Is there a difference between pico lasers?

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There’s been a lot of “pico” talk lately in the aesthetic scene. This delights me, as I’m a huge fan of the pico laser technology and more awareness simply means more room for innovation moving forward. There are a few types of pico lasers in the market, including PicoSure, PicoPlus and PicoCare. A question I commonly receive is if there’s a difference between the pico lasers, and if one’s more superior than the other in treating skin conditions.

I’ll address those questions in this article, but to start off, let’s first understand that pico laser is NOT a brand or a name of a laser machine. Pico Laser refers to a type of laser technology in which laser energy is fired at picoseconds, or one trillionth of a second. This is in stark contrast to the regular Q-switched lasers we know, which deliver laser beams at nanoseconds.

How is this better?

Think of pico lasers as an upgrade to Q-switched lasers. Despite their efficacy, Q-switched lasers are often limited by problems like post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, burns and blisters especially among darker skinned individuals and more complex cases.

With pico lasers, their shorter pulse duration allows for a higher photo-mechanical effect and lower photo-thermal effect, which reduces the risk of laser-related complications. This is especially useful for harder-to-treat cases like pigmentation and tattoos.

What’s the difference between PicoSure, PicoPlus and PicoWay?

PicoSure, PicoPlus and PicoWay are different brands of picosecond lasers. All are effective in treating pigmentation of the skin with minimal downtime. However, PicoPlus and PicoWay make use of a compound called Nd:YAG to generate laser beams while PicoSure utilises Alexandrite laser technology. PicoSure also comes with an additional Focus Lens Array, but more on that later.

While PicoSure, PicoPlus and PicoWay are often grouped together and operate on the same principle, they contain a few differences:

1. Pulse duration

The shorter the pulse duration, the lesser heat or photo-thermal effect there is to surrounding skin. As mentioned, pico lasers are prized for their ultra-short pulse durations. Currently, the pulse duration that’s widely accepted appears to be 450 Picoseconds. New devices like PicoCare, PicoPlus and Discovery Pico have pulse durations of 450 Picoseconds.

2. Picosecond wavelengths

The higher the wavelength, the more pigments that can be treated. This is especially beneficial when it comes to removing blue and green pigments in tattoos. PicoPlus and PicoCare carry 4 picosecond wavelengths each; Discovery Pico has 3 and PicoSure has 2.

3. Peak power

The higher the peak power, the more laser energy there is to shatter stubborn pigments. Discovery Pico and PicoPlus currently have the highest peak power of 1.8GW. On that note, I don’t believe that you necessarily need a machine with a very high peak power. It really depends on the complexity of your condition and of course the skill of the doctor.

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Which is the best pico laser?

The truth is, there is very little evidence that shows one pico laser is better than the other, much less talk about a gold standard. Sure, they may have some technical differences as described above, but there are other factors that play a huge part if not supersede those mechanical details.

1. The skill of the doctor

You can have the best picosecond laser in the world, but the doctor’s diagnosis, choice of treatment protocol and way of handling the machine is way more important. The settings of the pico laser has to be adjusted to fit the patient’s condition, and a good doctor should be able to tweak accordingly. I would keep a lookout for marketing advertisements that promote generic packages, like 30 second laser facials. Pre and post laser treatment care are also part of a successful treatment. Do your research and make sure the doctor has a good track record of using pico lasers on Asian skin.

2. The country of manufacture

Majority of clinical research and developments of each pico laser are based on the skin type of their target audience. For example, Korean brands Lutronic and Wontech’s PicoPlus and PicoCare respectively were developed to treat Asian skin, while other pico lasers like the Discovery Pico were originally made for tattoo removal on Caucasian skin.

My personal preference

Personally, I prefer PicoSure and use it in my practice. There are a few reasons why.

  • PicoSure is the first pico laser made commercially available. It was developed by Cynosure, the company that developed picosecond laser technology. They also invented nanosecond technology, which was copied by other companies and went on to be very successful. Being the inventor of both technologies, we can only trust Cynosure to be ahead of this laser technology with PicoSure.
  • It is an Alexandrite laser with 755nm. Previously, popular pigmentation lasers were either 532nm or 1064nm. They were good for removing superficial pigments and deeper dermal pigments respectively. Studies have shown that 755nm is the sweet spot to remove tattoos and pigments effectively.
  • It comes with Focus Lens Array (FLA). FLA is a special lens fixed onto PicoSure handpieces to penetrate 20 times more in the deeper layers of skin without removing the top layer of skin. This effect stimulates surrounding fibroblasts to produce elastin and collagen for skin rejuvenation.

To sum up, I’d advise you to see a credible doctor to properly diagnose your condition first and then decide on an appropriate treatment method and laser. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.

Have a question?

If you have any other questions, please leave us a message anytime and we will be happy to answer them!

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27194919/
    Torbeck, R., Bankowski, R., Henize, S., & Saedi, N. (2016). Lasers in tattoo and pigmentation control: role of the PicoSure(®) laser system. Medical devices (Auckland, N.Z.), 9, 63–67. https://doi.org/10.2147/MDER.S77993
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27546378/
    Khetarpal, S., Desai, S., Kruter, L., Prather, H., Petrell, K., Depina, J., Arndt, K., & Dover, J. S. (2016). Picosecond laser with specialized optic for facial rejuvenation using a compressed treatment interval. Lasers in surgery and medicine, 48(8), 723–726. https://doi.org/10.1002/lsm.22551
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