Quebec’s College of Physicians has formed a committee to regulate tattoo removal in the province.

The group was spurred into action after an investigation by Radio-Canada uncovered that 18 women, who had their tattoos removed at Bye Bye Tattoo in St-Eustache, Que., suffered second-degree burns and are scarred for life.

Tattoo removal is not regulated in Canada. Operators are not legally required to hold a licence to use piercers, lasers or skin peels.

Cosmetics sold in Canada have to meet the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act, but legally, almost anyone is entitled to use them.

That’s a problem according to Charles Bernard, President of Quebec’s College of Physicians. He said while tattooing is not considered a medical practice, tattoo-removal procedures can cause serious harm.

Quebec College of Physicians, Charles Bernard

Charles Bernard, President of Quebec’s College of Physicians, says tattoo-removal procedures can cause serious harm.

“We asked to make an inquiry to bring some recommendations to the removal of tattooing because those techniques, if they're invasive, are medicine practices,” Bernard said.

A committee has been formed and Bernard said he hopes to have recommendations in 2015.

Welcome reform

Regulation could help clean up the industry, according to one Montreal tattoo remover.

Lisa Boucher, who works at XS Tattoo in Pointe-Claire, says there’s a serious need for regulation in Canada's aesthetics industry.

“I think that's something the government needs to reinforce. Like they do in restaurants where they have inspectors come in, they should be doing the same thing for tattoo shops. We carry the same sterilization equipment a hospital or a dentist's office does,” she said.    

Lisa Boucher SX Tattoos

Lisa Boucher prepares her tattoo removing laser for a client at SX Tattoos in Pointe-Claire, Que. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

Boucher apprenticed before starting work as a tattoo remover, and uses a laser that’s less likely to cause permanent scarring.

She said examples like the scarring at Bye Bye Tattoo are bad for the industry as a whole.