A. The Laser Hair Removal Guide for Dark Skin
It’s time to bring to bed the myth that lasers don’t work on dark skin tones. If you have brown or deep skin, you can certainly get treatments like laser hair removal – there are just a few important things you need to know. We spoke with dermatologists Jeanine Downie and Michelle Henry to clarify all the things people with color need to consider before scheduling a laser hair removal treatment.
1. Choose the right laser
Laser hair removal is a permanent (or semi-permanent, depending on how often you do it) treatment that uses amplified light to remove hair. Downie explains that light energy safely removes hair, directing the pigment in each follicle. What makes laser hair removal problematic for dark skin is when the laser hits the pigment (melanin) in your skin, in addition to the hair follicle.
Therefore, it is important that you consult a specialist who is using the correct laser device. Henry says to look for a YAG laser (1064 Nd; YAG laser to be more precise); It is a long-pulse laser that ignores the skin’s melanin and targets only the hair follicle. Using the wrong type of laser can have negative side effects, such as burns, scars and permanent discoloration, all of which are difficult to treat.
Both Downie and Henry encourage patients to see a qualified dermatologist who has used lasers to remove dark skin hair. “[It is] an advanced procedure and should only be done by a dermatologist with significant experience,” says Henry. Downie agrees, saying it is “critical” to ask friends or your dermatologist for recommendations. And she also warns against going to a laser salon or spa because it is cheap. “Unfortunately, I have heard of many people who use Groupon and I am not well with them,” she warns her.
Treatments range from $ 300 to $ 800 per session, depending on where you live and where on your body you are applying the laser. Henry adds that it is necessary to do an average of 10 treatments on the part of the body to obtain results. She recommends not tanning, shaving or pinching before your first appointment. After treatment, she says adding hydration to the skin to strengthen the skin barrier. She also recommends creams like SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum and Vanicream Moisturizing Cream, which contain ceramides to soothe and reduce inflammation.
2. Be careful with household devices
Laser hair removal is expensive, but treatment may not be a priority at the moment. Although home appliances exist for a fraction of the cost and for added convenience, Downie and Henry would not recommend them for dark skin.
“Home devices are safer for lighter skin types,” says Henry. “They contain shorter wavelengths that are not safe for dark skin.” She admits that there are some newer devices out there that better filter these wavelengths, making them safer for darker skin types. Just be sure to do your research before the first charge.
B. Everything Dark-Skinned Folk Need to Know About Laser Hair Removal
A few decades ago, laser hair removal treatment would be quite risky for a black person. Lasers were not made with melanin in mind, so they were safer for those with fair skin and dark hair follicles. The main disruption was that lasers did not properly distinguish hair follicles and skin pigment, so people with dark skin are at risk of severe burns, scarring, discoloration and more
In recent years, however, we have seen advances in inclusive technology designed specifically for dark skin tones. And, like launching various beauty brands, it is something to look forward to. To find out more, we contacted experts Meghan Murphy and Christian Karavolas, who shared their insights and professional advice for dark-skinned patients seeking laser treatment.
1. What to do before laser hair removal
When trying to decide if laser hair removal is right for you, there are a few things that should be crossed out of your checklist before undergoing any treatment. First, find out about the laser hairdresser and the facility you are considering, especially when it comes to treating dark skin tones. Since dark skin is more sensitive than light, Karavolas recommends that you ask the Laser Hair Treatment Center to see “before and after” pictures of dark-skinned patients who have undergone a laser procedure.
Don’t be afraid to speak directly to the technician. Murphy recommends, “I would ask the laser practitioner how long he has worked in the field of laser hair removal, approximately how many dark-skinned patients they have treated and how satisfied these patients were with their results.”
