The gold standard for laser tattoo removal the Q-Switched Nanosecond Laser
Lasers for tattoo removal have been in use since 1964 and known as the Q-Switch or Quality switched lasers. They have a property that is very important for safe laser tattoo removal , they fire so rapidly that very little heat is transferred to the tattoo ink.
This is an important point because all lasers seek something to target the beam of laser light upon. The lasers for tattoo removal target colored pigment. Since a tattoo is significantly larger and darker than normal skin pigments the risk of absorbing to much heat in the form of photo-thermal energy ( light heat ) and burning or scaring the individual. That is why a laser for hair removal is not used for laser tattoo removal under any circumstance.
The Q-Switch laser is Photo-Acoustic so heat transfer is minimal and the breaking of the tattoo ink is secondary to an acoustic trauma. Q-Switch lasers for tattoo removal fire in a Billionth of a second or a Nano-second.
These Q -Swithched lasers have been the gold standard for tattoo removal for 60 years and a quality laser can indeed remove tattoos very well, In fact Q -Switched lasers are the only type I use i the practice and I have been laser tattoos for almost 15 years . Thus, I speak from experience.
Since the essence of laser tattoo removal is to shatter the ink into small particles that the immune cells can now pick up and cary off the thought arose, what if we made the particles even smaller using a laser that fires even faster than the Q -Switched Nanosecond lasers and developed a Picosecond laser. The picosecond lasers fire faster but is the result any better?
Picosecond lasers have also been around over a decade but this is the first time they are in a laser box that can fit into the average medical office. The Picosecond lasers fire in Pico-seconds or a trillionth of a second.
The premise being the pico firing that fast would create a finer dust from the ink and the cells could carry that dust of ink off easier and faster.
The Pico-second lasers were marketed as lasers that would cut the number of treatments in half with less complications due to even less heat than the remarkably low heat released by the Q-Switched variety. However, there was a cost to this new technology, the price of these lasers could reach $300,000.
The promise of less treatments was not fulfilled and although these lasers made a fine dust two things became obvious
It is for these reasons that the practice of Dr Undo Tattoo does not use picosecond lasers for tattoo removal and continue to use the Q-Switch lasers with outstanding results. In my opinion the best laser for tattoo removal is a quality Q-Switched laser. I simply can not justify the additional cost to my patients for really little or no benefit.
One huge problem with Q-Switched vs Picosecond lasers is the variability of laser systems. In the "old" days the majority of the Q-Switched lasers were YAG lasers with or without a KTP laser adaptor to target reds. This made comparing one laser to the next was easy. It was simple to look at the results and determine which lasers were strong, which lasers for tattoo removal were moderate and which laser for tattoo removal were weak.
This is less so for the Picosecond lasers because each manufacturer had released them with different wavelengths. this means some were Alaxandrite lasers so they would be great on green, less on blue , poor on black and nothing for red. Another laser company may release a Pico with YAG and KTP so its good on black, red but no so for green and blue ink while a thirs laser company may have a Ruby laser which is great for blue, slightly less for green and black but again nothing for red. Thus when patiens ask is Picosure better than Enlighten and is Enlighten better than another brand and you cant honestly tell due to the variability of laser wavelengths in each system.
Please enjoy my youtube videos regarding the Myths of Picosecond Lasers.
This video reviews the picosecond lasers for tattoo removal.