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Dermatologist offers tattoo removal service

Songwriter Jimmy Buffet once described a tattoo as a “permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.”

The permanency of a tattoo, however, could now be up for debate.

Dermatologist Dr. Susan Freeberg, 109 Suburban Road in Knoxville, offers a way to remove tattoos for those who may regret the youthful indiscretion of being marked with a tattoo.

“I’m trying to get the word out to people that they don’t have to be permanently stuck with a tattoo,” Freeberg said. “A lot of people think it would hurt or cost too much. That isn’t the case.”

She said she uses Medlite laser to lighten or remove a variety of tattoo inks. These aren’t the old lasers that used to leave scars in place of tattoos. Freeberg said this is a new variety of laser that offers tattoo removal with a minimal amount of pain and discomfort to a patient.

“Tattoo ink is removed by the laser, which uses specific wavelengths of light for specific tattoo ink colors,” Freeberg said. “The light passes through the skin, but is absorbed by the ink. The rapid absorption of light energy causes the tattoo ink to break into tiny particles.”

These particles, she said, are then absorbed and filtered out through the body’s natural filters.

“Depending on the number of inks used and how long it has been since a person got the tattoo, it could take anywhere between six to eight treatments to remove a tattoo,” she said.

The laser generally can fade at least 95 percent of a tattoo. Since there are many types of ink in use throughout the world, however, Freeberg said there’s no real measure of what amount of fading could occur.

“Getting tattoos off could serve to help people go back into society,” she said. “Especially if it’s something like a gang or prison tattoo.”

A recent study of dermatologists, Freeberg said, determined that 17 percent of people who get tattoos have regrets about them later.

The laser isn’t just for tattoo removal. Freeberg said she uses it to remove pigmented lesions, also known as age spots, from the hands of more seasoned citizens.

“Melanin is what gives our skin its color,” Freeberg said. “The amount of melanin in your skin determines if you have a light or dark complexion. Pigmented lesions are dark in color because the melanin is concentrated in that one area.”

In the same way it breaks up tattoo ink, the MedLite laser breaks up the melanin in the pigmented lesions. The number of treatments required for this procedure, she said, is far fewer than those for tattoo removal.

“These are cosmetic procedures, so they generally aren’t covered on most insurance plans,” Freeberg said.

Freeberg, a Knoxville native, earned her medical degree in dermatology from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She has been in private practice in Knoxville in 1993.

“I chose dermatology because I’m more of a visual person,” she said. “I like to see the results of my work and how it helps people.”

For more information on the laser, call 865-690-7130.


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