A Guide to Laser Hair Removal for Dark Skin

Once upon a time, conventional wisdom stated that people with darker skin tones should avoid laser hair removal. The popular belief was that because the lasers used in these skincare treatments weren’t able to properly differentiate between the melanin in skin versus hair, laser hair removal could be ineffective or damaging for dark skin. Men and women with darker complexions were left with traditional methods like shaving, waxing, or plucking.

Thanks to advancements in laser technology, however, it’s now completely safe for people with darker skin to undergo laser hair removal. Here’s what you need to know.

What is laser hair removal?

When performed by an experienced aesthetician, laser hair removal is a safe, low-risk beauty treatment where a beam of light helps to remove unwanted hair. The laser is set to a specific wavelength that targets the melanin in your hair, penetrating right to the hair follicle, which causes the hair to grow back thinner, less noticeable, and less frequently.

Is laser hair removal safe for dark skin?

With today’s advancements in laser treatments, it is absolutely safe.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case. When laser technology first arrived on the skincare scene, the wavelength options for the lasers were limited to diodes, a version that was best suited for those with fair skin and dark hair. When this type of wavelength was used on darker skin it couldn’t effectively target the melanin in the hair. Instead, it would target the skin’s melanin too. And the results ranged from ineffective to damaging. People with dark skin who attempted laser hair removal could either have no measurable difference in unwanted hair or at worst experience blisters, rashes and permanent hyperpigmentation or hypo-pigmentation (when patches of skin are lighter than surrounding areas).

Today, technology has significantly improved so that people of all skin tones can safely undergo laser hair removal and enjoy great results. If you’re still unsure or have any concerns about your own skincare, consult your aesthetician before undergoing any kind of laser treatment. You’ll want to make sure you work with a professional who has plenty of experience with a wide range of skin types and tones, and uses high quality laser technology.

What kind of laser is best for darker skin tones?

You’ll want to look for an aesthetician who uses a dual wavelength laser, which means that it can work on fair and dark skin—as long as the wavelength is properly calibrated based on the client’s skin tone. For darker skin, ensure that the wavelength is set to 1064 YAG. This wavelength is perfect for darker skin because it can distinguish between the melanin in your hair and the surrounding skin.

How to prep for laser hair removal

Rule of thumb: always begin with a consultation. The best laser hair removal treatments are given by aestheticians who take the time to get to know you and your needs properly. They will need to not just confirm your skin tone to properly calibrate their lasers, but they’ll also want to know about your dermatological history. Do you have sensitive skin? Are you currently on retinol or Accutane—two products that can increase your chance of adverse reactions?

For African-Americans specifically, there’s a common skin concern of scarring and keloid growths. So, a good aesthetician will thoroughly review your skin regimens, sensitivities and problem areas. They can recommend ways to ensure your laser treatment is as effective as possible, such as:

●       Discontinue products with strong ingredients like glycolic acid, retinoid, salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide five days before treatment because they heighten sensitivity.

●       If you have recently tanned, it may be best to reschedule your treatment as this could impact results.

●       Wait six weeks after waxing or plucking before undergoing laser hair removal.

●       Depending on your skin tone, you may need anywhere from five to 10 treatments to experience visible results.

With modern technology, laser hair removal can be safe and effective for all skin types. Find a qualified, experienced, and caring laser hair removal specialist, stick with them, and you’ll enjoy beautiful, smooth, hairless skin for years to come. 

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