How Q-Switched Lasers Are Used

Laser Used for Tattoo and Pigment Removal

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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.

This article will review the use of the Q-switched laser, the various types, and how they are used for tattoo removal.

Woman getting tattoo removed
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Uses

Q-Switched lasers can 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.

Q-Switched lasers are used for many conditions, including:

  • Tattoo removal
  • Treatment of onychomycosis (toenail fungus)
  • Pigmented lesions such as age spots, sunspots, birthmarks, freckles, moles, and café-au-lait spots
  • Vascular lesions such as spider veins, telangiectasias, angiomas, and 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:

Type of Laser and Color Removal
 Laser Type Colors
Nd: YAG laser  Black Blue Red Orange
 Ruby laser Black Blue Green
Alexandrite laser Black Blue Green

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 it, 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. Laser treatments are typically done every six weeks. Depending upon the size and color of the tattoo, multiple sessions may be needed.

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

Summary

Q-switched lasers are a commonly used laser to help treat many skin conditions, from pigment changes to tattoo removal. The type of laser and the wavelength given is dependent upon each person and the reason they are having laser treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Q-switched laser therapy can be an effective treatment for your skin condition or tattoo removal. Whatever the reason, be sure to ask your healthcare provider about any questions you may have about the procedure, and any special instructions you need to follow to get the best outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many session of Q-switch laser do I need?

    How many sessions you need varies depending upon the reason you're getting the laser treatment. For example, using a Q-switched laser to treat toenail fungus may only take two treatments. Tattoo removal with a Q-switched laser may take six or more treatments.

  • Is Pico laser and Q-switch laser the same?

    They are similar but not the same. The amount of time the laser is administered is how the Pico laser got its name. It has been shown that picosecond lasers may be more effective than nanosecond lasers (like the Q-switched).

  • Are Q-switch laser results permanent?

    Yes, the results of a Q-switched laser are permanent.

  • How long does it take to heal from the Q-switch laser?

    Healing times may vary depending upon the procedure the Q-switched laser is used for, but generally takes a few weeks.

6 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. doi:10.3390/jof1010044

  4. Patil UA, Dhami LD. Overview of lasers. Indian J Plast Surg. 2008;41(Suppl):S101-S113.

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

  6. 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

By Julie Scott, MSN, ANP-BC, AOCNP
Julie is an Adult Nurse Practitioner with oncology certification and a healthcare freelance writer with an interest in educating patients and the healthcare community.

Originally written by Natalie Kita