What Are the Challenges of Laser Hair Removal For People With Darker Skin?

Melanin is a pigment-producing cellular layer found in skin (epidermis) and hair. It provides the various shades of color we see in different skin and hair types. The main function of melanin in our external epidermal layer is to protect the skin from harsh sun by absorbing light. This means that people with darker tones are less prone to skin cancer. However, the light-absorbing properties of melanin can be dangerous when it comes to laser hair removal.

As techniques for permanent hair reduction have evolved, neither electrolysis nor laser hair removal were suited for people with darker skin tones. The melanin interfered with the treatment and made permanent results very difficult to achieve. Dramatic improvements in laser technology have opened up options for permanent hair removal for people with dark skin. Special lasers, 613 blonde wig skin cooling precautions, and an increase in the number of treatments all improve results when treating skin with more melanin. Consult with a specialist or practitioner in your area to discuss your concerns and learn about available options for laser hair removal on darker skin.

Lasers are highly-focused and very intense beams of light. Large amounts of melanin in the epidermis can steal that light away from the desired treatment focus (ie: hair follicle) or even cause grave damage to the epidermal surface. As such, it is vitally important to choose the right laser wavelength and technique when treating patients with darker tones.

Techniques used to protect dark epidermal layers from harmful effects of the laser include cooling the surface and using longer wavelengths that are not as easily absorbed by melanin. Cooling the surface may be achieved by using sapphire plates and running water, a chilled plate, or with a spray that cools by evaporation. Shorter wavelengths, such as UV light, are more easily absorbed by melanin. As such, lasers with longer wavelengths have been developed in an attempt to protect darker epidermis from harmful effects.

There are three main lasers in use today for hair removal and each emits a different wavelength of light. The Alexandrite emits short wavelengths of 755nm, the diode laser emits 810nm wavelengths and the Nd:YAG emits the longest wavelength available at 1064nm. Choosing a doctor or specialist that is highly skilled in the use of different wavelengths will ensure you receive the tailored treatment your skin type and pigment requires.

Most experienced practitioners will choose the Nd:YAG laser when treating patients with darker epidermis. The 1064nm wavelength is the least absorbed by melanin pigment in the skin, but is often still detected by pigment in the hair shaft. As such, specialists are able to destroy the hair shaft without affecting the surrounding epidermis. Other variables of laser tool use include pulse duration and how long the light stays on during treatment. Thicker hairs may require longer pulse duration than thinner hairs.


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