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Palm Latitudes

The Scoop

August 09, 1992|Mark Ehrman

People come to Dr. Jacob Rispler from all over, bearing teardrops, spiders, snakes and swastikas, broken hearts and battleships. They want to be made whole. And Dr. Rispler, he takes their tattoos away.

"Up till now, there's really been no good way to remove tattoos," says Rispler, a dermatologist. "They've cut them out, burned them out. It's left horrible scarring, and large ones were almost impossible."

Not anymore. Last spring, the FDA approved a new device called the Medlite Q-switched ytterbium aluminum garnet laser--YAG, for short. It produces extremely short, high-intensity laser bursts that break up the droplets of tattoo ink, but leave surrounding tissue relatively untouched. (Rispler cautions that the procedure is not perfect and should not be construed as carte blanche to get tattoos.) The Covina office of Rispler's Laser and Dermatology Institute is the only place in Southern California offering YAG tattoo-removal. His case files include a police officer who wore bandages over his youthful indiscretion; an executive whose merchant marine memento kept him out of short sleeves and a record producer who decided his shoulder was no place for a Harley-Davidson logo. Others arrive directly from the penitentiary to remove gang insignias.

The YAG's machine-gun-like bursts can remove an amateur tattoo in one or two sessions and a professional one in around four. A small, professionally applied tattoo can be removed for less than $500--a small price to pay, many think, for a mistake once thought irrevocable. "I'm going to have to sell a couple of sofas, and maybe get an advance on my commission," says Isaac Parnass, a 23-year-old furniture salesman, who had his ex-fiancee's name removed from his hand and shoulder. "She didn't think that would ever come off," he adds happily. "She figures my next girl will have to deal with it. Wrong ."

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