Cosmetic Surgery Tips

Is Laser Hair Removal For Dark Skin

Laser hair removal for dark skin is effective at removing unwanted hair from certain parts of the body. Photofacials work to remove hair using multiple lasers, which are directed at the skin. The laser light penetrates the skin and targets the melanin, or pigmentation cells, in a hair follicle. This heats up these cells which damages the cells and prevents them from producing new hair.

Laser hair removal is a great way to remove unwanted body hair. It can also be used on areas of the face where there is hair, such as the upper lip and chin. Laser hair removal is a safe and effective treatment that uses laser light to destroy the root of the hair follicle. For some people, it may take several treatments to achieve results. However, laser hair removal works best on fair skinned individuals who have dark black or brown hair.

Read on to learn more about Is Laser Hair Removal For Dark Skin, How to Prepare for Your Laser Hair Treatment and Caring for Dark Skin After Laser Hair Removal

Is Laser Hair Removal For Dark Skin

Like good sunscreens and extensive foundation shades, laser hair removal for dark skin simply didn’t exist for a long time. But thanks to the growing focus on inclusivity, as well as to advances in technology, those of us who were told for years that laser hair removal was a no-go due to our skin tone are now finally able to get the treatment.

First, the lowdown on lasers and how they work: They beam intense light at the follicle, causing permanent damage so hair no longer grows. But because they target the pigment in the hair—it’s the contrast between dark hair and lighter skin that helps the laser focus on its bullseye—the ideal candidate has traditionally been someone with fair skin and dark hair.

For that reason, laser hair removal for dark skin has been a gamble: Devices weren’t sophisticated enough to distinguish well between the pigment in brown or Black skin and dark hair, meaning that they could potentially cause dark and light spots, blisters, and even scarring in the skin surrounding the follicle, says Robyn Gmyrek, M.D., of Park View Laser Dermatology in NYC. But now there are smarter lasers that can be used in a much more precise—and safe—way, making getting rid of unwanted fuzz a reality for a wider range of skin tones. Here’s how to get it right.

The Best Lasers for Dark Skin

The first and most important thing you need to know is how the two types of lasers—Nd:YAG and diode—work for dark skin and dark hair. In recent years the Nd:YAG (or just YAG) has become increasingly popular. “The wavelength of this laser goes deeper into the skin than a diode,” says Gmyrek. “So it more successfully bypasses the pigmentation present in the skin.” Because the YAG basically bypasses the melanin in your skin, it’s the safest option for medium to dark skin. It’s one of two lasers Shobha Tummala, founder and CEO of Shobha hair removal, offers in her salons. (She’ll also use it for fair-skinned clients who have recently gotten a tan.)

But the diode laser has its own perks, even though it might be more complicated for anyone above a 4 on the Fitzpatrick scale (the standard measure of skin type used by dermatologists, with 1 being the lightest and most sun-sensitive and 6 being the darkest). “In patients with dark skin, the diode laser’s energy has to be delivered in a slower manner per pulse, leaving more time for skin to cool,” says Gmyrek. “It also has an instant cooling device that protects pigment from overheating and being damaged.” The Lumenis LightSheer laser, one of the most popular diode lasers, even has a suction mechanism to distract your attention from the pain. “I would overall say that it’s the least painful,” says Estee Williams, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City.

How to Prepare for Your Laser Hair Treatment

Now is not—we repeat, not—the time to get a coupon through a discount site. The provider (and their expertise) matters. “I was willing to pay a premium and see a professional with great reviews,” says Marlene, 28, who had the treatment done on her underarms. A pro who has extensive experience with laser hair removal for dark skin is essential.

Not only should you expect the screening to cover the topics and forms you’d see from any medical professional, it should also include your ethnicity, because different ethnicities—regardless of skin tone—react differently to lasers. Your skin may appear to be a 3 or 4 on the Fitzpatrick scale, but if you’re, say, Latinx or Asian, it could react to the laser as a 6 would.

Once you’re scheduled, coddle your skin. Stop using skin-care products with harsh ingredients, including glycolic and salicylic acids, benzoyl peroxide, and any retinoids (including tretinoin and adapalene), at least five days before your treatment. “These can all make your skin more sensitive to the laser energy,” says Gmyrek.

Go full vampire and keep out of the sun—or at the very least, use proper protection. (That’s broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or more; tinted moisturizer or foundation with SPF doesn’t count.) A tan equals more pigment, which can spur a different (and potentially dangerous) reaction to the laser. “If you’re even slightly tanned, inform the laser provider so that the treatment energy can be lowered or the treatment rescheduled,” says Gmyrek.

Caring for Dark Skin After Laser Hair Removal

Side effects can still happen—but you’ve got options. “For irritation or redness, hydrocortisone can help to resolve the inflammation,” says Gmyrek. “For an acne-like eruption, or folliculitis, use topical antibiotics.” For any hyperpigmentation, try a topical cream for dark spots, which your derm can prescribe. “It’ll help normalize the skin color,” says Gmyrek.

But many who once felt a need to shave daily say the minimal upkeep has been well worth it. “My overall experience was great,” says Marlene. The best part? She didn’t experience burns or pigmentation problems, proving just how far laser hair removal for dark skin has come.

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