How Do Cosmetic Lasers Work?

Cosmetic laser surgery works by heating tissue. Laser generated heat can be used to vaporize or remove unwanted skin tissue like a skin wrinkle. Heat can also be used to stimulate the new growth of tissue for example new collagen in the skin. What is so special about this technique is that the heat produced can be very specifically and accurately directed to heat only the tissue that is to be removed or affected, and not heat the normal surrounding tissues that are to be left in place.

The specificity or accuracy of this tissue heating is based on the fact that laser light is monochromatic, that is of one color, depending on the particular wavelength used. This light is also coherent, which means it is uniform, and this coherence or focusing of this light makes the beam very powerful.

A laser beam can be directed to heat and destroy a very specifically colored skin target such as a red blood vessel. A red laser beam with a wavelength of 532nm (nm is the abbreviation for nanometer which is one billionth of a meter and is a term used to describe the laser wavelength of light in the visible light spectrum) which is in the red portion of the visible light spectrum, will be absorbed by anything that is red. When the 532nm beam is applied to a blood vessel which contains red blood, the blood is heated, the blood boils and injures the blood vessel wall, and the blood vessel closes. This is how cosmetic laser surgery is used to remove spider veins on the leg, small blood vessels on the face, and the small blood vessels that cause Rosacea.

This process is called target specific photothermolysis. What this means is that the light beam can heat and destroy or change a very specific target based on its color. Photothermolysis means light (photo) heat (thermo) disintegrate or dissolve (lysis).

For you techies, the word laser stands for Light wave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. These amplified light beams are very powerful (amplified) light beams (radiation) that is emitted (emission) from a tube which is designed to create one specific color or wavelength of light. A complex electrical method is used to stimulate (stimulated) the light into a powerful amplified state. Cosmetic surgical lasers are designed to emit or produce specific colors which are highly and specifically absorbed by different tissues of the human body.

What Wavelengths Are Used In Cosmetic Laser Surgery?

There are hundreds of different laser wavelengths that can be tuned to vaporize very specifically colored biologic targets on the human body. The color of hair, blood vessels, tattoos, veins, arteries, pigment in brown spots and other colors can each be specifically targeted best by one particular laser wavelength. The trick is to produce the specific wavelength that is needed for the application you desire. Some common wavelengths used in cosmetic laser surgery are: 532nm-Absorbed by red-purple-used to vaporize blood vessels and spider veins and red tattoos

755nm-Absorbed by brown-black and used for hair removal and tattoo removal

924nm- The 924nm is absorbed by the color yellow and is used to dissolve fat during liposuction

1064nm-Absorbed by water and used for hair removal, closure of large veins, and in laser liposuction

1308-Absorbed by fat and used in Laser liposuction

1440nm and 1540nm-Erbium absorbed by water and used to coagulate deep collagen in the skin to stimulate new collagen and plump skin wrinkles and acne scars

2940nm-Erbium absorbed by water, vaporizes cells, used to resurface the skin and remove wrinkles

10,000nm-CO2 absorbed by water inside the skin cells, ruptures the skin cell, used for incisions and to vaporize skin growths