To ensure your safety as a patient, you must follow the guidelines before and after the procedure. This includes reviewing all medications and skin care products you are taking with your doctor. In general, those with ingredients that cause photosensitivity (think AHAs / BHAs, retinol / retinoids, salicylic acid, etc.) should be avoided at least a week before your treatment. If you are using Accutane, it is recommended that you do not undergo laser treatment for at least six months after stopping medication to avoid the risk of scarring.2 Murphy and Karavolas emphasize that you should also not miss a contact test.
“Ideally, the doctor should do a test on an inconspicuous area and wait about 48 hours after treatment. This is an extra security measure, ”says Murphy. Karavolas agrees: “Always take a test patch and wait before treatment. If the reaction is good, you can proceed.”
2. The best laser for dark skin
To find out which laser works best on dark skin, you must understand 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 allows the laser to easily figure out what to do.” As you can imagine, it is easier to decipher dark hair on light skin than dark hair on dark skin. Thanks to advances in laser technology, there are now safer and more effective options available for dark skin types.
Below it is the GentleMax Pro Laser. “[It’s] safe for darker skin types because it has two wavelengths: a wavelength of 755 nm or a wavelength of 1064 nm,” says Murphy. “The 1064 nm wavelength, also known as the Nd: YAG wavelength, is not as absorbed by melanin as other wavelengths. Because of this, the wavelength can safely treat all skin types, as it deposits its energy deep in the dermis without affecting it to leave. “Melanin,” she adds. And since Nd: YAG essentially ignores the epidermis, Karavolas also calls this wavelength a safe option for dark skin.
3. Care and maintenance after treatment
After going through laser hair removal, there are certain things you should do and avoid others to ensure that you get the best results possible. “To reduce redness or swelling after treatment, it is recommended that a cold compress, aloe vera and topical corticosteroids be applied in the morning and in the evening for five days after treatment,” says Murphy. Karavolas agrees and suggests a soothing cream after the laser. “This can be aloe vera, vitamin E, vitamin K or 1% over-the-counter hydrocortisone,” he explains.
You should also avoid activities that can irritate your skin during follow-up treatment. For example, we do not recommend exercising for 24 hours, whitening, waxing or waxing for four to six weeks and exposure to direct sunlight for at least a month after the procedure and / or during treatment, explains Murphy. How long does a laser treatment series last? “Four to six treatments are usually recommended,” says Murphy. Note, however, that treatments vary from person to person. “Hair growth is reduced after each treatment, and the number of treatments required depends on your hair color and type, your body area and your skin tone,” he adds.
4. Risks that every dark-skinned person should know
As mentioned earlier, darker skin types tend to be more sensitive than lighter ones. Therefore, when you have darker skin, it is very important to use the right laser for your skin tone. “Using the wrong equipment or the wrong wavelength can temporarily burn or discolor your skin,” warns Karavolas. “Lasers for darker skin tones have been around since 2000, but most facilities have not spent the money to buy the right equipment,” he adds. In order not to compromise your safety and protect your skin, it is important that you take proper care and work only with experienced and trusted professionals.
C. Dermatologists Explain the Best Laser Treatments for Dark Skin Tones
Somewhere between the Kennedy administration and today, lasers have gone from Russian spy novels to an integral part of dermatologists’ practice. They can remove blemishes, smooth scars and tone the skin and are one of the best non-surgical cosmetic procedures in the country today. In some cities, you can opt for a “laser facial treatment”, which takes approximately the same time as an explosion – 30 minutes, inside and outside. (Although doctors recommend going to dermatologists trained for the service.)
One of the biggest advances, however, is in color, not convenience: for decades, lasers have been recommended almost exclusively for lighter skin tones. Those that target pigment on the skin would damage dark skin (or, in the case of laser hair removal, it wouldn’t work), and those that provide high bursts of energy and heat put darker skin at risk for scarring and hyperpigmentation. Not anymore: new devices – and smarter ways to use existing ones – are making lasers accessible to almost everyone, replacing some outdated ideas about dermatology.
