Laser Hair Removal for Dark Skin Tones

Is Laser Hair Removal Safe for Dark Skin?

In short, the answer to this question is yes. When administered by a trained medical professional, laser hair removal is safe for dark skin tones.

There have been a number of studies conducted showing that laser hair removal can be performed safely and efficaciously on dark skin types1. However, a wide variety of medical lasers are in use for the removal of unwanted hair, and it’s important to know that not all laser technology is effective or safe for all types of skin.

For patients who have dark skin and are considering laser hair removal, it is imperative that they consult a medical professional with the right laser and experience treating people with dark skin.

Why is Dark Skin an Issue for Lasers?

The fact is, laser hair removal works by targeting the pigment in the hair2. Years ago that meant that people with dark skin and dark hair or those with blond and gray hair were not ideal candidates for laser hair removal. The lasers weren’t able to differentiate between the level of color of the skin versus the color of the hair.

In the early years of lasers, the ideal candidate was someone with dark hair and light skin. Because these lasers could not differentiate between the pigment in the skin and the pigment in the hair the risk for burns was exceptionally high and a dangerous proposition.

Important Factors for Treating Patients with Dark Skin

Experience and Training Matter

Progress has been made in the field of lasers with regard to hair removal for dark skin. Those with dark skin can now have their hair removed safely, but there are certain things to be aware of before beginning laser hair removal treatments to ensure optimal safety and success.

First, it’s important to make sure the treatment is administered by an experienced laser practitioner that is under direct supervision of a doctor.

Many states, like Georgia, now require anyone operating a laser to have a laser practitioner license. Check with the state medical board to see if such requirements are in place. Experience is key, so it’s important to do research, read reviews, and have confidence that the professional has treated many different ethnicities without complications.

Having the Right Laser is Very Important

Currently the safest and most effective laser for performing laser hair removal on dark skin is the nd: YAG laser. This laser is a 1064nm wavelength. In a nutshell, the wavelength is long enough to bypass the color found in the skin and only looks for color once under the skin. So it affects the hair and not the skin. A trained medical professional will have the knowledge to adjust the settings of the laser properly to provide the best results from treatment.

Having a supervising physician is also important in the event the patient has an adverse reaction or complication. An experienced laser professional will understand the different needs associated with different skin types, hair types and textures, as well as health issues (for example, Pseudofolliculitis Barbae and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). Patients can also find that these practices often repair the damage done by less-experienced practices. There are laser hair removal deals practically anywhere, but please use caution and do research, read reviews.

To learn more about laser hair removal and whether this treatment is a good fit, schedule a free consultation at WIFH.

Citations
1. Battle, E., Hobbs, L. (2004). Laser-assisted hair removal for darker skin types. Dermatologic Therapy, 2004;17(2):177-83. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15113285
1. Kulkin, J., Flash, S. (2010). Laser Hair Removal. Cosmetic Procedures in Gynecology: Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America, 2010 Dec. Vol 37, Issue 4:477-487. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21093743
About the Author

Jay M. Kulkin, MD

Dr. Jay M. Kulkin is the Founder and Medical Director of WIFH. Board Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Kulkin was one of the first physicians in Georgia to use lasers in a surgical setting. He has more than 30 years of experience as a cosmetic laser specialist, and has trained numerous physicians around the United States and abroad on his surgical laser techniques. He has been a featured speaker on the safety and effectiveness of laser hair removal for dark skin types.