NEWBURYPORT — What if a tattoo could not only be safe, but promote health and wellness, too?
Robb Osinski seeks to “disrupt” the norm with the launch of INQUEAlert, which provides a unique type of tattoo as a replacement for medical alert jewelry.
The Newburyport resident is the founder and CEO of Lowell-based Bambu Global, the parent company of INQUE Holdings LLC and its safe tattoo technology. INQUE is a patented skin tissue imaging system with the ability to be “blanqued,” a process that decolorizes the tattoo and makes it invisible.
“It’s a skin wellness concept,” Osinski said. “So, it’s not a tattoo parlor.”
This concept, which builds on a technology designed by Polaroid, will soon be more broadly available as retail studios are rolled out next year. To start, four locations will open in Greater Boston in fall 2020, but Osinski plans to eventually expand to 117 locations. Stores will include virtual reality and mirrors, which allow customers to see what a tattoo would look like on their body.
INQUEAlert is a charitable program that branches off the technology and offers a limited number of tattoo templates for people with diabetes, epilepsy or other life-threatening conditions at no cost to them. It’s an alternative to a medical alert bracelet or necklace.
“What our technology offers is the ability for people that have life-threatening illnesses to have an option to identify conditions that are prevalent,” said Betty Gower, chief marketing officer at Bambu Global.
If a person’s condition or allergies change, the tattoo can be “turned off” through the “blanque” process. The ideal placement for a medical alert tattoo is the forearm or where an IV is inserted.
“What the medical community has told us is when you go in for a crisis in the emergency room, they go in for an IV, so it’s always important to have it in the first place they would identify,” Gower said.
Maxwell Campbell,18, of Belmont, is a Type 1 diabetic who was looking for an alternative to the medical alert jewelry he kept misplacing. He is the first recipient of INQUEAlert, receiving his free medical alert tattoo just before heading off to the University of Massachusetts Amherst this fall.
“I wanted something that would allow me to more easily fit in on campus,” he wrote in a statement, adding that he liked that it could be removed “if diabetes is cured, or even if I just don’t want the tattoo anymore.”
The tattoo ink is free of heavy metals and chemicals typically found at tattoo shops. The company said it has passed cytotoxicity and skin sensitivity tests.
“When we ‘blanque’ it, meaning turning it invisible, we use an infrared energy source that is delivered with a laser,” Osinski said. “But that laser intensity is a fraction of the intensity of what it takes to actually go through conventional tattoo removal.”
Conventional tattoo removal breaks down the particles of the ink, which the body then absorbs, Osinski explained.
“That’s when it becomes dangerous, when that material moves into the body and gets into the lymphatic system,” he said, “which is designed to flush out foreign objects in your body. But doctors are finding that these inks are getting trapped in the lymph nodes.”
“We use the word ‘tattoo’ primarily to describe what we are not,” said Larry Strain, chief development officer at INQUE. “We are a health and beauty category.”
To be considered for the INQUEAlert program, go to inquealert.com.
Staff writer Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.