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Why Wavelengths Matter When Performing Your Laser Tattoo Removal

January 2nd, 2017 by Tattoo Removal in Tattoo Removal

Human bodies are as unique as the tattoos people fall in love with and have inked upon their skin for all eternity. And just like the same pick-up line will not work with every intriguing face you see across a crowded room, the same approach towards laser tattoo removal will not work on every combination of skin and ink.

Laser tattoo removal works by using ultra-short bursts of specific wavelengths of light to shatter the ink embedded in your skin. How successful this process is largely depends on the wavelength of light used to shatter the ink.

Colour is the limited range of light that humans can see. The visible light spectrum ranges from violet light, which has a short wavelength of 400 nanometres (nm) to red light, which has waves 650 – 700 nm apart. When light hits an object, the object reflects some of the light back and the rest is absorbed. The wavelength of the light that is reflected back determines the colour that we see. In the case of a red and black tattoo, the red ink would reflect back wavelengths of about 650 to 700 nm and the black ink would absorb all light, reflecting none back.

In order to remove tattoos as effectively as possible the correct wavelength of light needs to be used. Each wavelength of light used to in tattoo removal corresponds to specific range of colours of ink. And for tattoos with multiple colours, this will mean treatment with multiple wavelengths. Lasers emit monochromatic light; this single coloured light energy is selectively absorbed by the ink implanted by your tattoo artist. By using the correct wavelengths of light to target the ink in your skin, maximum absorption by the ink is achieved while damage to the surrounding skin tissue, melanin and haemoglobin is avoided.

Wavelengths are only part of the equation for successful laser tattoo removal. The correct wavelength of light needs to be applied for the correct amount of time with the correct amount of power. Q-Switched lasers are the only laser machines capable of producing enough energy (fluence) to remove dark and bright tattoo inks.

This is why only Q-Switched Lasers should be used to remove tattoos, not IPL lasers. IPL lasers emit light at a rate of milliseconds, not the necessary nanoseconds required for tattoo removal. And instead of narrowing in on the ink in your skin with a five millimetre pinprick of light, the IPL laser used for hair removal shoots a two by six centimetre block of light. These lasers are used to remove hair by heating the follicle to only 70 degrees Celsius to destroy it. Able to heat, but not shatter ink with the targeted intensity of the photo-acoustic shockwaves created by a Q-Switched laser, the likely result of using this slower, broader wavelength of light to remove your tattoo is burning and scarring of the skin and setting of the tattoo permanently.

And that is why, in this case, wavelength really does matter.