experiences.
Stay away from IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) machines. IPL machines are significantly cheaper than the appropriate laser equipment so the price of services may seem attractive, but the chance of resulting burns and disfigurement should make you think twice. While these machines can be effective at removing hair and for certain skin conditions, they are not designed or appropriate for removing tattoos. These machines have the potential to cause serious burns and permanent scarring if not used for their intended purpose.
Make sure a medical practitioner is involved in your treatment.  It is a condition of the laser operator’s licence that they must observe the advice of a knowledgeable medical practitioner to avoid possible adverse health outcomes.  This medical practitioner must also be supervising your treatment.   Make sure that you discuss the laser treatment with your own medical practitioner, or the medical practitioner that is associated with the tattoo removal business, before you commence a course of tattoo removal treatment.
Say no to self-medication. Anaesthetics and other medications can only be administered by a registered health practitioner. If you are asked to pre-purchase and apply your own anaesthetic, this can be a sign of inadequate training or experience. If the business provides or administers medication, ask to see Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agencyregistration first.
Seek medical advice for any injury. Despite what you may be told by some operators, burns and blisters are not normal. If you end up with a burn, scarring or infection because of poor laser-use practises, you should urgently seek the advice of your GP.
Anyone with information or a complaint about tattoo removal services, should call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) or email

A register of all licensed cosmetic laser companies and users is available at
Queensland Health, Tuesday 14 July 2015

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