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Dr. Kenneth G. Gross, Skin Surgery Medical Group
5222 Balboa Avenue, 6th floor
858-292-5101

Dr. Gross has been doing tattoo removals -- more than 20,000, he says -- since the early '70s. He's grown with the profession, from the dermabrasion days in the Navy, when you sandpapered off the offending art, through the skin-vaporizing CO-2 lasers of the '70s and '80s, to the latest color-specific "Q-Switched" lasers, which emit short beams (10-15 billionths of a second) targeting certain parts of the color spectrum. Q-lasers remove all signs of your tattoo in 40-50 percent of cases and with much less harm to the skin's surface. On the other hand, tattooers now have a whole new palette of pastel shades and color-brighteners that make removal more difficult. And they're doing more eyeliner and lipliner tattooing, the hardest of all to take off. Your best protection? Ask questions, says Gross. Does the doctor have the full range of color-specific Q-lasers (and not just rent them)? If you're dark-skinned, does he have the Q-YAG laser, which is best for treating darker skins? Is the doctor dermatology board-certified? Are the laser-wielding assistants qualified? Are you being charged fairly? (A rule-of-thumb is to measure your tattoo: longest length by widest width, and figure $100 per square inch.)

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