How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?
During a tattoo removal procedure, laser light is applied to the tattooed area of the skin. The light is selectively absorbed by the tattoo ink particles, leaving the surrounding skin tissue and chromophores unharmed.
The tattoo ink particles absorb the laser energy, heat up, and shatter into smaller ink particles.
In the days and weeks following a laser treatment, the body’s immune system flushes away the shattered ink particles, causing the tattoo to fade. Over a series of treatments, more and more of the ink shatters, leaving the skin free of ink.
LASER is an acronym the represents Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers emit monochromatic (single color/wavelength) light through a process called stimulated emission in a narrow beam or series of pulses.
For this process, a bright, quickly-flashing light source called a flashlamp is used to excite atoms in a crystal Nd:YAG laser rod. When the atoms of the crystal receive energy, they emit photons that travel at a specific wavelength. Optics and mechanisms, such as the reflective mirror and output coupler, focus the photons into a laser beam. The laser beam carries energy to the skin, and is selectively absorbed by tattoo ink particles.
Wavelengths for Tattoo Removal
Tattoo removal lasers produce specific wavelengths of light that have been proven to be absorbed by certain colors of tattoo ink while avoiding damage to surrounding skin tissue and chromophores (such as melanin and hemoglobin). When the laser energy is applied for the right length of time, at the right level of energy, and in the proper wavelength, the tattoo ink is selectively targeted.
Each wavelength effects how tattoo removal works and corresponds to a certain range of tattoo ink colors, which why different types of tattoo removal lasers are available. The most popular wavelengths used for tattoo removal are 1064nm and 532nm, which can both be achieved with a Q-switched Nd:YAG laser.
Q-Switching and How Tattoo Removal Works
A laser can produce the right wavelengths of light, but unless this energy is applied for the right length of time and with sufficient power, the desired effect will not be achieved.
Tattoo ink can be difficult to shatter and remove, and only Q-switched lasers are able to produce sufficient fluence (energy or power) to remove dark and bright tattoos without unattractive side effects like scarring. Q-switched laser pulses last mere nanoseconds (billionths of a second), providing high levels of fluence for quality ink shattering.