The Connection between Laser Wavelengths & Removing a Tattoo

woman with tattoo on beach

Updated for 2018 – It used to be that only black and gray tattoos could be removed using laser tattoo removal, and even then only incompletely. However, laser technology has advanced so much in recent years that today virtually all colors and shades of tattoos respond well to lasers.

The trick, though, is that you must use the right wavelength of light to target and remove your tattoo. Here’s what you need to know in a nutshell about tattoo removal and different laser wavelengths.

How Laser Tattoo Removal Works

Laser tattoo removal works through a process called photothermolysis, which is the same process used for effective laser hair removal. During photothermolysis, a specific wavelength of laser light is needed in order to heat and break up the ink particles in your tattoo so that your body can then eliminate them.

Since your body needs some time to be able to process and eliminate these particles, multiple tattoo removal sessions are typically spaced 8 to 10 weeks apart.

The number of tattoo removal sessions you’ll need will depend on the size, location and saturation of your tattoo.

Choosing the Right Wavelength for Your Tattoo

Some of the most widely used wavelengths for color and black and grey tattoos are 1064 nm, 532 nm, 694 nm and 755 nm. Each laser wavelength can effectively target a specific set of ink colors. For example, a 1064 nm wavelength can target blue, green and black ink very well, but not red, yellow, orange or violet.

This is why many laser centers are switching to a more advanced laser that combines multiple wavelengths into one. For example, PicoWay® tattoo removal uses three different wavelengths of light, emitted in short picosecond pulses to break up the ink into even smaller particles more quickly.