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Q-switched laser

Q-switched lasers deliver intense energy in short pulses.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: June 26, 2012

Q-switched lasers are a broad class of laser devices used to improve discolored skin disclorations, like freckles, age spots, melasma, even tattoos.

Q-switched lasers deliver intense energy in short pulses. The Q-switched ruby laser (QSRL) was the first of its kind, operating at a wavelength of 694nm.

Today, the Q-switched Nd:YAG (532 and 1064nm) and the Q-switched alexandrite (755nm) have become mainstays of cosmetic laser treatment. Each Q-switched laser targets a different discoloration or hue of tattoo ink, so more than one type of Q-switched laser may be required if your skin issues are complex.

What It's Good For

Q-switched lasers treat age spots, freckles, and unwanted tattoos. They are ideal for erasing cafe-au-lait macules - pale brown birthmarks. The alexandrite may also target unwanted hair and are safe for treatment of the face, chest, hands, and arms.

Permanent makeup (a type of tattoo) can also be removed using Q-switched lasers.

Who it works for: Each Q-switched laser has a different ideal user. The Q-switched ruby laser is best for tattoo removal on light-skinned patients, whereas the Q-switched Nd:YAG has a longer wavelength, making it one of the few devices that can safely treat dark skinned patients.

Fitzpatrick type IV and higher (Jennifer Lopez to Jennifer Hudson) may also be treated with the Q-switched alexandrite laser.

Nevertheless used on tan, olive, and brown skin, the Q-switched Nd:YAG and alexandrite should be used with caution and by an experienced practitioner.

Recommended age range: Q-switched lasers are safe for patients of all ages.

When will I see results?: Age spots can usually be removed after a single treatment. Tattoos aren't so simple, and generally require between three and 10 treatments. The speed at which a tattoo can be lightened depends on the colors used and how far under the skin the ink has migrated.

Q-switched laser appointments can be spaced four to eight weeks apart, based on how your skin reacts.

How long it lasts: Results are permanent.

Key benefits of Q-switched laser: Technicolor tattoos may benefit from a combination of Q-switched lasers, each of which targets a specific ink tone.

Licensed uses: There are numerous Q-switched lasers approved for spot removal and tattoo erasure. Ask your physician which device he or she plans to use for your skin.

Find experts who offer Q-switched laser near you