Tattoo Removal

Best Tattoo Removal Laser 2021: Enlighten vs PicoWay vs PicoSure

By Med Quest

The thing you said would never happen, happened. 

That symbol from your wilder days makes you blush every time you see it. 

That long-term relationship didn't actually last forever. Now, you have a reminder glaring back at you every time you step out of the shower. 

Those music lyrics that a younger version of yourself thought were so deep are bothering you. They're distracting during work, and bring attention to you during the holidays.

You've thought it over, and are ready to consider laser tattoo removal. Where do you begin? How does it work? Are there different kinds of laser removal devices?  

As experts of the tattoo removal experience, we'll walk you through the most popular options: Enlighten vs. PicoWay vs. PicoSure.



How Does Tattoo Removal Work? 

Tattoo removal uses the right laser to heat, displace and dissolve ink particles on the skin. The laser works over multiple sessions to fade the pigment that was permanently applied during the tattoo session. 

There are a few different factors that contribute to the success of a removal: 

  • Age of the tattoo
  • Ink color
  • Ink density
  • Where the tattoo is placed
A before and after image of a tattoo being almost completely removed after just one session of Enlighten 3 tattoo removal at Miami Ink Off

Regardless of laser type, most sessions follow the same three steps. 

First, the technician will take a look at the ink and select the right tool. This will depend on the size of the tattoo and the pigment type. The right tool will break them down quickly and thoroughly.

Once the laser starts to work, direct energy shatters the ink into tiny particles. At that point, those particles are no longer bonded to the skin. 

Once dissipated, the body removes the ink through the body's natural healing processes of the lymphatic and waste system. This is why it is important to stay hydrated. 

Industry-Leading Technology 

Specialists have been using lasers for tattoo removal since the 1970s. Early technology was painful and imperfect. Even so, it was an improvement to the steps people usually took for tattoo removal. Early tattoo removal included:

  • Food and excrement injection
  • Excision
  • Cryotherapy
  • Chemical burns
  • Dermabrasion (removing layers of skin through exfoliating)


These procedures were also painful and often caused scarring. 

Once laser removal was invented, scientists worked tirelessly to improve the user experience. 

Because the original lasers caused scarring and permanent damage to patients skin, it became necessary to develop technology that was safe for the public. Statistics suggest that tattoo removal clinics have grown by over 400% in the last decade. This makes safe technology even more important. 

Luckily, technology has improved beyond burning, surgical excision, and the "scraping" of skin tissue. Newer lasers ensure that difficult pigments like blues and greens can be easier to lighten.

Depending on the system, fewer treatments are necessary. What was once a very painful procedure is becoming less and less painful. Technology is proving that a tattoo does not have to be something a person lives with forever.

The First Laser: Q-Switched Lasers

Q-Switched laser technology became widely available in the 1990s. They produced intense strobes of energy that could break down and shatter the pigments without damaging the surrounding skin.

Important things to consider with the Q-Switched laser system: 

  • Painful process
  • Potential for sensitive, damaged skin that is sensitive to sunlight
  • Long healing time due to the burns that occur on the skin
  • Likely pigmentation and discoloration
  • Scaring

Luckily, science always has a way of improving a technology's weakness.  

Picoseconds and Nanoseconds

Scientists created the picosecond and nanosecond lasers as a result of Q-Switched laser limitations. Scientists then created the nanosecond laser as an improvement on the picosecond laser. 

Picoseconds and nanoseconds are measurements of seconds. A nanosecond is one-billionth of a second (shorter than a blink); a picosecond is one-trillionth of a second. 

A nanosecond laser uses primarily heat to break up ink on the body. Because it needs longer contact with the skin, it is more painful. A nanosecond laser has the potential to cause more damage to the skin tissue. Because nanosecond laser clients need longer recovery in between sessions, it is consistently a lengthy, expensive, and outdated technology. 

To improve on recovery time, the picosecond laser was developed as an improvement on the nanosecond laser. Due to its speed, it can break pigment up into smaller particles than the nanosecond laser. 

The smaller the particle, the easier it is for the immune system to move out of the body through the bloodstream. Once broken up and on the move, these particles are flushed out through the waste system. 

