Everything you've ever wanted to know about laser hair removal for dark skin
For a long time, laser hair removal for dark skin just didn't exist. But thanks to an increased focus on inclusivity as well as advances in technology in recent years, those with darker skin are finally able to get the treatment.
First, a little on the science behind laser hair removal. The lasers used in laser hair removal target the pigment in the hair, and the contrast between dark hair and lighter skin helps the laser to focus on its bullseye. That's why, historically, the ideal candidate was someone with fair skin and dark hair, and laser hair removal for dark skin was a gamble. Devices just weren't advanced enough to distinguish well between the pigment in brown or black skin and dark hair, which meant it could potentially cause complications such as scarring and blisters.
Now, however, there are smarter lasers that can be used in very precise and safe ways, making getting rid of unwanted hair a reality for a broader range of skin tones.
What are the best lasers for dark skin?
Two types of lasers work for dark skin and hair — Nd:YAG and diode. In recent years, the Nd:YAG has become increasingly popular. That's because the wavelength of this laser goes deeper into the skin than a diode, so it more successfully bypasses the pigmentation present in the skin. This broad-spectrum wavelength also has a lower absorption rate by melanin in the surrounding skin, making it a safe option for medium to dark skin.
While the diode laser has its perks, the laser's energy has to be delivered in a slower manner per pulse, leaving more time for skin to cool. The diode laser is also not recommended for super dark skin, which would be categorized as skin type VI according to the Fitzpatrick scale.
What are the risks of laser hair removal on dark skin?
As with any cosmetic procedure, there are potential risks involved. With laser hair removal, common laser-related side effects for dark or black skin include hyperpigmentation, or dark spots, and hypopigmentation, in which the skin pigment lightens. To reduce the risk of side effects, be sure to go to an experienced medical professional who has used lasers to remove hair from dark skin.
How do you prepare for a laser hair removal treatment and what can you expect?
As mentioned above, it's imperative to seek out a pro who has extensive experience with laser hair removal for dark skin. During the consultation, be sure that the medical professional discusses your ethnicity since different ethnicities (regardless of skin tone) react differently to lasers.
Two weeks before your treatment, you should avoid direct sun, tanning beds, spray-tans, and self-tanners. You should also be sure to apply sunblock (at least SPF 50) and use barrier protection if you are out and about. Three days before your treatment, stop using any topical prescription products on areas being treated with the laser.
How do you care for dark skin after laser hair removal?
Side effects can still happen, but most are treatable at home. For irritation or redness, you can use hydrocortisone to resolve the inflammation. For any hyperpigmentation, try a topical cream for dark spots. Remember to always consult your medical professional about any side effects you're experiencing.
How do you choose the right medical professional?
When it comes to getting laser hair removal, you should be sure to select a medical professional that has experience treating darker skin tones, uses only the most advanced laser technologies, like the Nd:YAG laser, and innovative techniques, such as performing test spots or applying a cooling mechanism to the skin to reduce the risk of side effects. They should also offer an in-depth consultation prior to treatment.
Where can you find all of the above? LaserAway! They use the Cynosure Apogee Elite, a dual-wavelength laser that uses both Nd:YAG and Alexandrite to treat a full range of skin types, and have been performing treatments on all skin types for over 15 years. To learn more, visit LaserAway's website here.