Laser hair removal offers an effective and simple way to remove unwanted hair but historically has been most effective on people with fair skin and dark hair.
For the treatment to work, laser light pulses must target individual hair follicles located beneath the skin’s surface, without damaging the surrounding skin.
Melanin and Your Skin
The color of our skin, as well as hair and eye color, is primarily a result of melanin. Melanin is naturally occurring dark brown or black pigment located beneath the surface of the skin.
Melanin production is stimulated by UV radiation from the sun. Melanin also absorbs light and serves to partially protect skin cells from damage by sunlight.
The darker your skin color, the more melanin your skin contains.
The Challenge of Laser Hair Removal on Darker Skin Tones
Lasers produce beams of light-energy at very precise frequencies, which are designed to be absorbed by hair follicles, damage them, and thereby prevent new hair growth.
But for those with dark or tanned skin, melanin pigmentation can absorb some of the laser’s light energy, risking damage to the skin itself.
The challenge is to minimize damage to skin cells, while at the same time maximizing damage to the targeted hair follicles.
Effective Laser Treatment for Dark Skin
As dark skin is harder to treat effectively, it requires more skill and experience from the practitioner performing the procedure.
Recently, several techniques were developed to allow practitioners to better distinguish between dark hair follicles and similarly pigmented dark skin cells.
These new techniques are finally allowing those with darker complexions to safely benefit from laser hair removal, without risking skin burns or discoloration.
Improved Laser Technology
Lasers use various ways to generate light energy. However, the lasers typically used for hair removal make use of crystals containing mixtures of chemical elements – the precise chemical composition determines the frequency of light energy produced by the laser.
The Nd:YAG laser outputs light at a frequency that can largely bypass melanin in darker skin, while still being absorbed by the hair follicles.
Careful Choice of Laser Energy Level
To prevent heat damage to darker skin, laser energy pulses are applied more slowly, and cooling devices are used to allow skin cells to cool off between laser pulses, and thus avoid damage. External cooling also reduces any pain or discomfort.
Other Laser Hair Removal Precautions
To ensure that correct settings have been set up for your particular situation, practitioners will often perform a test on a less visible area. This allows them to tune all settings to reduce any chance of creating lighter or darker spots during the procedure, a remote possibility when performed on dark complexions.
Another precaution is to avoid the use of any medications or cosmetic products that might increase your skin’s sensitivity to light. In particular, avoid laser treatments for several months after using Accutane.
Minimize direct sun exposure for several weeks before and after each treatment, and follow any other directions you’ve been given on how best to treat any redness or swelling following treatment.
Laser Hair Removal in Los Angeles
Your Laser Skin Care can provide you with advice on the best ways to benefit from laser hair removal and answer any questions you may have.
We have extensive experience providing laser hair removal on all skin types, and also offer a wide range of other cosmetic procedures.
Call us at (323) 525-1516 to schedule a free consultation, or visit us online for more information.