Laser hair removal is a great choice for many people looking to get rid of unwanted hair. It’s fast, effective, and safe. But what about people with dark skin? Can laser hair removal work on black skin?
We’ll answer that question right away: yes! Laser hair removal can work on anyone with dark skin. And it’s actually even more beneficial for those with dark skin than it is for those with light skin.
With laser hair removal, you have three options: IPL (Intense Pulsed Light), Alexandrite, and Diode laser systems. All three options are safe and effective for people of all skin types. However, the Diode laser system is best for darker skin tones because it produces less heat than its predecessors. That means there’s less chance of burning or scarring when removing unwanted hairs from your body!
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Home Laser Hair Removal For Dark Skin Tones
A few decades ago, receiving a laser hair removal treatment would have been rather risky for a person of color. These lasers weren’t made with darker skin tones in mind, and therefore, were safest for individuals with fair skin and dark hair follicles. The main disconnect was that the lasers did not properly distinguish hair follicles and skin pigment, so those with dark skin could run the risk of severe burns, scarring, discoloration, and more.
However, in recent years, we’ve seen advancements in inclusive technology made especially for dark skin tones. And like the launch of diverse beauty brands, it’s something to be excited about. To find out more, we reached out to experts Meghan Murphy and Christian Karavolas, who shared their professional insight and advice for dark-skinned patients seeking laser treatment.
What to Do Before Getting Laser Hair Removal
If you’re trying to decide if laser hair removal is for you, there are a few items you should be crossing off your checklist before undergoing any treatment. For starters, research the laser hair practitioner and facility that you’re considering using—especially their experience treating dark skin tones. Since dark skin is more sensitive than light skin, Karavolas recommends that you ask the laser hair treatment center to see “before and after” photos of patients with a dark skin type who had undergone a laser procedure. Also, don’t be shy about speaking directly with the technician. Murphy recommends, “I would ask the laser practitioner how long they have worked in the field of laser hair removal, approximately how many patients they’ve treated with a dark skin type, and how satisfied those patients were with their results.”
To ensure your safety as a patient, following pre- and post-procedure guidelines are a must. That includes reviewing any medications and skin care products that you’re using with your doctor. In general, those with ingredients that create photosensitivity (think: AHAs/BHAs, retinol/retinoids, salicylic acid, etc.) should be avoided for at least one week before your treatment. If you’re using Accutane, it’s recommended that you do not undergo any laser treatment for at least six months after stopping medication to avoid the risk of scarring.2 Both Murphy and Karavolas emphasize that you should not overlook a patch test either. “It is ideal to have the practitioner perform a test spot in an inconspicuous area and wait for approximately 48 hours post-treatment. This is an added safety precaution,” says Murphy. Karavolas agrees: “Always do a test patch and wait prior to treatment. If the reaction is good, then you can proceed.”
The Best Laser for Dark Skin
To figure out what laser works best on dark skin, it’s worth understanding how hair removal lasers work. Murphy explains, “The contrast between the color of the skin and the color of the pigment in the hair follicle is what allows the laser to easily pick out what to target.” As you can imagine, it’s easier to decipher dark hair from fair skin than it is dark hair on dark skin. However, thanks to advancements in laser technology, there are now safer and more effective options available for dark skin types.
Among them is the GentleMax Pro Laser. “[It’s] safe for darker skin types because it offers two wavelengths: one being a 755 nm wavelength or a 1064 nm wavelength,” says Murphy. The 1064 nm wavelength, better known as the Nd:YAG wavelength, is selectively absorbed by the deeper levels of the dermis—bypassing the skin’s surface and only targeting deeper melanin at the level of hair follicle.3 And since Nd:YAG essentially bypasses the epidermis, Karavolas also cites this wavelength as a safe option for dark skin.
Post-Treatment Care and Maintenance
After you undergo laser hair removal, there are certain things you’ll want to do and others that you’ll want to avoid to ensure you get the best results possible. “To reduce any redness or swelling after treatment, it is recommended to apply a cool compress, aloe vera, and topical corticosteroids morning and evening for five days post-treatment,” says Murphy. Karavolas agrees, suggesting any soothing cream after laser. “This can be aloe vera, vitamin E, vitamin K, or hydrocortisone 1 percent over the counter,” he explains.
You should also forgo any activity that may irritate the skin during your post-treatment care. For instance, exercise is discouraged for 24 hours, any bleaching, plucking, or waxing for four to six weeks, and direct sun exposure for at least a month after your procedure and/or throughout the treatment series, explains Murphy. As for how long a laser treatment series lasts? “Typically, four to six treatments are recommended,” comments Murphy. But, keep in mind that treatments vary from person to person. “Hair growth is reduced after each treatment, and the number of treatments required will be based on your hair color and type, body area, and skin tone,” she adds.
Risks Every Dark-Skinned Person Should Know
As mentioned earlier, darker skin types are more prone to side effects than lighter skin types. So if you have darker skin, it’s so important that you use the right laser for your skin tone. “If the wrong equipment or wavelength is used, your skin may get temporary burns or discoloration,” Karavolas warns. “Lasers for darker skin complexions have been in existence since 2000. However, most facilities have not spent the money to buy the right equipment,” he adds. So as not to compromise your safety and to protect your skin, it’s essential that you take the proper precautions and only work with trusted and experienced professionals.
