Some laser tattoo removal science!
For the geeks amongst you, here’s a quick overview of the science behind the Q-Switched ND:YAG (neodymium-doped: yttrium aluminium garnet) laser tattoo removal system...
How it works
The Q-Switched ND: YAG is a highly effective and accurate short pulse laser that has become the gold standard for tattoo removal, skin rejuvenation treatments and age spot or birthmark removal.
In tattoo removal, the laser emits a pulse of light that is preferentially absorbed into different colours of ink, effectively removing them without causing residual scarring. It has the same effect on age spot and birthmark pigmentations.
The light pulse enters the skin at a speed that is much too fast to heat the tissues surrounding the ink (25 billionths of a second). It penetrates the outer layer of skin (epidermis) through to the dermis where the tattoo ink is found.
As the light reaches the ink, the heat transfers to the ink particles. The surface temperature of the ink can rise to thousands of degrees but this energy rapidly collapses into a shock wave.
The shock wave spreads through the dermis, causing it to vibrate and pulverizing the weakened ink particles into much smaller pieces. The skin tissues are largely unaffected by the vibration.
The rest is taken care of by the immune system, which identifies the tiny particles as invaders and sends specialised white blood cells called macrophages to whisk them away to the lymphatic system for elimination from the body.
Can you treat all colours?
No - no one laser can.
Light is measured in nanometers and the ND: YAG emits two light wavelengths - one is invisible infrared light (1064nm) and the other is visible green light (532nm). The infrared wavelength is absorbed into black and dark blue inks, and the green light is absorbed by red ink.
However, it is usually possible to achieve a good degree of fade on other colours, although white, yellow and bright colours can be difficult. This is not usually a problem, as lighter colours cover very easily, so if you want to cover an existing tattoo removing the darker colours will allow you a wider choice of size and colours for the cover-up design.
Why is it difficult to treat all colours?
The laser light will only see the colour of ink it is attracted to, as different wavelengths absorb into different things. It isn't possible to produce a laser that can see all colours.
Another reason is that all ink pigments contain certain levels of heavy metals. Some pigments may have a higher concentration of these than others, and the heavy metals can react with the laser light and carbonise in the skin, turning the ink black.
It is very difficult to remove the ink when this has happened, so if you or we have doubts about any colours you would like treating, we will perform a patch test for you to see if it is possible before proceeding.
How does Carbon Laser Skin Rejuvenation work?
Many laser skin treatments work by resurfacing the skin. They do this by vaporising a layer from the skin's surface, then transferring heat into the dermis of the skin to stimulate collagen regeneration.
However, these procedures are potentially damaging and have a substantial recovery time – it can take quite a while for the redness and swelling to subside.
Carbon laser skin treatment avoids this. The ND: YAG laser doesn’t blast away the top layer of skin, instead exfoliation is performed by a medical-grade carbon lotion applied to the skin for 15 minutes before the laser is used.
The laser is then used to break down the carbon lotion and heat the skin. The carbon absorbs dirt particles, exfoliates the skin and reduces the inflammation caused by spots or acne, while the laser induces reorganisation and regeneration of collagen in the dermis.
After treatment, skin is more radiant with a more even skin tone and there will be a noticeable improvement in fine lines and wrinkles.
A few sessions will be required before the same degree of improvement provided by the harsher laser procedures is achieved but improvements will be seen from the first session, and there is little or no recovery downtime.