In laser tattoo removal, any laser exposure under thirty nanoseconds is considered safe. This is because increased exposure to laser technology can cause:

  • Permanent changes to the skin
  • Thermal burn
  • Risk for genetic mutation.


For all colors, a picosecond laser tends to perform better than a nanosecond laser. There is, however, the potential for success with both technologies. Technicians can even switch back and forth between the two for the best outcome. 

Popular Tattoo Removal Devices

Without proper research, you risk accepting treatment with an outdated heat laser. An outdated heat laser can cause scarring and burns on the skin.  Utilizing the new tattoo removal technology of 2021 can help to avoid this unsavory side-effect. 

The three most common tattoo removal devices are PicoWay lasers, PicoSure lasers, and Enlighten lasers.  

PicoSure

A pictur eof the PicoSure Tattoo Removal Laser Device

The PicoSure laser system was developed as a first-generation picosecond technology. It was designed as an improvement on Q-switched technology. It is the first laser to combine heat with vibrations. 

Scientists were delighted to build a tool that depended on vibrations and gentle pressure waves rather than just painful heat. Benefits included: 

  • Improvement on previous laser technology 
  • Increased collagen and elastin production 
  • Slight photo-acoustic effects 

Though a huge improvement on the existing tattoo removal technology, it's important for a client to be aware of shortcomings. Perceived flaws include: 

  • Trouble targeting red and darker tones on the skin
  • Still uses photothermal technology, which means more heat

Many tattoo removal services still use the PicoSure system. 

A Before and After image of a tattoo being partially removed using the PicoWay tattoo removal laser

PicoSure

A picture of the PicoSure Tattoo Removal Device

As an improvement to the PicoSure system, the PicoWay laser system was invented after two years of improvements. 

Because it uses additional wavelengths, the PicoWay works quicker and is less painful than its predecessor. 

There is less burning and scarring than the original PicoSure system. 

A Before and after picture of a tattoo being partially removed after 5 sessions by the PicoSure Tattoo Removal Laser

Enlighten

Enlighten technology was originally introduced in 2015. It is the first FDA-approved laser to use nanosecond and picosecond laser pulse durations for removing tattoos and treating tattoos. It combines the best of the PicoWay and PicoSure technology and adds newer innovations to improve the customer experience. 

The Enlighten 3 laser uses both heat and vibrations to break up a client's ink. With multiple laser types at work, variations in pigment are successfully treated. Enlighten is capable of removing multiple pigment types. 

Because of this, specialists can work with their client to ensure the least amount of follow-up appointments possible. This is great news for clients with the most challenging colors (yellow, purple, and turquoise dyes) and varying densities in shading. 

With just one button on a touch screen, the Enlighten system can increase wave speed from picoseconds to two nanoseconds. Because it uses minimal heat to break down particles, the Enlighten technology requires fewer treatments. It is less painful than the typical picosecond removal.

With the newest versions of Enlighten, technicians use their discretion to decide which laser type to use. In addition to the nanosecond and picosecond technology, the Enlighten III includes a third wavelength and adjustable laser settings.


Which Should You Choose? 

Remember-- your tattoo was intended to be permanent. The removal process will take time and patience in order to ensure optimal results. 

There is, however, a way to ensure the least amount of follow-up appointments as possible. As a client of laser tattoo removal, the best thing you can do is choose one with a great track record. When it comes to comparing Enlighten vs. PicoWay and Enlighten vs. PicoSure, we recommend the Enlighten III laser machine for tattoo removal. 

The Enlighten III Laser is an improvement on earlier models.  It actually combines the technology. It is the only laser of its kind to include as much technology in one tool. 

It is also safe to use on many skin types. This means there is less of a risk for two different kinds of skin damage: 

  • hyper-pigmentation
  • hypo-pigmentation

Including lidocaine injections, Enlighten III sessions usually take 10-15 minutes at a time. On average, this system takes 4-6 sessions. Furthermore, It is the least likely to cause scarring of all the different tattoo removal lasers. 

Book a Consultation

When it comes to efficient technology, the Enlighten III Laser is the best tattoo laser of 2021. The laser delivers on the client's desire to reduce session quantity and duration.  

Have an unsightly tattoo you'd like completely removed? Request an Enlighten III consultation, and look forward to a future free of at least one less mistake. 

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