The Studio at Painful Pleasures isn’t just a home to our resident and guest tattoo artists; we offer laser tattoo removal services to those looking for a change or a fresh start. February’s “Limelight” guest is Dr. Briggs, the physician that provides our clients with laser tattoo removal services. Laser tattoo removal is a distressing thought, but with almost 4000 procedures (and counting!) under his belt, Dr. Briggs is the man to put you at ease throughout the process. I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Briggs before his appointments for the day, and he provided plenty of insight towards the tattoo removal process.
Meeseun: Can you talk to us about your role here at Painful Pleasures?
Dr. Briggs: I try to make laser removal as comfortable as possible, because it does hurt. I try not to use that word, but it is uncomfortable. People generally say it is painful. So I try to talk to them, make sure they’re calmed down as much as I can, and get it over with as quickly as possible. Of all the practices, I’d have to say the people are very nice here. There are rare, rare exceptions, but all of the patients – they’re happy to get their tattoo removed. They’re a good group.
Meeseun: Do your clients talk to you about why they’re getting their tattoos removed? Are some embarrassed to talk about it?
Dr. Briggs: It’s just being in a different phase in their lives. If they have a name tattooed, they want to remove it because that person isn’t in their lives anymore. Most just getting older and going through changes with your body image. Sometimes you don’t want to be seen with those tattoos anymore or sometimes peoples’ kids will say something to them.
Meeseun: Do you find that most of your patients are older then?
Dr. Briggs: We have a whole spectrum here and generally speaking, we see good results.
Meeseun: That’s good. How long does a session last?
Dr. Briggs: Depending on the size of the tattoo, the first couple sessions are relatively quick. If they have color, that’s done in a progressive pattern. On the fourth time, for example, after they’ve been treated with the general wavelength, the reds, yellows, and purples are also separately hit and then on the sixth time, it’ll be the greens and the blues. So for the first five times are the pretreatment wavelengths. The blues and greens are more difficult, green being the most difficult.
Meeseun: And each tattoo takes more than one session?
Dr. Briggs: Everybody asks that question when they come in. To remove a tattoo, I’d generally say about 10 to 12 sessions. If it’s just black ink, they do better. If it’s an amateur tattoo, they also do better because it’s not the right depth and not as much ink. Altogether – about a year. They come back every 6 to 8 weeks because the laser stirs up the ink in the body and then gives their bodies time to absorb it. That’s why there’s an interval of six weeks between visits.
Meeseun: I see. Can you explain the laser process a little bit? I guess I always imagined skin essentially being burned off or something
Dr. Briggs: The laser heats up and puts energy in where the ink is in the dermis. It loosens the ink up so that the body can absorb it.
Meeseun: More scientific than just burning skin off.
Dr. Briggs: Yeah. As far as the technology here, this is a state of the art laser. We’ve had it for two years, it was purchased when I started, and I’ve done just short of 4,000 procedures now.
Meeseun: Oh wow.
Dr. Briggs: Yeah, we get very busy.
Meeseun: What other supplies do you use for laser removal?
Dr. Briggs: I use the Black Dragon Zero gloves all the time and then after the procedure I always cover it up with a little moisturizing cream with the 4x4 gauze pads. Sometimes if it’s a patient’s first session, I’ll wrap it up with the bandages we have here with the Dri-Loc pads, usually on extremities. There are three different laser head attachments with this laser. There’s the 1064, the general wavelength one, generally for black, for the pretreatment work. We have a specific one for the blue and the green. So if somebody has those colors, it gets more complicated. It’ll take longer and you have to change the laser head piece. We also always have to change our sunglasses based on what color it is.
Meeseun: How many different type of sunglasses are there?
Dr. Briggs: We have one for the general wavelength laser, one for the blue, and then one for the green.
Meeseun: What would be the consequence of not wearing them or forgetting to put them on?
Dr. Briggs: There have been several times that I’ve forgotten to bring my glasses down and you get a snow blind – it causes injury to the retina.
Meeseun: That’s not good.
Dr. Briggs: No, you definitely want to wear the sunglasses. [laughs]
Meeseun: Were you doing laser removal before?
Dr. Briggs: No. I was looking to do something slightly different. I’m board certified in urgent care medicine and I have my own separate practice out towards Hagerstown.
Meeseun: And you’re only here only a few days a month, correct?
Dr. Briggs: I’m here Tuesday and Wednesday, every other week – a total of four times a month.
Meeseun: Outside of those four days here, where are you?
Dr. Briggs: At my practice. It’s a drug treatment clinic with a very specific drug called suboxone, which is for opiate dependents – people who are hooked on heroin or painkillers. It’s very unique. That’s the only medication I deal with. I’m also the medical director of another clinic in Frederick.
Meeseun: You’re a busy man!
Dr. Briggs: Oh, no! Little variety.
Meeseun: Is there anything else about laser tattoo removal you’d like to talk about?
Dr. Briggs: Every once in a while we’ll do lightening of blemishes on faces, which works pretty well. There are people who come in to get permanent make-up tattoos removed. There was one lady who came in to get the liner tattooed on her lips removed. We get some unusual cases.
Meeseun: Is it tougher to do laser removal on the face?
Dr. Briggs: Yes, it’s thinner skin and it hurts! I have to prepare myself for the patient moving so I have to hold them still during the procedure.
Meeseun: What kind of scarring is left then? Is there any scarring?
Dr. Briggs: There’s no scarring. We gradually go up on the power. We start very low based on skin type and location. For example, we start very low on darker skin with more pigment, so that we don’t take away any of that pigment. You don’t want any white patches or lightening.
Meeseun: Has that happened before?
Dr. Briggs: No, but it could happen if you’re not careful and you don’t start low. Some people are more sensitive, so you have to tell the patient that they’re not a good candidate for completing the treatment.
Meeseun: I guess there isn’t a type of patch-test you can do with laser to determine if your skin will be able to handle it.
Dr. Briggs: Usually the first time I’ll do a trial so they know what it feels like, more than anything. You’re not going to know you’ll be bothered by it or not until maybe after the second session.
Meeseun: And this is in six week intervals.
Dr. Briggs: Right.
Meeseun: I can’t even begin to imagine the pain. Being able to handle getting tattooed is one thing, but it’s a different kind of pain.
Dr. Briggs: Yes, exactly. A patient put it to me this way: getting a tattoo is not as painful, but it gets drawn out because it takes more time. Getting it removed hurts pretty badly, but it’s very short.
Meeseun: You know, we’ll be working downstairs and sometimes we can hear…
Dr. Briggs: …the screams. [laughs]
Meeseun: Yeah! Hearing that makes you reconsider getting more tattoos.
Dr. Briggs: Right, to think twice before you get it done. Usually I say that tattoos are often the result of age and/or alcohol. You know, you’re young and you party so you get tattoos, but there are also some people who just eventually change their mind. They’ll want it faded so they can get a cover-up or they just want it completely removed.
Dr. Briggs strives to make tattoo removal as comfortable as possible. He has more than 20 years of experience in the medical field and is incredibly personable – both of which are of utmost importance when you’re about to experience some pain. If you’ve been considering tattoo removal, check if you can schedule time with Dr. Briggs at The Studio at Painful Pleasures. More laser tattoo removal FAQs can be found here. You can shop for medical grade supplies for your shop, like the gloves and gauze that Dr. Briggs uses, right here at Painful Pleasures.