On a recent trip to Dublin for the Ireland Professional Beauty show 2019, I took the opportunity to catch up with Brian Barrett of the Dundrum Cosmetic Clinic. Whilst fork lifting a 20-year-old Soft Light laser into a van (a massive 200 kg old school bit of kit loved by enthusiasts) Brian shared some of his interesting life stories which have shaped who he is today, both figuratively and literally. Talking to him about his speciality, tattoo removal, was an eye opener into the mind of a true expert in his field.
How did you get into the aesthetics industry?
I previously worked as a technician in the avionics industry specialising in electronics and laser equipment. Tattoo removal depends very much on physics, the colour wheel, acoustic crack and selective thermosis.
What made you specialise in tattoo removal?
Previously I had specialised in firing lasers at targets, and it seemed like an advancement to work at utilising lasers in a different way, to help eradicate tattoos.
Best and worst tattoos that you have seen?
I try not to judge any tattoo as being good or bad. The patient who comes in for treatment has ink permanently on his or her body and they need help to diminish its appearance. I describe getting a tattoo sometimes as a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
How did you get qualified?
The minimum qualification levels are level 5 plus manufacturer’s training. In addition, I attended the Laser Academy in Hueston, ACLA in Columbus, Ohio, Lorenzo in Toronto, Graham Bissett in UK. Now, I travel to Georgia and Dubai to instruct on tattoo removal and onicomosis.
Were there any defining moments in your career, good or bad?
One such moment was when I purchased my first picosecond laser. Before utilizing the pico laser, I would give indications for number of sessions in the low double digits. Now, typically removal does take less time and sessions than with Q-Switch.
Why do SO many people get tattoos removed these days?
Patients, young and old come to the clinic for treatment. My eldest client is over 70, the youngest 14. Sometimes, people don’t like their tattoos immediately, or a tattoo could be a reminder of a high-spirited holiday, but typically clients reach a decision after a number of years that the tattoo does not suit their frame of mind later in life.
Does it hurt? Should it hurt?
Yes. Some clinics describe it as an “elastic band hitting the skin”, but I prefer to describe it as “spitting hot oil with devil tails”. Different colours absorb different wavelengths at different levels, black absorbs all wavelengths. The more dense the black, the higher level of laser light absorption. If you recall from elementary physics, energy cannot de destroyed, it can only be transformed from one type to another. The laser light hits a target (ink) that it has a resonance with (refer to colour wheel) and the laser light changes to an acoustic crack. It is this acoustic crack that breaks the larger particles of ink into smaller ones. We use a cold air blower to assist dermal cooling to assist client comfort and healing. Unfortunately, I would have to say that the lasering process should hurt in order to be effective.
Which tattoo removal machines do you now prefer using and why?
Choosing a laser machine is a little like selecting a car. You can get a car that can go 120 mph and one that can do 120 mpg, but usually not at the same time. Every laser machine has advantages and disadvantages. Every laser salesperson will tell you that their machine is best, and there is some issue with the competition. But, at this stage, I have paid my “dumb tax” and know where my investment will go. I know that I will never purchase a Chinese copy laser.
What was the hardest removal job that you have done. What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
Usually a nervous client will take more time to be reassured, there will be lots of stopping and starting. I have realised that only when a client is ready for treatment is when you start the process; I will never try to convince the patient to go ahead with treatment.
So, the laser does not remove the ink. Where does it go?
As soon as the ink is placed under the skin, the body tries to get rid of it. The body does not know that you have elected to put a nice design under your skin, the body just knows that there is macrophage dirt in the area. Recall that the acoustic crack breaks the larger molecules into smaller particles. A few white blood cells gather around a crumb of a macrophage particle of ink and float away in the bloodstream, a little like debris floats down a river. This dirt is absorbed in the lymph nodes and is evacuated by the kidneys. Tattoo removal is a NATURAL process, the laser treatment only speeds up the process.
As an experienced laser removal user, what would be your advice to anyone getting into the industry?
Don’t buy a Chinese copy machine. Don’t eat the yellow snow.
How do you keep your knowledge and skills up to date?
There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t meet another challenge. The more experience that you get, the more you see, the more you learn. I do travel extensively, especially to the US, where the industry is led.
Show us some of your work please?
Consultations cost 30 euro, redeemable against future treatments.
How do you think that the industry and technology will advance going forward?
Cynosure were the first to come up with “pico technology” design. Other manufacturers have pushed along the technology. It is not thought that femtosecond speed will improve ink break up. Possibly, with the advent of robotics, we may soon see the loss of human laser operators!
If a laser manufacturer could give you a magic feature of function, what would you most like to see?
Unless you could remove a tattoo in one session, people seem to want the removal process to be quicker. I would love to remove a tattoo in one session, but currently, harnessing the body’s own systems is the only way possible, meaning we can only go as fast as the body will let us.
Thanks Brian, that was a great insight.
You can check out the Dundrum Cosmetic Clinic here – if you’re in Ireland you can find it located on the top floor of the Dundrum shopping centre, in the very south of Dublin. Keep your eyes peeled for more interviews in the coming months!