Selective photothermolysis, first discussed in the context of targeted microsurgery in 1983, proposed that the optimal parameters for specific thermal damage rely critically on the duration over which energy is delivered to the tissue. At that time, nonspecific thermal damage had been an intrinsic limitation of all commercially available lasers, despite efforts to mitigate this by a variety of compensatory cooling mechanisms. Fifteen years later, experimental picosecond lasers were first reported in the dermatological literature to demonstrate greater efficacy over their nanosecond predecessors in the context of targeted destruction of tattoo ink. Within the last 4 years, more than a decade after those experiments, the first commercially available cutaneous picosecond laser unit became available (Cynosure, Westford, Massachusetts), and several pilot studies have demonstrated its utility in tattoo removal. An experimental picosecond infrared laser has also recently demonstrated a nonthermal tissue ablative capability in soft tissue, bone, and dentin. In this article, we review the published data pertaining to dermatology on picosecond lasers from their initial reports to the present as well as discuss forthcoming technology.
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