Laser Technology Behind Tattoo Removal and Hair Removal

Laser technology has become a game-changer in the world of cosmetic procedures, offering safe and effective solutions for various aesthetic concerns and desires. Two highly sought-after procedures that rely on advanced aesthetic laser technology are laser tattoo removal and laser hair removal. While it might be tempting to believe one laser device could effectively perform both procedures, the science behind advanced laser technology and how tattoo and hair removal work are vastly different. In this blog, we’ll explore the differences in advanced aesthetic laser technology for these two procedures and explain why one device is likely not the best solution to perform both laser tattoo removal and laser hair removal.

Understanding Aesthetic Laser Technology: The Basics

Before diving into the technical differences between these two types of laser machines, there are a few basic concepts to grasp first. Did you know “LASER” is an acronym? It stands for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” Lasers emit a concentrated light beam that can target specific pigments or chromophores within the skin. The laser’s energy is absorbed by the chromophores, transforming the light energy into heat. This localized heat can destroy the target, making it an effective tool for various cosmetic procedures.

It should also be noted that pulse duration or pulse width of the laser play an important role as well. For this, we rely on thermal relaxation time or TRT. TRT is the amount of time it takes for tissue or an object to lose 50% of its heat through diffusion. Thermal relaxation time varies directly to the size of the target substance: the smaller the target, the shorter the TRT and the larger the target, the longer the TRT.

How Laser Tattoo Removal Works

Laser machines for tattoo removal work in two ways: the chosen wavelength targets the pigment in the tattoo ink which heats up the particles and compromises their integrity, and then a mechanical effect from the high peak power takes place causing them to break up into smaller pieces with each session. Much like taking a rolling pin to a bag of crackers and smashing them. Then, the body eliminates the ink particles naturally through the lymphatic system. It is able to achieve this effect because of the high peak power and incredibly short pulse duration or pulse width of the laser’s design. This is necessary due to the small size of the target. Ink particle size ranges from 10 – 100 nm with a TRT of 10 nanoseconds (ns). This means the pulse duration needs to be below 80ns or risk damage to the surrounding tissue. Different wavelengths are also required to target specific tattoo ink colors effectively.

Most tattoo removal devices are Q-Switched Nd:YAG or Ruby lasers and can perform tattoo removal on about 90%+ of tattoos. Most aesthetic lasers that perform tattoo removal utilize two wavelengths: 1064 nm and 532 nm. The most common wavelength, 1064 nm, removes darker ink colors and pigments such as black and brown. The 532 nm wavelength is ideal for treating warm tattoo ink colors like red, orange, and yellow.

The Astanza Duality Signature is the perfect example of a powerful dual-wavelength laser that is FDA-cleared to perform laser tattoo removal, as well as benign pigmented lesions and skin resurfacing (when purchasing the additional microbeam handpieces available with the laser).

For the more unique and harder-to-remove ink colors, such as blues and greens, a third wavelength (694 nm) is required to treat these pigments effectively. Lasers that emit 694 nm are ruby lasers, like the EternityTSR, for example, which utilize a ruby crystal to create the wavelength necessary for more stubborn ink colors and pigments.

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The pigments in the tattoo ink absorb the color of light that is on the opposite side of the color wheel. For example, you see the 532 nm indication near the greens of the color wheel – this wavelength appears green to the human eye and targets red, orange, and yellow colors located on the opposite side of the color wheel. The same principle applies when looking at the ruby laser wavelength of 694 nm and how it targets the blue and green colors.



How Laser Hair Removal Works

Hair removal lasers are designed to target the melanin chromophore within hair. Melanin is the pigment responsible for hair, skin, and eye color and can effectively absorb specific wavelengths of laser energy. The heat generated by the aesthetic laser targets, heats up and destroys the hair follicle, inhibiting future hair growth. To appropriately destroy the hair follicle, the emission of the laser energy (pulse duration) needs to be long enough to heat the target, and the hair must be treated during the anagen phase, also known as the active growth phase. Since all body hair grows at varying stages, multiple treatments are required to achieve complete laser hair removal to ensure all the hair in the desired area is treated during an anagen phase. This is much unlike tattoo removal because the size of the target for hair is significantly larger (10 – 200 micrometers) than the ink particles of a tattoo. The pulse duration of a hair removal device is typically 80 – 150 milliseconds.

Not all hair removal lasers are created equally; some laser technology systems are more efficient and safer than others. Alexandrite, Nd:YAG, and diode lasers are the most common types of lasers used for hair removal. IPL devices, which aren’t technically “lasers” but rather a broad-spectrum light-based system, are also a common type of device used for hair removal. Learn more about the difference in IPL vs. diode laser technology for hair removal here.

As shown in the graphic earlier in this article, the visible light spectrum is about 400 to 700 nm, and infrared is around 700 to 1400 nm. Shorter wavelengths, such as 755 – 810 nm, can treat lighter hair colors, while longer wavelengths (900 nm+) can treat darker skin and hair types. Practitioners need to keep in mind that the specific wavelength they choose may be important for targeting the hair follicle but can cause unnecessary damage to the surrounding skin on darker Fitzpatrick skin types. It is also important to take into account the possibility of exceptional hemoglobin and melanin absorption from broader wavelength spectrums such as those in IPL devices.

The Asclepion MeDioStar®, backed by Astanza, is a diode hair removal laser that blends two wavelengths: 810 nm and 940 nm. This advanced technology is what makes the MeDioStar® safe and effective on all Fitzpatrick skin types, including newly tanned skin, while offering exceptional laser hair removal results.
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Can One Laser Device Perform Both Tattoo Removal and Hair Removal?

So, can one aesthetic laser device safely and effectively perform both tattoo removal and hair removal? Short answer: Technically, yes. BUT – this is only if the system’s pulse duration can be adjusted to accommodate the target. Most multi-modal laser devices feature multiple handpieces to accommodate the specifications of the procedure. Laser systems that are designed with interchangeable handpieces have adjustable settings that create the ability to provide multiple dermatological services.

However, there are other factors necessary to take into account, and just because you can provide both tattoo removal and hair removal with one device doesn’t mean you should. Many times, manufacturers have to sacrifice the quality of the energy output to allow for multiple treatment capabilities, and it’s not always done well. The compromise is you get a laser system that does many things “okay” but not one thing “great”. An example to visualize this is opening a can. While you can technically open a can with a hammer and a screwdriver, you may encounter unnecessary consequences, such as injuring yourself or damaging the can. It’s best to use the tool specifically designed to open the can – a can opener. This is why we recommend using tattoo removal lasers to provide tattoo removal and hair removal lasers to provide hair removal.

Choosing the Best Laser Technology for Your Business

Effective, professional care relies on the right tool for the right job, including choosing the best aesthetic laser device for your business. Whether you’re interested in offering laser tattoo or hair removal services or have questions about starting an aesthetic laser business, contact Astanza today! Our award-winning team of experts in the industry is here to guide you every step of the way.

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