What is the Q-Switched Laser? How does it work and what can it be used for?
The Q-switched laser emits a beam at a specific wavelength of 1064 nm and works by fractional photothermolysis. At 1064 nm, the dermis, which lies 1-2 mm below the skin surface, is specifically targeted which can promote new collagen formation. The superficial skin layer, the epidermis, is spared and hence, the Q-switched laser is non-ablative. Rather than just a single laser beam, the Q-switched laser is broken up into many smaller beams (i.e. fractional), which then leaves tiny areas of healthy skin that can help speed up recovery of the area being treated. Q-switch also refers to the technique of delivering the laser in very short pulses.
Common skin conditions such as facial pigmentation, wrinkles, acne scars, birthmarks and spider veins can thus be treated. Hair and tattoo removal can also be achieved with the Q-switched laser. Essentially, the laser delivers heat directly to damaged cells, blood vessels and pigments and all skin types can be safely treated.
Day of treatment
Eye protection (e.g. opaque cover or goggles) will be provided. The laser tip will then be applied against the skin surface before activation and may cause some slight discomfort with the passing of each pulse. Topical anesthesia in the form of a numbing cream is typically applied in advance. As part of the treatment, there will be a build up of heat from the laser so cooling packs may be provided to help soothe the skin. After each session, slight redness and mild swelling can be expected for up to 24 hours but often goes away within a few hours and if not, by the next day.
What to expect and further treatment
Compared to ablative lasers, Q-switched laser treatment allows easier recovery with less crusting, swelling and redness. For resurfacing (e.g. acne scars, crow’s feet), results are not usually seen until 6 weeks after treatment because new collagen is not formed until then. Final results are typically seen at 6 months so 3-4 treatment sessions spaced out over 4-6 weeks each is recommended. Sun protection is also advised to prevent the complication of postinflammatory pigmentation from developing following Q-switched laser treatment.