What is PicoSure laser?

PicoSure is a versatile, FDA-cleared laser that was originally used in dermatology to remove unwanted tattoos. More recently, it has emerged as a popular no-downtime skin rejuvenation treatment, which gently but effectively treats pigmentation concerns, fine lines, and acne scars.

This time-tested laser uses “pigment-seeking technology” to locate hyperpigmentation or ink. The device converts laser light energy into short, controlled pulses of pressure that break down excess melanin and tattoo pigment into more easily absorbed particles, which are then carried away by the body’s lymphatic system. These bursts of laser energy take just a picosecond (one trillionth of a second), hence its name. Quick bursts reduce the risk of burns, so it’s suitable for all skin types.

Since picosecond lasers don’t generate much heat, they’re commonly used to treat melasma and benign pigmented lesions (like sun-induced brown spots) on heat-sensitive complexions, without worry of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Research on PicoSure shows:

  • It effectively treats signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation. In a study from 2017, in which participants were treated every month for four months with PicoSure, nearly 90% of physicians were extremely satisfied or satisfied with their patients’ results six months after treatment. Improvement scores showed that 32% of patients were very much improved, 29%.
  • It effectively treats acne scars. A 2015 study on treating acne scars with the PicoSure laser reported that, after six treatments, patients were satisfied to extremely satisfied with the improvement in appearance and texture at their final treatment and follow-up visits. According to researchers, the results are similar to those for a series of fractional ablative laser treatments.
  • There’s no recovery time post-treatment. You’ll be slightly flushed for a day or less following a skin revitalization treatment. After tattoo removal, you’ll have a wound with scabbing and dressings that need to be changed for the first week.
  • Picosecond lasers, like PicoSure, are more tolerable than most other skin rejuvenation devices—even without numbing cream. They may also be the least painful tattoo removal devices, according to a 2019 study.
  • The Focus Lens allows the laser to target both hyperpigmentation and textural irregularities, like fine lines and acne scars, in a single treatment.
  • The laser is proven effective at removing difficult tattoo ink colors, like orange, red, blue, green, yellow, and green. “There is no better laser to treat green ink,” says Dr. Tanghetti. “This has often been difficult to treat with any device. With the PicoSure, it’s now our easiest ink to treat.”
  • PicoSure may be better at removing previously treated tattoos (even those treated multiple times) than traditional Q-switched lasers.
  • The laser can treat larger areas more quickly than other laser technologies. The applicator’s largest spot size is 15.5 millimeters, almost four times bigger than that of other lasers on the market.

Who’s a good candidate for PicoSure?

The best candidate is a non-smoker in good health aiming to treat widespread sun damage, remove excess pigmentation, or fade an unwanted tattoo that has already healed (at least six months from the tattoo date). Your tattoo can be any color and size.

PicoSure laser treatment isn’t recommended for some people. Discuss other options with your dermatologist if you:

  •  Have an autoimmune disorder, including lupus or type 1 diabetes (type 2 may be acceptable, if it’s well controlled)
  • Have melanoma, an active infection (such as herpes), psoriasis, or eczema in the area being treated
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding; there’s no research to suggest laser tattoo removal may affect your or your baby’s health, but it’s wise to not risk it
  • Have a tan; most practitioners recommend avoiding the sun or tanning (even using self-tanning creams) on the area for about four weeks prior to treatment
  • Have a history of keloid scarring

Additional precautions that may not exclude you from treatment but will be taken into consideration include taking blood thinners (anticoagulants can interfere with healing) and having a pacemaker or defibrillator.

If the tattoo you want to remove is right over or within six inches of a medical device, it can’t be treated with a laser.