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Doctor Thomas Barrows Talks Laser Tattoo Removal

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Published: 11.03.2021
Updated: 09.15.2023

Dr. Thomas Barrows: Medical Laser Expert

Dr. Thomas Barrows is a recognized expert in the world of medical laser technology. He brings his expertise, knowledge, and experience to Removery as part of our clinical advisory board. In this video, he tells his story, from becoming a practicing physician, to integrating medicine with tattooing, to leading this technology into the future.

Dr. Barrows has been a practicing physician for 25 years. Around 15 years ago, his next-door neighbor and childhood friend became a tattoo artist who proposed the idea of setting up a tattoo removal laser in his shop. No one had ever done that before and required a physician’s involvement. They became one of the first tattoo shops in the United States to put a tattoo removal machine in a tattoo shop.

Prior to joining Removery, Dr. Barrows worked as an independent laser sales consultant and has been involved in the start-up of successful medical laser businesses. He gained extensive experience as a founding partner of Fade Away Laser, which operated multiple tattoo removal clinics in the United States and Canada, and as co-founder of Imperial Tattoo Supply, where he developed a patented tattoo wound care product for use by tattoo artists. He is well-known for participating in the design, manufacture, and FDA approval of many lasers and intense pulse light devices.

Dr. Barrows’ qualifications, passion, and desire to share his knowledge have led him to serve as a keynote speaker at the MedSpa Training Institute and at the Alliance of Professional Tattooists. He has educated hundreds of physicians in the U.S. and across the world in light-based technologies, wound care, and tattoo healing.

A Doctor's Perspective About Laser Tattoo Removal

Member of Removery's Clinical Advisory Board

What Is The History Of Laser Tattoo Removal?

To understand how laser tattoo removal works, you have to know how tattoos work in the first place. Tattoo needles typically inject ink so many millimeters under the skin, and the immune system immediately attacks the ink and starts gobbling it up to carry away. What tends to happen, is certain types of fibroblasts and macrophages will gobble up the ink and become fixed in place, so the ink that is floating around in the extracellular space eventually gets carried away. However, the ink that gets encapsulated or trapped inside the cells are there to stay. So in order to remove a tattoo, we somehow have to liberate the ink that’s trapped inside those cells and get it back into that extracellular environment to give the immune system another shot of getting rid of it.

How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?

The earliest lasers from 20 years ago would try and remove ink but had fairly long pulses. Dr. Barrows uses the example, when you are cooking a turkey in the oven, you cook it low and slow so the heat gradually spreads. When it comes to tattoo removal, you don’t want all of that heat. You really only want a shock wave where the tattoo ink is fractured and becomes liberated from the cell. So the old lasers with long pulses would spread the heat from the ink not just into the cell, but the cells around it which would create a lot of collateral damage. If you look back at tattoo removal from 20 years ago, there’s often really bad blistering and scarring.

“As the technology has progressed forward, we’re endeavoring to do is have the absolute shortest on time for the laser that you can possibly have and so we’ve gone from milliseconds to microseconds” – Dr. Barrows

Older lasers use millisecond lasers (millisecond=0.001 second), which is a thousandth of a second, and microsecond lasers (microsecond=0.000001 second), which is a millionth of a second. The technology that’s been widely used for a long time is nanosecond lasers (nanosecond=0.000000001 second) which are billionths of a second and incredibly short. In spite of that, even with a billionth of a second, there is still some spillover heat so the next generation beyond nanosecond lasers is an extraordinarily fast laser called picosecond laser (picosecond=0.000000000001 second), which is a trillionth of a second.

With such short pulses, there’s no time for heat to spill over into the surrounding tissue. This allows the laser technology to concentrate more energy into a shorter period of time and it creates a shock wave that shatters the ink instead of spreading it into the surrounding cells. With the technological advancement, we’ve seen previous complications minimized to where these lasers are basically non-ablative lasers, which means that we’re not tearing up the skin, were selectively targeting the tattoo ink and minimizing collateral damage around it.

What Does The Future Look Like?

So we’ve seen that the shorter pulse is better and might remain better in the future. A femtosecond laser (femtosecond=0.000000000000001 second), which is a quadrillionth of a second is really hard to conceptualize. Most people don’t know quadrillionth of a second, but it is unbelievably small. Hypothetically, we believe that a femtosecond laser will be superior to a picosecond laser, but there aren’t any good clinical trials to prove this because there isn’t a device on the market yet.

“Part of my role here with Removery is to evaluate new technologies and…that is one of the things we’re looking at towards the future, how can we make this even better than the technology we presently have.” – Dr. Barrows

What Is The Benefit Of Removery’s Clinical Advisory Board?

Removery’s clinical advisory board is committed to driving research and advancements in the world of laser tattoo removal while ensuring client safety and effective results. We’ve assembled a group of industry leaders who will lend their insight and expertise in medical lasers, technology, plastic surgery, dermatology, and clinical safety.

“A clinical advisory board is actually a group of experts that meets to evaluate technologies and medical information for the benefit of our customers.” – Dr. Barrows

Rather than following a script that never changes, we are constantly looking at ways to improve our process. That’s not something the salespeople can do, it’s not something the front desk person does. No, you need a group of physicians and scientists to do that. We can draw expertise from dermatologists, plastic surgeons, physicians like Dr. Barrows who have many years of experience doing tattoo removal. This group can evaluate what they are all doing and can do to grant the best technology and service for our customers.

“I think that’s the strength of Removery and our clinical advisory board. You’ll have a whole bunch of experts standing behind what we’re doing to treat you.” -Dr. Barrows

Getting your tattoo removed with Removery

What we’re trying to do when you go to any Removery studio, is provide the best possible technology that we can offer, the best practices that have been evaluated by not one or two physicians, but by a whole panel of physicians who are up to date on the current literature. With the scale that Removery has, we are able to do that in a way that small one-off laser tattoo removal businesses won’t be able to do.

Here at Removery, we are dedicated to providing the highest quality laser removal services. Have a tattoo you want to remove? Book a free consultation with a Removery expert today and learn more about how Removery became the experts in laser tattoo removal.

Dr Thomas Barrows Dr. Thomas Barrows Emergency Medicine
Tags list: #Clinical Advisory Board#tattoo removal

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