Laser hair removal for dark skin tones
Hair removal is something women love to hate, but one thing they hate even more is unwanted hair on their faces or bodies.
The promise of laser hair removal – smooth, hairless skin without shaving, waxing or tweezing – sounds like a dream come true.
However, maybe you’ve heard that laser hair removal for dark skin isn't safe.
The good news is that’s no longer the case.
How Laser Hair Removal Works
The Food and Drug Administration approved laser hair removal for commercial use in 1997.
With the use of a special laser, you can remove hair from any part of your body or face. A typical in-office treatment starts with cleansing the area to be treated.
Then the technician will move the laser device, usually hand-held, over your skin. The concentrated light of the laser vaporizes the hair follicle, damaging it enough to discourage regrowth of the hair.
You may experience some redness or swelling immediately after your session. Many doctors recommend:
- Avoiding direct sunlight on skin that’s been treated.
- Avoiding the use of a tanning bed.
- Applying a cool compress after treatment to reduce redness and discomfort.
Laser Hair Removal and Dark Skin
Laser hair removal for dark skin has come a long way. When lasers were first approved for hair removal, it was only effective and safe for those with light skin and dark hair.
That’s because the way the lasers worked was by targeting the dark pigment in the hair follicles.
If the skin surrounding the follicle were also dark, the lasers would have difficulty isolating the hair to zap it; this created a high risk of scarring and hyperpigmentation of the skin.
The Fitzpatrick Skin Type Classification system categorizes skin types by their sensitivity to sunlight.
It used to be that if your skin was a type five or six, you couldn’t safely use these lasers.
You’re a type five if you have dark brown skin that seldom burns and tans with ease.
If you have richly pigmented dark brown to black skin that never burns, you’re a type six.
Thanks to recent advances, people with dark skin tones in the type five and six ranges can now safely take advantage of laser hair removal.
That’s because new lasers function at different, longer wavelengths than the older lasers did.
Using longer pulse durations with the lasers also tends to create better results for people with darker skin colors.
Is it Painful?
People who’ve gone through laser hair removal treatments often say it feels like being continually snapped with a rubber band.
Others say it’s like being pricked with hot needles. When you have a darker complexion, lasers can hurt a little more due to the longer wavelength, longer pulse duration and more pigmented skin. However, there are things you can do to minimize the pain, such as:
- Taking ibuprofen about a half-hour before your session.
- Applying a topical numbing gel to your skin before treatment.
- Not scheduling a laser hair treatment during your period when you’re typically more sensitive to pain.
- Applying ice to your skin before and after your session.
The level of pain will also depend on what place on your body the laser's treating (click here for more info).
Some areas can be more vulnerable to pain, such as the underarms, bikini area and face.
Most lasers these days come with a skin-cooling device that helps to cut down on the level of pain and limits redness or swelling.
Most people require about two to six laser treatments to achieve their desired results; however, results can vary (click to read more).
Some patients won’t see new regrowth at all, while others will see hair come back after months or even years. The hair that grows back is typically finer than it used to be.
Thanks to improvements in technology, laser hair removal on dark skin is safer than ever before.
That said, due to the higher risk of unwanted side effects with dark skin, it’s smart to play it safe and go to a professional, preferably a dermatologist, for your laser hair removal.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved at-home laser devices for hair removal, but if you decide to go that route, definitely start with a small test area.
Doing it the right way will be worth it when you can finally say goodbye to razors and waxing.