Unless you’ve thoroughly researched laser tattoo removal, you probably won’t know that lasers handle different ink colors differently. Lasers emit light at certain wavelengths, and specific wavelengths break up some colors of ink much more effectively than others. At Eraser Clinic we are proud to be the only clinic to offer three powerful wavelengths, which allows us to treat any color of ink and any color of skin.
Many of our competitor tattoo removal clinics use “dye handpieces” to simulate different wavelengths. These dye handpieces — also called “dye-impregnated polymer attachments” — seem at first like a helpful advance in laser technology. However, they offer some major drawbacks that you should know about before allowing a clinic to use one on your tattoos.
Understanding Laser Wavelengths
To understand why dye handpieces are vastly inferior for tattoo removal, it helps to understand how they work in the first place.
The lasers used to remove tattoos aren’t just bright lights. Lasers output light at specific wavelengths (the distance between two “peaks” or “troughs” in the “wave” of light). When the light from the laser reaches the tattoo ink particles, the particles break into tiny pieces which are then flushed away by your immune system.
The challenge is that different ink colors respond to different wavelengths. Dark colors like black respond well to the 1064nm wavelength; blues and greens and browns respond well to the 694nm wavelength; and reds and oranges and yellows respond well to the 532nm wavelength.
Unfortunately, one laser cannot produce all of these wavelengths. Enter dye handpieces. These handpieces are, in effect, attachments that fit over a 1064 nm laser to change the wavelength to work on multiple colors. Dye handpieces are usually used to achieve 585 nm or 650 nm wavelengths — appropriate wavelengths to treat blue and greens. Unfortunately, these handpieces also have a number of drawbacks that prevent them from being as effective as a dedicated laser.
The Drawbacks of Dye Handpieces
Dye handpieces have a very clear benefit — they allow a tattoo clinic to treat your tattoo with multiple wavelengths using just a single laser. However, their drawbacks keep them from being worth the savings.
First, dye handpieces reduce the power of the laser considerably. Because they alter the wavelength of the laser after the light is generated, they cause most of the power to be wasted — either refracted into unusable wavelengths or converted into heat. This, in turn, means the laser is weaker and less able to break up ink particles or penetrate deep into your skin.
Second, dye handpieces create a smaller useable spot size compared to a dedicated laser. Most dye handpieces create a beam only 2×2 millimeters across (just one-sixteenth the size of our ruby laser spot size!). That means every treatment with a dye handpiece requires sixteen times as many pulses to treat an area of the same size. It also means the laser has trouble targeting past the outer layer of skin, making deep or stubborn tattoos almost impossible to treat.
Third, dye handpieces have a lower repeat rate — the number of times the laser can pulse in a second. Lower repeat rates mean longer, more drawn-out treatments. Combined with the smaller spot size of a dye handpiece, dedicated-wavelength lasers can be up to 32 times faster.
Fourth, dye handpieces are an expensive consumable part for tattoo removal clinics, which explains why many clinics don’t use them at all or charge much higher prices when they need to use them.
In short, dye handpiece treatment might seem like a good way to remove a stubborn or unusually-colored tattoo. However, dye handpiece treatments often take longer, require more sessions, are less effective overall, and are more expensive than treatment with a dedicated laser. Needless to say, we will never use a dye handpiece laser on your tattoo.
At Eraser Clinic we are the tattoo removal experts. We offer free consultations and will happily answer any questions you may have about laser tattoo removal. So book your Free Consultation with us today at our locations in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston!