Updated: Apr 29, 2019
When closing your eyes just isn't enough!
Any light intensive work, be it Laser or Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) your eyes need to be protected from what you can see AND what you can't.
The light we see is only a fraction of what is out there. We actually only see about 0.0035% of the full spectrum.
The part we can see we call the visible spectrum, but it only accounts for a very small portion of what surrounds us every day. We see light that is measured in nanometers (nm), which is a 0.0000000001 meters. We can see light in the wavelengths of 380 nm to 780 nm but the range extends from almost 0 nm to almost infinity. So, you can see that we actually only see a very small portion of the overall range that light covers.
In the 380 to 780 nm range light is detected by our eyes as Violet colour through to red.
Here are the colours we see and the corresponding wavelength of light.
Violet - 380 - 450 nm
Blue - 450 - 495 nm
Green - 495 - 570 nm
Yellow - 570 - 590 nm
Orange - 590 - 620 nm
Red - 620 - 795 nm
When working with tattoo Laser devices we are using light that could have wavelengths of 1064 nm and 532 nm (Nd:YAG laser), 694 nm (Ruby laser), 755 nm (Alexandrite laser). However, most lasers don't produce a visible beam, so you don't know if it is going in your eyes until it is too late. For this reason having the correct eye protection is vital.
IPL devices produce light in the 400 nm to 1200 nm range which are then filtered to provide the wavelength required, unlike how the laser works. So eye protection needs to be capable of filtering out not just a single wavelength, but a wide range.
The eye has an automatic protection system called the blink reflex. This is only triggered by visible light, so any wavelength outside the 380-780 nm range will not initiate the response and heating of the retina can occur. However, even the blink reflex is unlikely to safe your sight since the response time will be too slow and the damage may already be done. A pop is the only physical indication that damage has occurred which is then followed by a blind spot.
When attending a clinic for light based treatments be sure that you and anyone else in the treatment area is protected by having the right eyewear.