1. For redness
Rosacea outbreaks are not just something that the paler people have to deal with, says Shereene Idriss, clinical instructor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine on Mount Sinai in New York City. “Everyone has superficial vessels that can expand and cause unwanted redness,” she says. “I have half black and half Irish patients with rosacea.” Vbeam, a pulsed dye laser that fights red pigments, has long been the preferred weapon for rosacea and spider veins, but doctors are now realizing that it can be used on a wide variety of skin tones. Instead of rejecting Vbeam as an option for darker skin tones, many have learned to lower the speed and temperature of the laser to make it suitable for deeper skin tones. (If you are thinking of vbeam and have medium to dark skin tone, do a test in an inconspicuous place such as under the jaw, if your dermatologist or plastic surgeon does not suggest it first.)
2. For unwanted brands
The pico laser receives the award for most improvements. Also known for its brands PicoWay, PicoSure and Pico Genesis, Pico can remove sunspots, scars and birthmarks from almost any skin tone – something that most dermatologists didn’t think was possible five years ago. According to New York dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, his wrists are exponentially faster and generate less heat than previous models, meaning that dark skin tones are less likely to scar. Years ago, it was difficult to treat acne marks with lasers in patients with Fitzpatrick skin types 4, 5 or 6, says Roy G. Geronemus, a New York City dermatologist. (The Fitzpatrick Dermatological Scale divides skin tones into six color categories, with 1 being the lightest and 6 being the darkest. In comparison, Michelle Obama is 5, estimates Zakia Rahman, Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at the School of Medicine at Stanford University.) “Now I can treat them with the PicoSure laser without downtime and less risk of damage to the pigment,” says Geronemus.
For stretch marks, some dermatologists use the 1540 nanometer Palomar fractional laser, which creates columns of light that penetrate the skin a millimeter or more. “It simulates in the skin cells around it that there was a wound that is creating new collagen under and around it and creating the appearance of stretch marks,” says Arash Akhavan, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine on Mount Sinai. This is an option for darker skin – as long as you approach it slowly and evenly. Dark skin requires more than the three to five treatments recommended for results (expect more than five to eight). Other dermatologists like Rahman use a 1550 nanometer fractional laser to treat stretch marks at six-week intervals for darker-skinned patients and monthly for lighter-skinned patients. “No matter how new and improved a laser is, it is always safer to energize darker skin at slower and less traumatic speeds,” said Joshua Drawer, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine.
3. For hair removal
Traditional hair removal lasers are still the best for people with dark hair and light skin because the beam of light targets the dark pigment (scientifically known as eumelanin). If the skin is also high in eumelanin, the laser is “confused”, making it less effective. (The results are equally impressive for people with light hair and light skin – there is not enough pigment to do the job.) For people with darker skin, the latest Nd: YAG lasers are 1064 nanometers like Cutera Excel HR 1064 and Sciton 1064 joules are good alternatives to older pigment targeting lasers. They still target melanin, but they tend to focus on the hair follicle, not the skin surface above it. By penetrating that certain depth, “these dark-skinned patients can be safely treated with these lasers,” says Rahman.
4. For smoother and firmer skin
If you want to add a touch of elasticity to your skin, Pico is as close to a single size as possible. These lasers create a pulse of pressure waves in the depths of the skin to ignite it, which stimulates the growth of new collagen. Because of this, Akhavan says that Pico lasers, such as PicoSure Focus, are his favorite place when working with Asian, East Asian and Indian patients. Fractional lasers like Fraxel are also an option for all skin tones. They cause inflammation in small areas of the skin, rather than covering the entire surface evenly. However, they still reach the skin with heat and energy, so there is a risk that the skin will darken afterwards. Topical therapies can minimize potential damage. Dermatologists and designers now prescribe hydroquinone a week before and after a fractional laser procedure, which relaxes pigment-forming cells so that it does not trigger pigment production. (This short hydroquinone regimen will not brighten your skin in the long run.) Rahman recommends 4 percent of the prescribed hydroquinone to even out skin tone.