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Why Laser Wavelengths Matter for Removing Tattoos


Q-switched tattoo removal laser wavelengthsJust as every patient is different, every tattoo that undergoes laser tattoo removal is unique.

Expert laser practitioners want to be able to remove any tattoo, regardless of the colors of ink in the design – to do so, you'll need multiple laser wavelengths to get the job done.

Different laser wavelengths are needed to remove different colors of tattoo ink.

It is all based on the concept of light absorption – some tattoo pigments absorb some wavelengths of light better than others. To provide effective tattoo removal treatments, you'll want to make sure that the laser wavelengths you use are well-absorbed by the tattoo inks you're treating.


Our Goal = Absorption

Tattoo removal works by breaking up tattoo ink particles trapped in the skin. To achieve this, the laser is pulsed over the tattoo, directing light energy toward the ink. The energy is absorbed by the tattoo ink particles, which instantly shatter into tiny fragments.

If the ink doesn't absorb the laser light, the ink doesn't shatter... and the tattoo won't be removed.

787px-EM_spectrum.svgLight energy can either be visible or invisible, depending on its wavelength. When light energy is visible (with a wavelength between 390 nm and 700 nm), we see it as colored light.

Different objects absorb and reflect different wavelengths of light differently – and tattoo inks act the same way. For example, a red tattoo will absorb all of the colors of visible light in exception to red. The tattoo appears red to our eye because it reflects the color red and nothing else.

Therefore, if your goal is to shatter the ink in a red tattoo, you would not want to treat it with red light, since it would reflect all of the light and not absorb the energy.


Popular Wavelengths for Laser Tattoo Removal

The most widely used wavelengths for removing tattoos include 1064 nm, 532 nm, 694 nm, and 755 nm. Each of these wavelengths is capable of treating a specific set of tattoo ink colors:


Of these wavelengths, the most versatile and common are those produced by an Nd:YAG laser – 1064 nm and 532 nm.

Some laser companies offer laser machines that combine multiple laser wavelengths as a 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 system, like the Astanza Duality and Trinity. These systems are typically the systems of choice for serious practices as they allow for treatment versatility and greater efficacy.

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Nd:YAG Lasers | 1064 nm, 532 nm

Both 1064 nm and 532 nm wavelengths can be generated by an Nd:YAG laser.

red_crossThe 1064 nm wavelength is ideal for removing black or dark tattoos, as this wavelength of light energy very well absorbed by black ink. Since the most common ink color used by tattoo artists is black, the 1064 nm wavelength is the most commonly used laser wavelength for tattoo removal.

The 532 nm wavelength the most effective wavelength for red ink and other warm-toned colors, including violet, orange, yellow, and brown.

The Nd:YAG wavelengths of 1064 nm and 532 nm give the ability to treat a wide range of ink colors. In general, Nd:YAG lasers can treat 90 - 95% of tattoos, since red and black are the most popular tattoo ink colors. Both Nd:YAG wavelengths are safe on all skin types and allow for the most efficacious tattoo laser removal procedures available.


Ruby Lasers | 694 nm


The ruby laser wavelength of 694 nm, like the Astanza EternityTSR, is perfect for removing blue and green inks as well as their shades of teal, turquoise, lime green that would be difficult to remove with an Nd:YAG laser alone. 

In addition to treating these rarer tattoo colors, the 694 wavelength is also exceptional at removing resistant black inks.

Industry leaders tout laser systems that combine Nd:YAG laser technology with ruby laser technology for their versatility and ability to treat virtually all ink colors.


Alexandrite Lasers | 755 nm

Similar to the 694 nm wavelength from a ruby laser, the alexandrite laser's 755 nm wavelength is also a fine supplemental wavelength for treating green, blue, and black inks. 

Just like a ruby laser, an alexandrite laser is an exceptional wavelength to add-on to an Nd:YAG system, but alone does not allow for enough versatility to be the sole laser for a tattoo removal practice. Furthermore, buyer's should know that since the 755 nm wavelength is a red beam, it cannot treat red inks with any efficacy.


A Cautionary Note

There are some other wavelengths are used for tattoo removal – namely 585 nm and 650 nm. While these wavelengths also would be potentially good choices for removing blue and green inks, they cannot be produced with the same power as the other wavelengths mentioned in this article.

These wavelengths are created through the use of dye impregnated handpiece filters, which cause the energy levels to pale in comparison to those produced directly by a laser.  Having a 585 nm or 650 nm dye handpiece on your laser will fool you into thinking that you have a useful tool to remove a tattoo.  You'll hurt your reputation with patients if you tell them you can treat a tattoo that you really can't, so be careful before you pass on the hype.


Choosing the Right Wavelengths for Your Practice

Wavelength is one of the most important factors to consider when buying a laser machine. The capabilities of each wavelength are different, and it's important to have the tools to treat your patients' tattoos.

For practices looking to treat the full range of tattoo colors, it's important to have three full-powered wavelengths – 1064 nm for black inks, 532 nm for red and warm-toned inks, and either 694 nm or 755 nm for blue and green inks.

tattoo_removal_laser_wavelengthsFor more information on what to look for in a tattoo removal laser, visit this tattoo removal equipment buying guide.

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