Safe & Effective Laser Hair Removal For Dark Skin Tones
Laser hair removal has long been discouraged for those with dark skin. For individuals with darker skin tones, traditional laser technology was not only ineffective, but potentially dangerous as many primitive lasers could cause hypopigmentation (discoloration) and skin damage. These patients were forced to deal with shaving, waxing, or other inferior short-term hair removal solutions.
Fortunately, there have been numerous advances in lasers have made laser hair removal both safe and effective for all skin tones. In the hands of an experienced provider, today’s lasers have the ability to safely treat skin types V & VI.
How Laser Hair Removal Works
Laser hair removal works by beaming a focused laser at a hair follicle which inhibits or delays future hair growth. Treatments are recommended every 4-6 weeks on face and 6-8 weeks on anything lower than the clavicle. Reasoning for the intervals of treatments is due to the hair growth cycle. Anagen is the stage of hair growth at which the laser is treating at the root.
Risks of Laser Hair Removal for Darker Skin Tones
Older laser devices have trouble differentiating between pigment in the hair, and pigment in dark skin. Because pigment attracts the laser, there’s a greater risk for burns, blisters or scarring when treating darker skin.
Additional side effects include hyperpigmentation, darkening of the skin, or hypopigmentation, lightening of the skin. For these reasons, it’s been a long-standing myth that laser hair treatment is only possible for those with light skin.
Determining Your Risk
Certified Technicians and Physician’s use the Fitzpatrick Scale to determine your risk for side effects. The Fitzpatrick Scale measures your skin type with I being the lightest and most sensitive to UV light, while VI is the darkest and least sensitive.
Measuring the response of different ethnicities however, requires more nuance. For example, if you’re Asian or Latino you might rank as a 3 or 4 on the Fitzpatrick scale, but could respond to laser treatment as if you were a VI.
Effective Laser Hair Removal for Darker Skin Tones
For the above reasons, it’s crucial to choose a provider experienced in laser treatment for darker skin tones. Equipment too, makes a difference. The following methods combined will ensure a safe and effective treatment.
The Patch Test
To reduce risk and prevent side effects, your provider should do a patch test on a small area of skin before proceeding with the full procedure. A patch test helps your provider calculate the perfect speed and strength of laser wavelength for your skin tone. Wait 48 hours after your patch test to ensure you’ve experienced no detrimental results.
Choose the Right Laser
New laser technology offers laser wavelengths that are less damaging and more appropriate for those with darker skin tones. There are two primary types, Nd:YAG wavelength, or diode.
The Nd:YAG wavelength is safe for all skin types because it’s not as easily absorbed by melanin. By traveling deeper into the skin than a diode laser, Nd:YAG bypasses skin pigmentation.
The diode laser is safe to use on darker skin when pulses are delivered more slowly. To prevent burning, more time is allotted between each pulse to allow skin to cool. Newer devices have cooling elements built in that protect skin pigment from overheating.
Darker Skin May Require More Treatments
Not only might your treatment take longer, but those with darker skin tones may require more treatments before achieving final results. Going at a slower pace prevents possible skin damage. While everyone’s skin responds differently to laser treatment, expect anywhere from 10-12 sessions for semi-permanent hair removal.
Post-Treatment Skin Care
The following tips can reduce risk of side effects and help you get the most from your treatment:
- After treatment, 1% Hydrocortisone cream or aloe vera gel can be used.
- To prevent irritation, avoid working out, hot tubs, saunas for 24 hours following treatment.
- Avoid sun exposure 2 weeks prior to treatment, tweezing or waxing until your treatments are complete.
Click Here for more tips on what to do before and after your laser hair removal treatment sessions.
Skin care has come a long way in terms of inclusivity. While there are still advances to be made, it’s no longer impossible for those with darker skin tones to enjoy the benefits of laser hair removal. With the latest in technology, an experienced provider can safely deliver hair-free results, no matter your skin tone.