Definition: The principle of selective thermolysis can be applied towards the removal of tattoos. The energy delivered by a number of different lasers is targeted towards the carbon particles or dyes that are found in skin tattoos, allowing selective destruction of the foreign pigment while minimizing damage to the surrounding skin.
The laser light is passed over the tattooed skin, microscopically shattering the pigment into tiny particles which are more easily processed and eliminated by the body’s natural ‘disposal system’ – macrophages come to the area, and carry these particles through the lymphatic system and out through the body’s elimination processes. A mild to moderate irritation of the overlying skin is to be expected for a few days to a week, depending on the depth and amount of pigment to be removed.
This laser is effective for both amateur and professional tattoos of all colors. Like the ruby laser, the Q-switched Nd:YAG is most effective for black tattoos. This laser has the advantage of being useful for darker skinned individuals. At the frequency doubled setting (532 nm), the Q-switched Nd:YAG is highly effective for treating red and orange tattoos.
The Q-switched Nd:YAG laser at 1064nm can cause more pain, and a higher degree of textural changes to your skin than the QSRL.
Though Q-switched ruby and Q-switched alexandrite lasers have been earliest lasers for tattoos, Q-switched NdYAG 1064 nm, due to its longer wavelength, higher fluence, and shorter pulse, has emerged as a better laser for the black and dark blue/ black tattoo pigment.
The textural changes, scarring, and hypopigmentation of earlier lasers are remarkably low. However for coloured pigments, use of multiple wavelengths is mandatory. Response to Q-switched 1064 nm depends on the type of tattoo:
- Professional tattoos: Most of such tattoos have even distribution of ink, mainly in subcutaneous tissue. Ink quality is good; hence, 4-6 treatments are usually required.
- Amateur tattoos: Usually these are easy to remove, but in some cases, if the ink is at deeper level, a few extra sessions could be required
- Cosmetic tattoos: Cosmetic tattoos like eyebrows, and eye and lip line are mostly made of iron-based inks. This can sometimes oxidize and turn black, so a test patch must be given.
Blue, grey and black tattoos can be removed with a Q-switched Nd:YAG laser (1064 nm wavelength).
The colour of the tattoo and the depth of the pigment influence the duration and the outcome of the laser treatment.
Laser treatment involves the selective destruction of ink molecules that are then absorbed by macrophages and eliminated.