The success of laser hair removal largely depends on how the skin of an individual reacts to the treatment. One of the problems that is often encountered is that darker skin tones can be more difficult to treat with a laser than lighter skins. One of the most common questions that is often asked is if the treatment is suitable for those with black or tanned skin, and what sort of results can be expected.
The amount of colour pigment in your hair often dictates how successful (or not) laser hair removal will be for you. This pigment is called melanin. The laser works by generating focused beams of light which are attracted to the melanin. When the laser hits the melanin in the hair it heats up the hair and its follicle, disabling the hair growth of the follicle. Once this has been achieved, the follicle can no longer grow hair.
Problems occur when the melanin in the skin is darker than the melanin in the hair. Instead of the laser energy focusing on the hair in the follicle, it focuses on the darker pigment in the skin, and the result can be some rather nasty burns.A Note on Tanned Skin.
Most laser hair removal clinics won’t accept you for treatment if you have an active tan on your skin. This is for your own safety. If you want to have hair removed by laser you need to avoid sun exposure for 4 weeks before and after your treatment.
This is to allow the laser to do its job most efficiently. With the extra melanin in tanned skin, you are at risk of being burned by the laser, and also that it will detract the laser energy from its target-the hair. So you would end up with inferior results.
You can use fake tanning products between treatments, but again, make sure this has been completely removed before your session.
Fortunately the problem of treating naturally darker skin tones is being addressed with new advances in laser technology.
The Q-Switched Nd: YAG laser has been discovered to be the best solution to deal with this issue. The YAG gets the best results and on darker skin with minimal burning or pain caused by the heat build-up in the skin. This has largely been helped by the use of skin cooling used in conjunction with this laser.
However, despite these advancements, laser hair removal still doesn’t have the same efficiency on dark skin as it would on lighter skins. As a result, patients with dark skin will need more treatments.
This can compromise the treatment for two reasons:
1. More treatments mean more exposure to laser light. This can lead to side effects such as blistering or burning, which although rare, are still possible. It’s worth discussing the risks with your technician as it depends on the resilience of a person’s skin and how they will react to exposure.
2. Because the cost of laser hair removal is directly linked to the number of treatments a person must have, it can be more expensive to treat darker skin. And depending on what part of the body is being treated, it can take longer and cost more.
So dark and black skins are still treatable by laser hair removal, but you will need to be prepared for the additional cost and risks involved.