Is there anything worse than “tattoo regret”? According to Nick Gonzales and Kevin Mack, there isn’t. Kevin realized this after many of his clients visited his tattoo shop for cover-ups and removals rather than tattooing.
Laser tattoo removal can be pricey, the equipment is far too expensive to buy and requires training to use. Gonzales and Mack saw this as an opportunity to develop a device that anyone could use at home to help remove their tattoos.
What Does Neo Innovations Make?
Neo Innovations makes the Black Magic IPL Tattoo Removal Pen, a device that uses intense pulsed light (IPL) to break up the pigment colors in permanent tattoos.
It follows the basic principle that light is absorbed best by dark objects. Similarly, the dark tattoo pigments in the skin absorb the IPL, and that light energy will break up the tattoo ink, which the body will naturally flush out over 2 -3 weeks, slowly fading the tattoo away.
IPL is nothing new; it has been around since the 1960s. Dermatologists have used it for years to help skin conditions like hyper-pigmentation and redness. Neo Innovations are the first to use it to remove tattoos.
The Black Magic IPL Pen also has a neodymium magnetic tip. Tattoo ink has high levels of iron oxide, meaning it is magnetic. The neodymium tip is supposed to draw the magnetic ink to the skin’s surface to maximize the effectiveness of each treatment.
Is Neo Innovations Still Active?
It appears the business is on a hiatus. The Black Magic IPL is sold out on Amazon, but according to founder Gonzales’s LinkedIn profile, the company hasn’t shut down.
How Did the Shark Tank Pitch Go?
Gonzales and Mack came to Shark Tank in Season 4, hoping to get $80K for 20% equity in their company that would offer an innovative solution to an otherwise permanent problem.
Gonzales started explaining how “tattoo regret” was a real problem. It looks good at the time, but later, you regret those permanent lines. There are over 150,000 tattoos done by amateur tattooists every month, therefore there is a massive market of people who won’t like what they got inked on their skin.
He also explained how laser treatment is costly, and their device costs less than one laser treatment. All you have to do is take the pen’s tip to the skin and pulse 1 to 3 times over a quarter-inch area, and within 2 – 3 weeks, the tattoo starts to fade in those quarter-inch spots.
To further illustrate their point, Mack held up two balloons. The white balloon represented the skin on top of the tattoo, and the black one was the tattoo ink underneath it.
He pulsed the Black Magic IPL pen on the white balloon; nothing happened, but it instantly popped when he pulsed the light on the black one.
Daymond looked worried and asked, “I am black. Will I explode?” It got a laugh from the other Sharks, but it raised serious safety concerns.
Gonzales reassured them the wattage of the bulb could be adjusted on the device using a slider control depending on the pigmentation of the tattoo ink.
Kevin didn’t believe the average customer would understand the wattage setting before zapping themselves with the IPL.
The Sharks wanted to hear the numbers. Mack told them they had been in business for 18 months and sold an average of 30 – 40 devices monthly. So far, they have sold 1200 devices ranging from $140 – $300 apiece.
They projected sales of about $200K for the following year. Also, they didn’t have a website and sold through Amazon and eBay.
Barbara had huge misgivings about the safety of the IPL device and asked if it was FDA approved.
Gonzales and Mack said the IPL process was. “And the device?” asked Barbara. That was not approved, revealed Mack, stating its FDA approval was pending, which is why they needed the Sharks investment because it can cost anywhere from $20K – $100K.
The alarm bells started ringing. The Sharks couldn’t believe they were selling such technology for at-home use without FDA approval. It was a ligation nightmare, and the Sharks wanted nothing to do with it.
“All it takes is one kid to burn his little brother’s eye out,” said Kevin. They all agreed with the idea and numbers were great, but if any of them attached their name to it, they would become walking lawsuit targets.
There wasn’t even a mention of an offer, and Gonzales and Mack walked out disappointed.
What Happened to Neo Innovations After Shark Tank?
Neo Innovations forged on without the help of Sharks, selling the Black Magic IPL.
However, they were soon plagued with negative press as bad customer reviews began to surface. Common problems included burns, blisters, and complaints of the IPL treatment having no impact on tattoos. Many began questioning how Neo Innovations could pitch such a dangerous device on Shark Tank.
Gonzales responded to complaints by saying that their attorney would not allow them to show their better-designed IPL on Shark Tank because they had not filed the patent at the time of taping.
They were only allowed to show their older design that used halogen bulbs and was complicated to use. Gonzales apologized, saying Neo Innovations should have waited and gone on the show with their new IPL that uses FDA Approved Intense Pulsed Xenon Light.
To address the safety concerns about the new IPL tattoo removal pen, Neo Innovations wrote the patent with a Chicago-based plastic surgeon named Dr. Debartolo, who says he has used the device in his clinics.
This new device is currently unavailable online.
Our Review of Neo Innovations
We have our reservations about the Black Magic IPL. It seems too dangerous to be an at-home do-it-yourself device. This device should come with a “buyer’s beware” warning.
There is also the question of whether IPL treatment is genuinely effective for tattoo removal. The main reason is that the light pulses here are not concentrated light beams of a single wavelength frequency. Instead, they are a range of different wavelengths that disperse at various skin depths, which increases the risk of burns.
Pros of Neo Innovations Black Magic IPL:
- More cost-effective than laser tattoo removal
- It can be used at home
- It can work if you have a lighter skin tone
- It can work if you have a black ink tattoo
Cons of Neo Innovations Black Magic IPL:
- It can cause blistering, burning, and scarring
Are There Any Alternatives?
Currently, there are no FDA-approved at-home tattoo removal devices. If you have a case of “tattoo regrets,” find a dermatologist or a licensed technician and book an appointment for a laser treatment session, which the safest way to remove a tattoo.
The Sharks were right to pass up on this. The device’s safety concerns are too risky to ignore. Neo Innovations was unimaginably naive to try and pitch something that the FDA did not approve.
This mess should teach other companies that safety is a crucial concern for investors. If you can’t show prospective investors that you have addressed every possible health and safety concern, you are in no position to make a pitch.