How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?


Have you ever wondered how laser tattoo removal works? We explain the science behind Quantum Discovery Pico laser technology (used by Next Level Clinic) and how it is used to remove tattoo ink. To understand this process, you first need to know how tattoos are created.

How tattoos are applied to the skin

Using a mechanised needle, a tattoo artist punctures the skin and injects ink into it. The needle repeatedly and rapidly pricks the skin, dragging the ink down into the dermis – the second layer of skin just below the epidermis. The ink in a professional tattoo is inserted more uniformly beneath the skin than in an amateur one, which is applied at varying depths. Why does the ink have to be placed in the dermis? Because the outer skin cells of the epidermis are continually dying and shedding; if it were applied into the epidermis the tattoo would disappear after a few weeks.

The skin is essentially wounded by these thousands of tiny needle pricks and the ink particles are immediately treated by the body’s immune system as a foreign object. The body’s inflammatory response begins it sends special cells called microphages – a type of white blood cell – to the site of the tattoo to engulf the foreign ink particles and dispose of them via the lymphatic system. This engulfing and elimination of foreign objects is called phagocytosis. However, most of the tattoo ink particles engulfed by the microphages are too large to be expelled. These then remain ‘trapped’ in the dermis, and the ink stays visible forever. That is why tattoos are permanent.

How laser tattoo removal works

The Discovery Pico Laser Machine is the first “second generation” picosecond Nd:YAG laser for tattoo removal, pigmented lesions and skin resurfacing/rejuvenation treatments. Next Level Clinic is proud to be one of few Clinics in Australia to offer this revolutionary technology to clients.

This laser series includes up to three wavelengths, 532 nm – 1064 nm – 694 nm, high peak power and up to four emission modes to combine maximum operating performances with the widest range of treatments. The Laser generates a pure photoacoustic effect to shatter inks in the dermis. This picosecond laser, thanks to its shorter pulse durations and high peak power can effectively pulverize even the deepest skin pigments and large spots.

Discovery Pico Laser Machine is the first “second generation” picosecond Nd:YAG laser for tattoo removal

The tattoo pigment absorbs this energy and breaks down into tiny fragments. Because the Pico Laser is so short it is incredibly precise, and the surrounding tissue is not heated up. The shockwave created when the laser energy hits the tattoo pigment and shatters it is called the photomechanical effect. The fragmented particles of ink are then small enough for the skin’s immune system to absorb and are expelled initially via the bloodstream and then though the lymphatic system. The tattoo starts to fade over the subsequent days and weeks following treatment.

Laser treatment is safe and highly effective, but several treatments are needed for complete removal of a tattoo. Typically, laser treatment sessions are spaced at about 8 weeks apart. This is to give the body’s lymphatic system time to flush away the fragmented ink particles. The number of total sessions required to fully remove the tattoo depends on many factors and is not always straightforward to predict.

Different tattoo pigment colours absorb specific wavelengths of light on the spectrum. Consequently, different lasers are needed for different tattoo colours. Multi-coloured tattoos will therefore require treatment with two or more laser wavelengths. Black is the easiest pigment to remove because it absorbs all wavelengths and can be treated by almost any laser.

Discovery Pico Plus Laser System can operate in three wavelength modes:

  • ND:YAG 1064 NM
  • ND:YAG 532 NM
  • RUBY 694 NM

Watch our Tattoo Removal video

If you are trying to choose a suitable tattoo removal clinic, the laser machine being used is a very important factor.

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