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Lasers for the treatment of eyebrow microblading and cosmetic tattoo pigment: a review of the literature

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We aim to discuss the use of laser for the treatment of eyebrow microblading and cosmetic tattoo complications through a review of the literature. Our research question is whether quality-switched or picosecond laser is superior for the removal of eyebrow tattoos. This structured review was conducted using a PubMed search using the search terms “laser tattoo removal” AND “cosmetic tattoo” AND “eyebrow” with the article type filtered to “case reports,” “clinical trial,” and “randomized controlled trial” ranging from dates 1994–2023. All case reports or series evaluating the effect of laser on eyebrow cosmetic tattooing pigment were included. We summarize the results of 11 studies evaluating the use of laser for cosmetic tattoo removal, with 129 patients treated specifically for eyebrow pigment. Most studies (8/11) report Fitzpatrick skin type or race. Seven studies utilize quality-switched (QS) neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG), alexandrite or ruby, three used picosecond (PS) Nd:YAG or alexandrite, and three used carbon dioxide (CO2) laser. We report laser energy, spot size, and pulse duration, as well as treatment outcomes and adverse events. Historically, methods of pigment removal included dermabrasion, cryosurgery, electrosurgery, radiofrequency, infrared light, intense pulsed light, and surgical excision; however, these methods often led to poor cosmetic outcomes including scarring and further dyspigmentation. QS laser treatments provided superior cosmetic outcomes and thus were considered the gold standard treatment option for pigment removal. However, the advent of PS lasers has challenged this given their increased selectivity, lower fluence requirements, and reduction in surrounding thermal damage. Our review demonstrates that PS Nd:YAG is quicker and more effective that QS Nd:YAG in the treatment of eyebrow tattoos. Additionally, the paradoxical darkening seen with QS lasers is less common with PS lasers. We also demonstrate that CO2 laser may be a helpful adjunct to QS or PS laser. This review focuses on Fitzpatrick skin type and race, providing a unique perspective on the use of laser treatment in skin of color, which often poses an additional treatment challenge.

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Data Availability

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AG, AE, KK, and KA contributed to the design and implementation of the research. AG was responsible for data collection and writing the manuscript. AE, KK, and KA were responsible for the revisions of and supervision of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Amaris N. Geisler.

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Geisler, A.N., Eber, A., Kim, K. et al. Lasers for the treatment of eyebrow microblading and cosmetic tattoo pigment: a review of the literature. Lasers Med Sci 38, 256 (2023).

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