Making Sense of Laser Types and Wavelengths

Laser dermatology is a relatively young, but quickly growing field. Until about 2005, it may have been difficult to find a “laser center” that offered multiple different laser technologies and procedures. But, if you’re thinking that practicing laser medicine is “easy” since everyone’s doing it…. think again! Laser medicine requires a significant amount of training and knowledge as well as numerous different devices to do it well and get it right. Laser physics is complicated, and for many practitioners, very confusing.  At Celibre, it’s what we do best.

We believe that the foundation for a successful laser dermatology practice is educating you. We’ve created this page to help you better understand the principals involved in laser treatments. We understand that it’s confusing and we also know there is a lot of misinformation out there—both on the internet and at laser dermatology practices. So, let’s talk a bit about what lasers are and why they work on so many different types of skin problems.

Lasers use light energy. Without going too far back to high school physics, remember that light travels in waves. Each color of light has a specific, unique wavelength. Visible light (the rainbow) is a range or spectrum of wavelengths that when reflected off an object hit the back of our eye (the retina) and are translated to a “color” by our brain. There are laser wavelengths that we cannot see as well. Examples would be infrared and ultraviolet light. These wavelengths are outside of the range of what the human eye (and brain) can see. Together, all wavelengths are called the electromagnetic spectrum.

Now, back to lasers. The reason dermatology lasers are so powerful is because each device is designed to utilize and amplify one, single type of light. This is also why lasers work to target one, particular type of skin problem.

For example, a certain type of orange light has a wavelength of 590 nanometers (590 billionths of a meter) and it is highly attracted to hemoglobin, the part of your red blood cells that binds to oxygen. Pulsed dye lasers use this wavelength of light to treat various skin conditions that involve unwanted blood vessels like Rosacea or vascular (red) birthmarks like Port Wine Stains. Because this light energy is preferentially absorbed by unwanted blood vessels, it does not affect the rest of the skin.

The idea of specifically targeting single structures (like melanin, hemoglobin or water) with single wavelengths of light is known as “selective photothermolysis”. This is the basis of all laser medicine, and explains why a laser dermatology practice really needs multiple, different devices to really provide a broad range of effective laser services for a variety of skin conditions. Each laser (ideally) should be good at treating one or two different but related conditions.

At Celibre Medical, we use over 20 different laser devices to treat almost any cosmetic skin condition. We choose only the very best device for your unwanted skin condition, and our practitioners have years of expertise with each of our lasers.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to laser medicine, so be wary of a facility that claims it can treat “anything” effectively, but only has one or two lasers. Armed with a very basic knowledge of laser medicine, you can better decide with practice offers the technology and specification that you’re looking for to best help you with your skin.

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