How Q-Switched Lasers Are Used

Laser Used for Tattoo and Pigment Removal

A quality-switched laser (Q-Switched) is a non-invasive laser that creates high-intensity pulsed beam light. The Q-Switched laser beam pulses last a mere billionth of a second. The energy emitted from a Q-switched laser is concentrated into very powerful pulses.

Woman getting tattoo removed
mkrberlin / Getty Images

Q-Switched lasers are able to shatter tiny fragments of pigmentation or ink, stimulate collagen production or kill fungus. Because their contact with the skin is less than other lasers, Q-Switched lasers are known for not damaging surrounding tissue and causing unwanted side effects.

With advanced technology, Q-Switched lasers are used for many conditions, including the following:

  • Tattoo removal
  • Treatment of onychomycosis (toenail fungus)
  • Age spots
  • Sunspots
  • Birthmarks
  • Freckles
  • Moles
  • Spider veins
  • Café-au-lait spots
  • Telangiectasia
  • Angiomas
  • Port wine stains
  • Skin rejuvenation

Types of Q-Switched Lasers

There are several types of Q-Switched lasers. The crystal rods inside the lasers differentiate the lasers. The rods allow the Q-Switched lasers to produce different wavelengths. These variable wavelengths determine what the Q-Switched laser will be used for.

Some of the Q-Switched lasers include:

  • Q-Switched Nd: YAG Laser is used mostly for non-ablative skin rejuvenation, darkened scars, brown birthmarks. It is recognized for its ability to remove a wide range of tattoo colors.
  • Ruby Laser is used to remove rare tattoo colors like lime green and sky blue.
  • Alexandrite Laser is used for brown spots, sun spots, darkened scars, brown birthmarks, melasma and its ability to remove black ink tattoos and rare tattoo colors like lime green and sky blue.

While every patient is different, each tattoo that is undergoing removal is different. Different laser wavelengths are required to remove different colors of tattoo ink.

The Q-Switched Laser Tattoo Removal Process

Laser tattoo removal is the only method proven to remove tattoos without scarring. To remove a tattoo, the Q-Switched laser is pulsed over the tattoo, directing its light energy towards the ink. The energy is absorbed by the ink particles which then shatter into tiny fragments.

In the days following the laser procedure, the body’s immune system will flush away the shattered ink particles and cause the tattoo to fade. With more treatments, more ink will be shattered leaving the skin free of the tattoo.

Only Q-Switched lasers are able to produce the amount of energy to remove both dark and bright tattoos without scarring.

Was this page helpful?
10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sardana K, Ranjan R, Ghunawat S. Optimising laser tattoo removal. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2015;8(1):16–24. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.155068

  2. Barua S. Laser-tissue interaction in tattoo removal by q-switched lasersJ Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2015;8(1):5–8. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.155063

  3. Liddell LT, Rosen T. Laser Therapy for Onychomycosis: Fact or Fiction?J Fungi (Basel). 2015;1(1):44–54. Published 2015 Apr 3. doi:10.3390/jof1010044

  4. Goldberg DJ, Meine JG. Treatment of facial telangiectases with the diode-pumped frequency-doubled Q-switched Nd:YAG laser. Dermatol Surg. 1998;24(8):828-32. doi:10.1111/j.1524-4725.1998.tb04259.x

  5. Patil UA, Dhami LD. Overview of lasersIndian J Plast Surg. PMID: 20174534

  6. Trivedi MK, Yang FC, Cho BK. A review of laser and light therapy in melasmaInt J Womens Dermatol. 2017;3(1):11–20. Published 2017 Mar 21. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2017.01.004

  7. Bernstein EF. Laser tattoo removalSemin Plast Surg. 2007;21(3):175–192. doi:10.1055/s-2007-991186

  8. Husain Z, Alster TS. The role of lasers and intense pulsed light technology in dermatologyClin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016;9:29–40. Published 2016 Feb 4. doi:10.2147/CCID.S69106

  9. Ho SG, Goh CL. Laser tattoo removal: a clinical updateJ Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2015;8(1):9–15. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.155066

  10. Khunger N, Molpariya A, Khunger A. Complications of Tattoos and Tattoo Removal: Stop and Think Before you inkJ Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2015;8(1):30–36. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.155072