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Tattoo Removal Device

Tattoo lasers are one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented devices on the aesthetic market. There are a few companies that sell what they call a “tattoo removal” laser, but some are nothing more than a modified hair removal device and don’t work well enough on all tattoo ink colors to satisfy the entire patient base looking for comprehensive tattoo removal services. Most tattoo lasers do not have the energy to completely remove all ink colors in a reasonable number of treatments, and because the patient has to wait between treatments for the skin to heal, this could take a very long time if the system is less effective. With a weak tattoo laser, the possible outcomes would be leaving behind a faded tattoo, requiring patients to spend a lot of money and time to get an acceptable outcome, or pushing the limits of the laser that results in a burn, leaving behind a scar in the shape of the tattoo. Any one of those scenarios will result in a very dissatisfied customer base with a negative public image that makes it difficult or impossible to establish and grow a tattoo removal or aesthetic business.

A tattoo laser is a Q-Switched device. Q-Switched (aka quick switched) basically means it delivers light energy in a very short pulse that is much shorter than a standard laser. Standard aesthetic lasers measure their pulse width in milliseconds (ms) but a Q-Switched laser measures the pulse width in nanoseconds (ns). A millisecond is one-one thousandth of a second. A nanosecond is one-one billionth of a second. The light emitted from a Q-Switched laser acts more like an acoustic wave than traditional light; it still is attracted to a specific pigment or color much like a standard laser is attracted to various chromophores based on the wavelength, but the light blasts the pigment/ink into microscopic particles so it can be absorbed by the body.

The mechanics of the process is that the light is attracted to the ink based on the color of the ink and the wavelength of the laser light. Since the ink resides deep in the skin, the difficulty of the procedure is that you have to deliver the right level of energy to affect the ink without damaging the skin between the surface and the ink. This is done by delivering a very high amount of energy in a very short period of time, hitting the ink with that acoustic blast and generating heat in the tissue only where the ink resides, without creating too much heat in the skin above the ink. To reach deeper in the skin without generating too much heat on the surface, the spot size must be large in relation to the energy applied, since the laser energy creates a profile that resembles a cone; the deeper it reaches into the skin, the more narrow the peak power area becomes until it comes to a point. The area the laser beam can affect shrinks as you go deeper into the skin, reducing the amount of ink the beam will remove. If you reduce the spot size to increase the energy (the power density rule: take the same amount of energy output from a laser at one spot size, reduce the spot size and you increase the light energy of the beam), you reduce the overall area of ink that is treated deep in the skin and this dramatically increases the chance of causing a burn on the surface of the skin. Having a device that can generate a high energy with a large spot size is critical for success with the minimization or elimination of complications.

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