Laser hair removal technology has come a long way since first obtaining FDA approval in the late 1990s. Initial lasers used during treatment weren’t able to properly distinguish between hair follicles and skin pigment, which meant there was the potential for dark and light spot pigmentation of the skin and scarring of the surrounding hair follicle. For this reason, laser hair removal for dark skin hasn’t always been an option.
With the latest advances in laser hair removal, now a broader range of people of all skin colors can experience the benefits of laser hair removal for smooth, stubble-free skin. Laser hair removal for skin of color works the same as on fair skin, but there are differences in technique and technology—and it’s important to find a provider who knows the “ins and outs” of treating darker skin types.
Benefits of Laser Hair Removal
Not only is laser hair removal one of the most effective ways to remove unwanted body hair from nearly every part of the body, but there are also numerous other benefits that make it a popular option among men and women, including:
- Treatments are quick. The duration will depend on the size of the area and hair thickness, but appointments generally last less than one hour.
- Less painful than other methods of hair removal. Laser hair removal normally only causes minimal pain, especially compared to treatments like waxing.
- Lasers are precise. Lasers can target specific hairs and hard-to-reach areas.
- Reduces & prevents ingrown hairs. Laser hair removal decreases the risk of irritating ingrown hairs. It also targets the hair follicle which can stop ingrown hairs before they start.
- Offers longer-lasting results. Laser hair removal damages the hair follicle, resulting in long-lasting results.
While there are numerous benefits associated with laser hair removal, there also may be concerns—especially for patients with darker skin tones.
Concerns with Laser Hair Removal for Dark Skin
During the initial consultation, your provider should identify your skin type based on the Fitzpatrick Scale, which classifies skin type according to the amount of melanin in the skin after sun exposure. This classification assists your provider in choosing the correct laser and settings for your skin type.
The Fitzpatrick Scale classifies skin types based on the following:
- Skin Type I: Ivory skin that burns and peels when exposed to the sun; does not tan
- Skin Type II: Light to fair skin that burns easily, and peels often, rarely tans
- Skin Type III: Fair to beige skin that may burn or tan
- Skin Type IV: Olive or light brown skin that usually tans; seldom burns
- Skin Type V: Dark brown skin that tans easily; rarely burns
- Skin Type VI: Deeply pigmented, dark brown or black skin that tans quickly; never burns
Earlier generations of laser technology couldn’t distinguish between the pigment in dark skin tones and dark hair. This meant that skin types V and VI were at an increased risk for burns, pigmentation, blisters, dark and light spots, and scarring as a result of laser hair removal.
Laser technology has continued to advance over recent years, however not all providers have invested in the newer technologies which can treat darker skin tones safely and effectively. This is why it is critical to partner with an expert laser hair provider who has in-depth knowledge of skin types and who is experienced in performing laser hair removal for dark skin tones. This treatment can even be considered dangerous when performed by untrained hands, potentially leading to burns, permanent skin pigmentation and more.
Minimizing Risk on Darker Skin Tones
To ensure safe and effective laser hair removal for dark skin, you must find a provider who is qualified and experienced in laser hair removal for skin of color.
Other ways to minimize the risk associated with laser hair removal for different skin tones include:
- Use an effective laser for dark skin tones
Undergoing this treatment for darker skin tones may require a bit of research into what type of laser is used. Lasers that contain different wavelength options, from 755 nm wavelength to 1064 nm wavelength help to identify the hairs on darker skin. The lasers that contain higher wavelength options are absorbed by the deeper level of the dermis; therefore, going beyond the skin and targeting just the hair follicle. If the incorrect laser is used, you may run the risk of receiving burns, scarring and permanent pigmentation. Ask you provider about the laser during your consultation.
- Do not opt for an at-home device
While these devices may seem more cost-effective and convenient, they are not as effective as professional grade devices and can leave you with less than optimal results.
- Follow pre- and post-procedure guidelines
To help soothe the skin and reduce redness, you can apply a cream containing aloe vera, vitamin E, vitamin K or over the counter hydrocortisone 1%. You should avoid any activity that may rub or irritate the skin, including exercise and hot showers/baths, for at least 24 hours. Skincare products with certain ingredients that enhance photosensitivity should be avoided as well, such as skincare that contains AHAs/BHAs, retinol, retinoids, salicylic acid, etc.
- Discuss medications with your provider
There are a few medications that may interact with this treatment, including Accutane. If you are taking Accutane, it is recommended to wait at least six months before undergoing laser hair removal. If you are using Retinol or Retin-A you want to discontinue use on treatment areas 1 week before and after a session.
- Avoid sun exposure before your appointment
Refrain from direct sun exposure for at least a month after your treatment. Some providers may recommend avoiding sun exposure a few weeks both before and after a session.
What to Consider When Selecting a Laser Hair Removal Provider
- Are they qualified? As with any procedure, it’s important to choose a qualified and experienced provider. Not all providers are experienced in laser hair removal for dark skin tones, so it’s crucial to research skilled providers beforehand.
- What type of laser do they use? They should use a specific laser that is suitable for seeing beyond the dermis to identify hair follicles versus melanin in the skin. For those of color, a 1064 wavelength laser is best to treat darker skin types.
- How many sessions? Laser hair removal typically requires six to eight treatments but may require up to 10 sessions depending on the area treated and its growth cycle. Your provider can develop a treatment plan that specifically targets the area(s) of unwanted growth.
If you’re looking for the best laser hair removal for dark skin in NYC, the award-winning medical team at Tribeca MedSpa utilizes innovative laser technology to treat all skin tones. We offer consultations and work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan.