Two-photon excitation fluorescence microscopy allows in vivo high-resolution imaging of human skin structure and biochemistry with a penetration depth over 100 microm. The major damage mechanism during two-photon skin imaging is associated with the formation of cavitation at the epidermal-dermal junction, which results in thermal mechanical damage of the tissue. In this report, we verify that this damage mechanism is of thermal origin and is associated with one-photon absorption of infrared excitation light by melanin granules present in the epidermal-dermal junction. The thermal mechanical damage threshold for selected Caucasian skin specimens from a skin bank as a function of laser pulse energy and repetition rate has been determined. The experimentally established thermal mechanical damage threshold is consistent with a simple heat diffusion model for skin under femtosecond pulse laser illumination. Minimizing thermal mechanical damage is vital for the potential use of two-photon imaging in noninvasive optical biopsy of human skin in vivo. We describe a technique to mitigate specimen thermal mechanical damage based on the use of a laser pulse picker that reduces the laser repetition rate by selecting a fraction of pulses from a laser pulse train. Since the laser pulse picker decreases laser average power while maintaining laser pulse peak power, thermal mechanical damage can be minimized while two-photon fluorescence excitation efficiency is maximized.