SKULLS, Mickey Mouse, whales, spiders and a stylized sun – tattoos of all kinds on any patch of skin meet their demise, if with fleeting pain, at least without scarring, in the MediSpas clinic in the western San José suburb of Escazú.Pointing the barrel of what looks like a Star Wars prop – Costa Rica’s only Palomar Q-YAG 5 laser tattoo removal system – Dr. Alejandra Quesada zaps off the artistic and cosmetic mistakes people have made under their skin.She has treated people of all ages, equal numbers of men and women, removing both cosmetic tattoos – permanent eyebrows or lipstick – and the blunders of youth, which have mostly been animals and Celtic-looking designs, she said. Reasons run the gamut: permanent eyebrows that arch too steeply, outgrown homemade tattoos of initials or names, and plain old tiredness with the things.One new patient is having a turquoise sun removed from her shoulder. She had it drawn six weeks ago, but, after she casually asked her long-distance boyfriend what he thinks about tattoos and he gave them the thumbs down, she buckled and made an appointment at MediSpas.RICK MacGurn, a U.S. expatriate and owner of MediSpas, brought the equipment to Costa Rica and certifies his doctors and others in its use.The machine fires a rapid pulse of light. Each pulse lasts a nanosecond – one billionth of a second – shooting light particles into the ink under the skin.“It’s called a photo-acoustic effect,” MacGurn explained. “A high-energy wave shatters the inkwell and breaks it up. Imagine a fist punching the surface of a bucket of water, and the water splashes around it.” Breaking up the ink allows the body’s natural cleansing system to filter it out from under the skin. White blood cells surround the micro-droplets of ink and escort them through the blood stream to the liver, which eventually expels them.SEVERAL treatments are needed to remove a tattoo. After each treatment, the unwanted tattoo fades over the six to eight weeks of downtime before the next visit. Most tattoos require three to eight treatments. Oddly, the darker they are, the easier they are to remove.“Solid black, blue and dark green we can remove 100%. Light tints are harder to get. You run the risk of removing melanin,” MacGurn said.The Q-YAG 5 has two frequencies, one on either side of the visible light spectrum. “By blending the colors of light, you can go after different colors of ink,” he said. The machine’s weakness is in the middle range, where it would need a third frequency to better attack colors such as yellows and oranges. That has not been developed yet, however.Prices range from $35 per session for small tattoos of 12.5 square centimeters ($149 for six sessions) to $150 for large tattoos of 225-425 square centimeters ($638 for six sessions).BESIDES tattoos, the clinic specializes in removing all kinds of things from the skin: hair; wrinkles; varicose veins; discolorations such as sunspots, rosacea, capillaries near the surface and birthmarks; acne and acne scars.“We’re in the business of making people look younger and feel better about themselves,” MacGurn said.He employs an intense pulse light in a treatment called photo-rejuvenation, which reduces pore size and improves skin tone and structure, making it more pliable and healthy-looking. He often blames skin conditions such as blotchiness, visible veins and leatheriness on alcohol and tobacco use. “The more you drink and smoke, the harder it is on the skin,” he said. For info, call 228-7506 or 228-7781.
Today in Costa Rica