Methods for tattoo removal, through time and technological innovations, have changed drastically. Early methods included basically scraping away skin until the ink is no longer visible, most times a painful and time-consuming process. This method caused permanent cosmetic scarring and sometimes serious infections which could become deadly. Tattoo removal then moved into using chemical procedures, including using tannic acid, silver nitrate, and phenol solutions. Cauterization and infrared coagulation have also been used leading up to modern tattoo removal methods using lasers. Today, tattoo removal is achieved through Q-Switched lasers, which have expanded from nanosecond technology to picosecond technology, becoming faster and much more efficient.
Choosing a Laser Type
Choice of laser types depends on many factors: presumed absorption spectrum of the skin area, desired depth of penetration or depth of ink, size of the tattoo, the laser’s wavelength and pulse duration. The wavelength and color of the laser used is also heavily dependent on the color of ink used in the tattoo. Flesh-toned colors, including pink, white, and some variations of yellow, do not have absorption peaks at wavelengths of available lasers, and therefore can be difficult to remove. Black and similar-toned colors, such as dark indigo, absorb well across the spectrum of lasers. Primary colors such as blue and yellow are absorbed best by lasers with adjacent wavelengths to the wavelengths of the colors.
Q-Switched Ruby Lasers, Q-Switched Nd-YAG Lasers, and Q-Switched Alexandrite Lasers are the most common lasers used for tattoo removal.
- Q-Switched Ruby Laser (QSR) – QSR is used for the removal of black, and dark blue pigments. This laser may also remove green and medium blue pigments but results are not as guaranteed as for dark colors. This laser is not effective for red, orange, bright or pale blue colors. This laser has a wavelength of 694 nm and is absorbed by melanin, potentially causing hypopigmentation,
depigmentation or textural changes. 25% of professional dark colored tattoos have yielded a clearance of 75% or greater in six three-week interval led treatments.
- Q-switched Nd-YAG Laser – Nd-YAG is used for tightly compacted and deep tattoos. The laser is effective at quickly correcting these sorts of tattoos due to its bigger spot size, concentrated energy density high repetition rates, and larger beam diameter. This laser has two wavelengths: 1064 nm and 532 nm. The 1064-nm Nd:YAG laser penetrates the deepest with little risk for hypopigmentation for black and dark blue pigments rather than bright colors. It’s longer wavelength has little absorption for melanin; dark-skinned patients find this laser ideal. The 532-nm Nd:YAG laser is effective for removal of red, yellow, and orange pigments. It may cause hemoglobin absorption, leading to purpura. Professional tattoos may require ten or more treatments for 75% clearance. In general, 60% of patients who used Nd-YAG lasers achieve 75% clearance within five treatments of red or orange tattoos. Nd:YAG lasers may cause whitening of the skin or pinpoint bleeding.
- Q-switched Alexandrite Laser – Alexandrite lasers generally remove black, blue, and green pigments. This laser has a wavelength of 510 nm and is effective in removing red pigment. Transient hypopigmentation occurs in approximately 50% of patients. 12% of patients experience textural changes. Usually, four to ten sessions at intervals of one to two months are required to achieve high clearance.Q-Switched Laser from Quanta USA
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