Our expert says:
Hi Vee, thank you for the question.
The gold standard for tattoo removal are the Q-Switched lasers and the choice between lasers is typically dependent of the type of tattoo and the ink colors used:
Q-switched Ruby Laser (QSRL):
This laser emits a red light that is well absorbed by most amateur and professional tattoo ink colors except red and yellow. Dark blue and black inks respond best. The response of green tattoos is variable. Excellent results are observed, especially with amateur black tattoos. Amateur tattoos respond in fewer treatments compared to professional tattoos. The QSRL is also effective in treating medicinal and traumatic tattoos.
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.
Q-switched Alexandrite Laser:
This laser is comparable to the QSRL when it is used to treat tattoos, particularly when treating green tattoos. Up to 50% of patients can experience textural changes in their skin after treatment.
Flashlamp-pumped Pulsed Dye Laser:
With a wavelength of 510 nm, this laser does not penetrate into the deeper tattoos. However, it is effective for the treatment of brightly colored tattoos such as those that use red, purple, and orange inks. The major side effect of this laser is bruising.
The Q-switched Ruby is the most commonly used laser for tattoo removal. However, the Q-switched Nd: YAG has been recently discovered to be more effective on colored tattoos and darker pigmented skin. The beam of light penetrates deeper which increases the amount of damage done to the epidermis. As a result, the surface layers of skin sometimes retain a permanent "frosted" appearance. Research is still being conducted on which lasers are most effective, although it is generally acknowledged that a combination of all three Q-switched beams is necessary in most cases.
Side effects include discomfort during and after the procedure (local anesthetic does significantly help to reduce the discomfort), hyper and hypo pigmentation, irregular removal, scarring, and infection.
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