Laser hair removal is the most sustainable and affordable hair removal option for most people. Not only does it reduce hair growth by up to 95%, but it also saves patients a lot of time and money. Now, a big misconception is that not all patients may be a good candidate for the procedure.
Is that true though? Can people of color undergo laser treatments? What about patients with fair hair on fair skin? Who actually is a good candidate for laser hair removal? All the answers below!
How does laser hair removal work?
Laser hair removal is a fairly new hair removal method. Approved by the FDA in 1997, it can reduce hair growth by up to 95%. Although not qualified as a permanent hair removal option, many patients do indeed achieve permanent hair removal.
The difference in results from one patient to another can be for many reasons. Factors such as hair growth cycle, hormone levels, medications, hair color and type, skin type and color can all have an impact on a laser treatment.
Laser hair removal relies on selective photothermolysis. It is the principle that allows lasers to target a specific area in the skin with minimal or no disruption to the surrounding normal skin. In short, surrounding tissues will not be impacted.
During a session, the laser produces a beam of light. That light targets melanin in the hair. Once the pigments have absorbed the energy, the latter travels to the hair follicle. There, it becomes thermal energy.
The heat will cauterize the blood vessel feeding the hair follicle. With no fuel, the follicle will not be able to produce any new hair. Further hair growth is thus prevented. Some hair follicle may need multiple sessions before they are permanently damaged.
One session can only treat up to 20% of unwanted body hair. This is because of the hair growth cycle. Indeed, laser hair removal treatments are only efficient on hair in the anagen phase of growth. That is when the hair and follicle connect and the energy can travel from the former to the latter.
As 20% of hair is in the anagen phase of growth at any points in time, patients need multiple sessions to be able to treat all hair on the chosen area. Each session must be six weeks apart. This timeframe allows the skin to recover as well as hair to move into the right growth stage.
Light skin and dark hair
Laser hair removal targets the color pigments in the hair. If the contrast skin to hair is very sharp, it will be easier for the laser to pick up the pigment. Thus, people with light skin and dark hair are excellent candidates for laser hair removal.
A sharp skin to hair contrast helps ensure that the laser does not targets pigments in the skin and damages surrounding tissues. Different skin colors leaning towards light shades such as olive or tanned will still display a strong contrast.
Technically, the procedure will work on all types of hair on fair skin. However, the coarser and thicker the hair, the more efficient the treatment will be. This is because dark hair that are very thin are more difficult to pick up.
Dark hair tends to get lighter during the summer time. The sun will indeed have a big impact on visible hair such as on the face or arms. In that context, the laser may have trouble picking up the hair. Thus, you may want to wait a bit longer so that your hair gets back to its original darker shade.
Dark skin and dark hair
As mentioned above, laser hair removal works best on patients with a sharp skin to hair contrast. That is why it is so efficient on light skin and dark hair. However, that does not mean it will not work on darker skin tones and darker hair.
People of color can undergo laser hair removal. Patients with brown, dark and black skin can undergo a laser treatment that is safe and efficient. They will need to make sure that the spa or laser center they are going to use the right machine for their skin tone.
Removing hair on darker skin complexions requires laser machines that do not rely on melanin too much to get to the hair follicle. Such is the case of YAG lasers and diode lasers. They reach a 1064nm wavelength that penetrates the skin without relying on pigments to do so.
Laser hair removal for dark skin is safe and effective. Aftercare is a bit more stringent for people of color. Indeed, they must stay clear of direct sunlight to avoid hippo-pigmentation and permanent skin discoloration.
Fair skin and light hair
Laser hair removal for blonde hair is a bit tricker. Dark hair on dark skin is harder to pick up. This is because both are blending together. However, when it comes to fair hair on fair skin, the problems comes from the lack of pigments.
Indeed, the lighter the hair, the less pigments it holds. Thus, the laser would not be able to pick up the hair at all. However, that does not mean that people with blonde hair cannot undergo laser hair removal.
Not all blonde hair is the same color. Darker blonde hair will be picked up by the laser. Extremely light hair as well as vellus hair will not however. People with lighter hair needs to use laser machines with the 755 wavelength.
This specific wavelength picked up hair in lighter shades against fair skin. Because the hair is harder to pick up, patients may need more sessions to ensure every single hair is treated.
White hair, grey hair and ginger hair
The key ingredient to laser hair removal success is pigment in the hair. Lack of pigments will interfere with the procedure so much, it may not work at all. That is why laser treatments do not work on white hair. There is indeed no pigment at all in white hair.
Although grey hair may hold a bit more pigments, it is still not enough for a successful treatment. Thus, people with grey hair will not be able to undergo the procedure either. When it comes to people with ginger hair, it may be a bit different.
Ginger hair is a type of blonde hair. While it does not hold that much color pigment, lasers may still be able to pick it up. Again, there are different shades of ginger hair. Some ginger heads have dark ginger hair, while others have it really light.
Some areas of the body will also have darker ginger hair. The bikini or underarms for example. Because the laser will have a harder time picking up ginger hair, treatments may be longer and require additional sessions.
What machine for what skin tone and hair color
Different skin complexions and hair colors will require different laser machines. Fortunately, improvement in laser technology allows spa centers like Infinity Laser Spa to handle a large variety of skin tones and hair colors
If you have dark hair on dark skin, the most suitable machines are ND:YAG lasers or diode lasers. Both will be able to reach the 1064nm wavelength the bypasses melanin to get to the hair follicle. At Infinity Laser Spa, we use a tri-wavelength Soprano Ice Platinum machine that can treat darker skin.
If you have fair hair and either blonde or ginger hair, the machine most suitable for you is a diode laser with a 755 wavelength. That wavelength specifically targets hair with low pigment density. The tri-wavelength Soprano Ice Platinum can also treat fair hair on fair skin.
If you have dark hair on fair skin, any laser machine with a 808nm or 810nm wavelength will work on you. At Infinity Laser Spa, we use diode machines from Vertex Lasers and Alma Lasers.