The Tattoo Removal Process & the Lasers that are Used

Tattoos have been a part of human culture dating back to the 4th or 5th millennium BC. Many people view tattoos differently.

Some perceive getting a tattoo as a form of self expression, but some people look at it negatively as a vile form of social rebellion.

In the United States, roughly 10 percent of the population has a tattoo inked somewhere on their bodies, nearly half of them will opt to have a tattoo removed at some point.

Modern tattoo removal procedures involve innovative laser technology, which has proven to be very effective in erasing tattoos from human skin. Laser tattoo removal typically takes anywhere from 5 to 15 laser sessions, with 6 to 8 weeks between sessions before the tattoo is completely removed. Prior to the removal process, the targeted skin is applied with a chiller or a coolant to help mitigate the pain. In some instances, topical anesthetic is also employed.

The laser used in the tattoo removal process breaks down these artificial skin pigments, thus removing the tattoo from the person’s skin. However, there are certain requirements that must be met to ensure that only the targeted skin area is treated with laser and must not damage surrounding tissue. The requirements are:

  • Penetration of the laser should be sufficient enough to reach the tattoo pigment
  • The color of the laser must correspond to the absorbability of the pigment. For example, red lasers are used to treat green skin pigments
  • Duration of the laser last must be precisely timed to avoid scarring and burning of surrounding skin tissues. In tattoo removal, laser blasts should only last nanoseconds
  • Sufficient energy is required for the laser to break down tattoo pigments. If energy is too high, it could damage the skin tissues. If it is too low, no pigment fragmentation will occur.

Types of Lasers Used for Tattoo Removal

The conventional Q-switched lasers are the only type of lasers that are commercially viable for tattoo removal and can meet our stringent safety standards.

There are various types of Q-switched lasers used to remove tattoos, depending on the color of the skin and the tattoo pigment. Multi-colored tattoos require two or more types of lasers to effectively remove them. The lasers are usually identified by the medium used to create the wavelength, which is determined by measuring its nanometers (nm).

Q-switched Frequency-doubled Nd:Yag: 532 nm – this type of laser works best for red and orange tattoo pigments.

Q-switched Ruby: 694 nm – this laser emits red light, which is highly effective in removing green and dark tattoo particles. However, this laser can also cause serious changes in the skin’s natural pigmentation structure. Too much usage of this laser can cause unwanted spots and blotches on all skin types except white/lighter skin tones.

Q-switched Alexandrite: 755 nm – rated as the weakest of all types of Q-switch lasers, the Alexandrite laser only works best on green tattoo pigments. It is not effecting against, red, orange, and brown. The Alexandrite laser can also be used to remove black and blue ink particles. Since it is a weak laser, it does not cause any unwanted changes in the skin’s natural pigmentation.

Q-switched Nd:YAG: 1064 nm – best for dark skin types since it uses near-infrared light, which is not absorbed by melanin.

The CO2 or Erbium: YAG laser technology has not yet been approved by governing agencies but has shown potential to become a staple option for tattoo removal. Tests conducted by the Wellman Center of Photomedicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital show that the new laser technology, when used with Q-switched lasers, is effective in removing yellow and white tattoo pigments. Both tattoo particles have proven to be very resistant against Q-switch lasers.

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