Interestingly, the word “Laser” is actually an acronym which stands for: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. This gives a simple introduction as to what laser therapy is like. It is non-surgical and is non-invasive as it only utilises light and heat energy to deliver its results. Furthermore, laser therapy has multiple uses which can range from the treatment of pigmentation, to revitalising saggy or wrinkled skin, to reducing active acne and fading its scars and even, the removal of a tattoo! As laser therapy is a relatively simple procedure with minimal side effects and predictable effectiveness, it has certainly become one of the more popular options amongst people.
The pursuit of beauty has only become easier with the introduction of laser therapy. Of particular interest would be the PicoSure laser and the Q-switch laser. This article will thus be focussing on a comparison between the two.
How does the PicoSure and Q-switch Laser work – similarities and differences:
PicoSure and Q-switch lasers are two Food and Drug Association (FDA) approved laser therapies that address skin issues such as pigmentation, fine lines, acne and its scars as well as an unwanted tattoo. Both lasers operate by delivering laser pulses to the area of interest on the skin.
However, PicoSure delivers these pulses within picoseconds which is approximately a hundred times faster as compared to the Q-switch laser which does so within nanoseconds. Consequently, this means that more laser pulses within a certain time can be delivered by the PicoSure laser as compared to the Q-switch laser.
Additionally, while the Q-switch laser does achieve a photothermal effect in the epidermis of the skin safely without causing heat injury to the dermis layer, PicoSure is still associated with fewer complications such as causing burning or hyperpigmentation of the surrounding skin because each laser pulse is delivered faster. While both lasers do produce substantial results in the skin problems they set out to target, the difference in their mechanism of action does play an important role in terms of the degree of effectiveness in addressing the individual skin issues.
Pigmentation and tattoos:
Some examples of pigmentation woes that patients can present with include sun spots, age spots, freckles and birthmarks. PicoSure and Q-switch target these areas of pigmentation by delivering laser pulses to the affected area. The laser pulses produce a photoacoustic effect which means that only the pigmented areas will absorb these selected wavelengths of light and hence be effectively targeted. Traditional lasers such as the Q-switch laser delivers a targeted laser pulse to the area of pigmentation and in so doing, shatters the pigment into smaller particles which can be naturally and easily removed by the body. In contrast, PicoSure makes use of its own patented PressureWaveTM technology to shatter the pigment into even tinier particles. As such, it is more effective in treating areas of pigmentation as compared to the Q-switch laser. For this very reason, PicoSure has become the gold standard for tattoo removal.
Acne is an inflammatory process which is triggered off when the pilosebaceous units of our skin get clogged by dirt, dead skin cells and Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria. The likelihood of this occurrence increases with an elevation in sebum production which is caused by higher levels of androgens in our body (a phenomenon which happens especially at the onset of puberty or during the menstrual cycle of a female).
PicoSure and Q-switch laser not only aid in removing dirt and dead skin cells from the skin but also helps to shrink the oil glands on the face as well. Since the main aggravator of acne is the clogging of our pores which is caused by a surfeit of sebum produced, the two lasers help resolve this issue by allowing for better oil control in these patients with acne. There has also been research studies conducted which reveal that acne breakouts tend to be less severe and inflamed after a laser treatment. This way, it also helps to reduce the severity of acne scars left behind after each breakout.
The Q-switch laser has an additional effect of killing off P.acnes bacteria, the main perpetrating bacteria which proliferates within our pilosebaceous units and initiates inflammation. As such, theoretically, it is arguably superior to PicoSure in tackling active acne.
Acne scars and saggy/wrinkled skin:
PicoSure however is more effective in lightening and fading pigmented acne scars as compared to the Q-switch laser as explained by its ability to break up pigments into even smaller fragments.
But in terms of the treatment of atrophic acne scars, PicoSure and Q-switch lasers have comparable effectiveness and results. Atrophic scars are depressed scars due to the loss of collagen from the skin and such scars can namely be boxcar, ice-pick or rolling in nature.
When the laser pulse passes through the different layers of skin, heat energy is generated. This heat then causes the breakdown of scarred or aging tissue as well as the breakdown of collagen. In the short term, the breakdown of collagen causes collagen fibres to shrink and thicken. This change in their structure then aids in improving the appearance of atrophic acne scars. With a breakdown in collagen, fibroblasts (cells in charge of synthesizing collagen) are stimulated as well. As such, the generation of new tissue and collagen occurs post laser treatment and achieves beneficial healing effects for atrophic acne scars.
Collagen serves as a scaffold to provide strength and structure especially in our bones, connective tissues and skin. As such, PicoSure and Q-switch lasers are efficacious in the treatment of wrinkled/saggy skin and achieve anti-aging results in their patients.
In general, laser therapies are relatively easy to carry out. The typical procedure looks something like this:
– Cleansing of the skin prior to laser treatment
– Laser protective goggles are positioned over the eyes
– The laser beam will be directed towards the area of concern
PicoSure and Q-switch lasers promise low downtime for their patients and minor side effects such as the reddening of skin will resolve within a couple of hours. While both lasers are relatively safe, an important contraindication to receive these treatments include patients who have been on roaccutane for the past six months as their skin would have been rather thinned out already by this drug.
Depending on the severity of the skin issue faced, a rough estimate of 3-6 sessions of laser therapy have to be carried out in order for satisfactory results to be obtained. As it is important to factor in that each patient’s skin reacts differently to different laser treatments, more ground surveys have to be conducted to find out which laser treatment – PicoSure or Q-switch – is superior to the other. One thing for sure however, is that PicoSure has a higher customer satisfaction rate as compared to Q-switch when it comes to the removal of tattoos.
Both PicoSure and Q-switch are breakthroughs in technology and certainly provides more hope to patients suffering from the aforementioned skin issues. Although this article serves to provide more insight on the similarities and differences of PicoSure and Q-switch, it is not meant to be an advocate for either. Hence, it is still important to seek relevant professional help from a doctor for your individual skin problems who can then better decide the treatment options which will be the most feasible for you.