Best Laser Hair Removal At Home Device
Both IPL and diode laser devices rely on the pigment of the hair follicle to lessen or completely remove it from your skin, but diode lasers are generally more precise, making them a safer option for most skin types and tones. However, it’s important to use caution when trying out any at-home laser hair removal device. Those with lighter hair or darker skin should carefully consider their options regarding their tool of choice. “I recommend that my clients first test spots in less conspicuous areas, like the arms or legs, to see if burning or hyperpigmentation occurs before proceeding to treat the face or more prominent areas of the body,” Anthony Rossi, a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, says.
Having more pigment in your skin may confuse the laser, Zeichner cautions, leading to discoloration in the skin. “In general, at-home laser hair removal devices are not optimal for those with sensitive skin or skin of color as the potential risk of irritation, hyperpigmentation, or scarring is increased,” Garshick adds. “For individuals with sensitive skin and darker skin types, it’s especially important to ensure the selected device is appropriate and should always be discussed with a board-certified dermatologist prior to use.”
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO TO TREAT THE SKIN POST-HAIR REMOVAL?
Another pro tip? Don’t forget to take care of your skin with a soothing moisturizer following each treatment to hydrate and repair the skin barrier. According to Rossi, look for moisturizers without heavy fragrances, as they can contribute to skin inflammation. Garshick agrees, adding that wearing sunscreen with at least SPF 30 is equally important in healing newly treated areas of the skin, since laser treatments can often contribute to increased sun sensitivity. “Generally, moisturizing creams and sun protection are both important after using laser treatment,” she explains. “A gentle moisturizer or post-procedure product, such as Vaseline Intensive Care Soothing Hydration with Aloe, can be soothing on the skin. Other options include CeraVe’s Moisturizing Cream, Avène Cicalfate+, or EltaMD Laser Enzyme Gel. If the skin feels sensitive at all, it is best to opt for a mineral sunscreen like Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield or Cetaphil’s Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen.”
Whether you’re looking to maintain a professional treatment or curious about new options for hair removal at home, these expert-recommended devices are among the safest and most effective tools that get the job done. Here, nine of the best at-home laser devices dermatologists always recommend to their clients for body care maintenance, along with some top-rated picks beauty enthusiasts across the internet swear by.
1EXPERT LASER HAIR REMOVAL PICK
Silk Expert IPL Hair Removal System
This dermatologist-recommended device uses IPL technology and incorporates a sensor that adapts the treatment based on your skin tone. Its glide mode can be helpful to cover larger surface areas and also includes a precision head to help address smaller areas that may be difficult to reach, like the face, bikini line, and underarms.
2 BEST LASER HAIR REMOVAL SET
IPL Silk Expert Pro 3
Here’s another top-rated Braun device—that just happens to be on sale right now. It works in just nine minutes to remove hair from both your arms and legs, and is ideal for fair to olive skin tones. For in between touch-ups, this tool even includes a handy razor and extra precision head.
One satisfied Amazon customer writes, “I was very skeptical about this because my skin is a medium brown, close to golden honey. This device has indication lights that will tell you if you can use it on the skin (it doesn’t flash if the skin is not suitable). I have used it twice a week since January 24, and noticed the hairs are taking much longer to grow. It hasn’t been 90 days yet, which leads me to believe results will be even better. I’m very satisfied with this device—great value!”
3 EXPERT LASER HAIR REMOVAL PICK
Infinity Hair Removal Device
“This handheld device is easy to hold and use, and uses IPL technology to eliminate hairs. Through high-speed repetition of pulses, it offers fast and effective treatment sessions at home,” Garshick says.
4 BEST CUSTOMIZABLE HAIR REMOVAL DEVICE
Flash&Go Jewel Hair Removal Device
This adjustable device from Silk’n uses HPL (Home Pulsed Light) technology to minimize unwanted body hair by targeting pigment in the hair shaft to disable growth without damaging surrounding skin.
5 BEST HAIR REMOVAL DEVICE FOR LARGE AREAS
Flash&Go Pro Hair Removal Device
Made to remove hair from both your body and face, this expert-level HPL tool features five power levels to get the job done with the touch of a single button.
6 BEST HAIR REMOVAL DEVICE FOR TRAVEL
Flash&Go Express Hair Removal Device
This fast-acting, FDA-cleared version of the Flash&Go uses a quartz bulb and pulsed light technology to lessen hair density with the press of a button, and works in just 20 minutes to deliver smoother skin.
7 EXPERT LASER HAIR REMOVAL PICK
Hair Removal Laser 4X
This tool from Tria is one of most popular products on the market for at-home laser hair removal, and has a tip that’s small enough to target hard-to-reach areas. “This device uses a diode laser, the same type I use in the office, to target the root of the hair,” Zeichner says. “The hand piece of the laser is small enough that it can accommodate skin contours such as those under the arms, in the bikini area, or even the face.”
8 BEST HAIR REMOVAL DEVICE FOR PRECISION
Hair Removal Laser Precision
This compact diode-laser device is ergonomic and designed to use around curves and smaller areas. Since it has a battery life of up to 15 minutes, it’s ideal for quick touch-ups between professional visits.
9 BEST LASER HAIR REMOVAL DEVICE FOR MEN AND WOMEN
At-Home Hair Removal Machine
This popular IPL device is best for those with fair to olive skin tones with darker hair, and uses three stages to slow body hair growth over the course of a few weeks.