As laser hair removal democratizes, more and more people wish to undergo the procedure. It is more affordable than before, a safe way to remove unwanted hair and provides great long-term results. Yet, with a better access to the technique, the industry faced difficulties in treating some patients. For example, it is widespread in the laser hair removal industry that the procedure does not work on dark skin. Years later, some technology improvements later, are we still there? Can women of color undergo laser hair removal? Is laser hair removal safe for dark skin? We are answering all your question in this guide to laser hair removal for women of color.
Laser hair removal for women of color
1. How does laser hair removal work?
Laser hair removal is a cosmetic procedure using a laser that will produce a beam of light. This light will damage the hair follicle and prevent future hair growth by target the pigment in the hair. Laser hair removal works only when the hair is in the anagen phase of the growth cycle since it is only then that hair and follicle are connected. Indeed, there need to be transmission between laser and follicle, as the hair acts as a conduit. After the laser damages the follicle, the hair will fall on its own. Since only 20% of the hair is in the anagen phase at all time, only 20% can be reached by the laser during each session.
The reason behind the misconception that laser hair removal does not work on dark skin is because of that need for a pigment. More precisely, the need for a contrast in pigment between skin and hair. Since the laser targets pigments, it is indeed easier if the only element containing melanin is the hair. However, dark skin contains a lot of pigment that the laser can target and incur burning.
This apply as well in the opposite situation with light hair over fair skin. Blond, grey and white hair are low in pigments and melanin and the laser may not always be able to target them. In conclusion, laser hair removal for dark skin work. However, because darker skin are more prone to burns, proper attention needs to be given to the laser hair removal machine used.
2. YAG is the only laser for women of color
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 a consequence, laser hair removal typically works best on fair skin with dark hair. Yet, in this guide to laser hair removal for women of color, we will demonstrate why laser hair removal work on dark skin too.
In the past, laser hair removal for women of color was not advised. Simply because back then the right technology might not have been available. Yet, with research and advances, it now is. The Nd:YAG wavelength has demonstrated safety and efficacy. Side effects are minimal with this wavelength and can be easily avoided, especially if the patient follows the pre- and post-treatment guidelines.
The 1064 nm wavelength, also known as the Nd:YAG wavelength, is not as highly absorbed by melanin as other wavelengths. Due to this, the wavelength can safely treat all skin types because it deposits its energy deep into the dermis without relying on melanin to do so. The laser hair removal machines that we use at Infinity Laser Spa, V-Frost Diode 808 by Vertex Lasers and Soprano Ice, both are Nd:YAG lasers. The wavelength bypasses the epidermis, so it's very safe on dark skin
3. Stay away from IPL and DIY laser hair removal
We are now getting onto a crucial point in our guide to laser hair removal for women of color. The absence of color contrast between skin and hair for women of color make them more prone to burns when undergoing laser hair removal. This is why only a certain type of lasers can be used for laser hair removal for dark skin. As mentioned earlier, Nd:YAG lasers work great because the wavelength can treat dark skins since it deposits its energy deep into the dermis without relying on melanin to do so.
However, dark skins vary in shades and the laser hair removal machine will have to adapt to those changes in pigmentation. Until now, only professional machines have the ability to adapt the laser intensity to each skin tone. On the other hand, home-laser devices do not. Such is the case for intense pulsed light devices too. They are unsafe for dark skins, mostly because their emission is less controllable.
A home laser hair removal is never as efficient, time effective and safe as in a specialized clinic or spa. Plus, the devices simply are not safe for women of color. The intensity of the light cannot be adjusted to the skin color, which can incur burns, hyper-pigmentation and discoloration. Laser hair removal clinics may have up to thirteen lasers for different skin tones and complexions.
4. How to prepare for your session
This guide to laser hair removal for women of color will briefly touch on how to prepare for each each session of laser hair removal. We do have a dedicate article explaining how to do just that.
One precaution to take both prior and after your laser hair removal session is to stay out of the sun. Although it does not have downtime, the procedure will still leave your skin sensitive for a few days. Beyond that, you should not come to your session with sunburns, which could be worsened by the laser. Make sure you also come in with skin free of any cream, lotion and other ointment.
Finally, one crucial thing you need to do is shave prior to your session. When the hair is long, the pulse heats the whole hair, thus risking to cause burns and scarring. Tell your technician whether you have been on any medication in the past months. Indeed, some may increase photo-sensitivity (i.e. antibiotics) or clearly not compatible with laser hair removal (i.e. Roaccutane). Hormones may also impact the results of your treatment and determine how many sessions you will need.
To conclude our guide to laser hair removal for women of color, laser hair removal is safe for dark skins. This is mostly due to advancement in technology. Indeed, new machines have wavelength adapted to darker skin and ensure safety during the procedure. How to prepare prior to your session remains the same for all patients. Yet, it is crucial that they respect recommendations of pre and post-treatment care.