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How Laser Tattoo Removal Actually Works: A Q&A

How Laser Tattoo Removal Actually Works: A Q&A

We decided to pick the brains of our laser engineer, Fraser. Fraser has a master’s degree in Physics from King’s College London, where he specialised in laser-matter interactions. He’s the guy focussed on making sure NAAMA's Lightsense laser system is as effective as it possibly can be. We like to call him Fraser Laser.


What’s a laser and how does it remove my tattoo?

To understand how to remove a tattoo, you have to first understand what a tattoo is.


OK. How elusive.
So what exactly is a tattoo?

A tattoo is ink injected into the dermis (the second layer of the skin). The body naturally attacks the ink - your body will always try and get rid of any toxins, because they’re essentially foreign things. The reason tattoos are permanent is because ink pigments are much larger than white blood cells, so they don’t really have much luck shifting the pigments.


And what’s a laser?

A laser is a type of light-source that’s especially good at carrying energy. You’ll see it in laser pointers (used in anything from auditoriums to rifles). Lasers can also remove hair, fix eyesight, and scan barcodes. But of course, these aren’t all the same. Some lasers are pulsed (they deliver lots of energy in short bursts).


So what kind of laser is used to remove ink?

The pulsed kind. There are a few different types, and they work in slightly varying ways. They’re all ultimately trying to do the same thing, though - break down the ink pigments so that they’re small enough for the body to process them.


So how do they do that?

When a laser hits your skin, it passes through the top layer and reaches the dermis (where the tattoo ink is held). When it hits the tattoo ink, it transfers energy to the ink pigments, which breaks them down.


OK, ok. And tell us, what are the other lasers like that remove tattoos?

There’s the Q switch - these lasers repeatedly transfer energy to the ink pigments, which expand and eventually break apart. (This is what causes blistering and scarring - having heat trapped in your skin). Then there’s ‘Pico’ lasers - which pulse even faster, repeatedly transferring energy. This causes shockwaves in the skin (called a photoacoustic effect) which shatter the ink pigments. Lots of heat gets trapped in the skin because of the high energy used - causing damage.


And what about NAAMA’s new Lightsense technology - what does that do?

Our lasers pulse at a much quicker rate than any of the existing technology out there, but using far, far less energy. This means we don’t cause long term damage to the skin.


Less energy.
Does that mean it does less?

Nope - molecules need a very specific amount of energy. We target molecules more precisely, with the right levels of energy, rather than too much energy. It also means they remove more quickly, because we can treat them regularly (like, every couple of weeks).

 

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