Sub 6ns active Q switch lasers
Technology rarely stands still for too long and the main stream for tattoo removal lasers now exists in the 1ns to <6ns range. The lower cost version of these are the gun type of laser. These work very well for black, dark blue and red tattoos, which still covers a significant majority of all tattoos, but are not best suited to the addition of dye tips. There is an argument that as the pulse width approaches 1ns (1000ps) the increase in the Photo Accoustic effect makes the use of dye tips redundant.
The alternative is a laser with the bulk of the mechanism in the main body of the laser and the laser beam is then delivered through an articulated light pipe. The downside is that it involves a lot of precision engineering and optics which are expensive.
The main advantage is that the treatment head becomes wonderfully light to use and the laser is easier to cool and can therefore be made more powerful.
The other advantage is that this type of laser is more easily fitted with dye tips to produce other wavelengths e.g. 585nm for treating light blue and 650nm for treating green tattoos. These dye tips do absorb some of the light and increase the length of the treatment head, hence why they tend to be associated with the articulated arm type of laser.
At the time of writing, both the gun type and articulated arm type are available from 6ns down to 1ns or 1000ps and it is this area that is the sweet spot for tattoo removal lasers (August 2018).
Our recommendation, would be either
a) A <6ns laser with articulated arm that can take dye tips. These just plug in when required and can typically be purchased later to spread the cost.
b) A 1000ps laser has less need for dye tips. In this category the articulated arm version, although more expensive, can be more easily retrofitted with dye tips for even better clearance of all colours.
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Pico second Lasers
Pico second lasers with pulse widths of less than 500ps produce a very strong Photo Acoustic effect and are much less colour dependant. However they are expensive.
The picosecond lasers can remove the tattoos more quickly and at present, clinics are charging twice the price for treatments with a picosecond laser. The problem is twice the price coupled with half the number of treatments = the same revenue per client.
Picosecond lasers do however, have one or two other advantages:
- If used correctly they affect the surrounding tissue less.
- They can clear some of the more stubborn colours better.
- In many cases they can achieve a more complete clearance.
- Pico second lasers represent the cutting edge of current tattoo removal technology and as such offer significant bragging rights to a clinic seeking to raise its profile.