We love tattoos. Our friends have tattoos. Our neighbors have tattoos. But what advice do you give someone interested in getting a tattoo, knowing that a significant percentage of people will want to remove them later? Beware the Green Ink!
Why are Green Tattoos so Difficult to Remove?
For several reasons:
- Standard tattoo removal lasers only come with two wavelengths, 1064 nm and 532 nm, Greens don’t respond well to these wavelengths
- More sophisticated lasers that do have additional wavelengths must “manufacture” these wavelengths by passing a 1064 nm wavelength through a polymer dye material, greatly reducing the beam power
- Green tattoo inks are often composed of virtually indestructible phthalocyanine dyes, so they do not decolor upon exposure to intense light sources such as lasers as well as some other colors
- Greens and other lighter colors sometimes require a greater density of ink in the skin in order to appear robust, and this increase in ink density can also increase the difficult of removal
It sounds like a scary chemical, but phthalocyanines are structurally related to a class of compounds called porphyins, which function in the human body to carry oxygen in blood cells. Phthalocyanines are commonly blue or green colored, depending on the exact chemical structure, but they all share a common property of being incredibly stable; they don’t lose their color even after prolonged exposure to sunlight or other types of radiation. Phthalocyanines are therefore widely used in the textile industry as dyes for fabrics as well as in CD manufacturing and as a colorant in plastics. With such widespread use and affordable price, it is no surprise that these materials found their way into the tattoo industry as a common light-resistant tattoo ink.
How is Green Best Removed Then?
We recommend a dedicated Ruby laser for removing green tattoos. The wavelength produced is well absorbed by the green ink, but since it is coming directly from a laser rod (and not from a polymer dye pack) the intensity of the laser from a Ruby is far superior to the intensity produced by other lasers meant to treat green. Northeast Laser has invested in a Q-switched Ruby laser so that we can remove even green tattoos!
I see lots of online posts about “What kind of tattoo should I get?” and the answers include everything under the sun from Tribal Tattoos to My Little Pony. The one thing that no one seems to know to recommend is to be sure you realize that green tattoos are very, very, difficult to remove later!