Once upon a time, laser hair removal was off-limits for those with darker skin. Thankfully, salon technology has progressed in recent years, and laser hair removal can finally be done on darker skin tones. Many spas and clinics offer this treatment to everyone without discriminating.
If you’re a person of colour interested in this long-lasting hair reduction method, there are still a few things you need to know. In this post, we cover all of those basics.
What kind of equipment works on your skin type? How can you find the right salon? We answer these questions to guarantee you have a safe, effective laser hair removal experience.
Which Laser Works Best on Darker Skin?
Historically, anyone with darker skin (what dermatologists classify as Fitzpatrick Types 4-6) couldn’t do laser hair removal. The first laser machines could only pinpoint the hair follicle by finding the dramatic shade difference between the root of the hair and the skin.
Those machines would often burn those with darker skin types, and could cause scarring, hyperpigmentation, and even hypopigmentation (i.e. taking away pigment and leaving light spots on the skin).
By switching to laser machines that can operate at longer wavelengths, it’s now possible for those with darker skin to benefit from laser hair removal. With these machines, the light penetrates a little more deeply. It bypasses the top layers of skin altogether, to reach the base of the hair follicle. As a result, it manages to treat the root of the hair without ever interacting with the pigment in the skin.
Modern Nd:YAG laser machines like the Candela GentleMax Pro are consistently the best option for higher Fitzpatrick types. There are other types of laser that can reach the same 1064 nanometer wavelength, but they’re less common.
It’s worth noting that this laser technology has existed at least as far back as the ‘90s, so it was never just a mechanical issue. A lot of spas and salons could have started offering laser hair removal to darker skin tones years ago. Because of discrimination at multiple levels of the industry, not many bothered.
What to Know Before Getting Laser Hair Removal
No matter your skin tone, you’ll want to follow the same pre and aftercare practices in order to achieve the best results and to reduce the risk of side effects.
Before Your Appointment
In the lead-up to your laser appointment, take a break from exfoliating or skin-renewing products like glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, retinoids, and benzoyl peroxide. If you’re not sure about a product you’re using, you can always ask your service provider prior to your appointment.
Additionally, it’s also important to avoid sun exposure or fake tanning. Even with machines that work on darker skin tones, there’s still a risk that a tan will compromise the effectiveness of the laser.
Finally, make sure to shave around 24-48 hours prior to your appointment. This allows the laser to reach the hair at the base, rather than on the surface of the skin.
Note that if you are pregnant or taking oral acne or blood-thinning medications, you may not be a candidate for laser hair removal.
After Your Appointment
The great thing about laser hair removal is that there’s little downtime, and aftercare is quite easy.
After your appointment, you’ll need to protect your skin from the sun with either clothing or a good quality sunscreen. If you’re treating an area like the underarms, you may need to avoid deodorants for a day or two following your treatment, as well.
Just as importantly, avoid saunas, steam rooms, and hot showers for a few days after your treatment, since the heat can increase chances of post-laser irritation.
How to Choose the Right Salon
Now that you know that you can get laser hair removal done even if you have a darker skin tone, where should you go?
It’s important you choose a reputable salon that explicitly acknowledges that it can offer laser hair removal services to clients no matter their skin type or tone.SEV Laser offers consistent, affordable, and high-quality laser hair removal services all over the United States.
If you can’t find the information on the salon’s website, you can always call and check. In general, it’s good to find a salon that will be open to answering your questions either over the phone, email, or via consultation. Some good questions to ask include:
- What kind of equipment do you use on people of color?
- How do darker Fitzpatrick types usually respond to laser treatment at your salon?
The representative should be able to answer your questions thoroughly, with clear understanding of what darker skin tones need in order to be treated safely. They also need to be able to provide you with all the necessary pre-treatment and aftercare information.
Another great idea is to look at the salon’s photo gallery or Instagram page. If they post photos or videos of patients with darker skin, you’ll know you’re in the right hands. Reading through reviews can serve the same purpose, especially if you read reviews from other clients with darker skin tones.
Men and women with darker skin are no strangers to discrimination from the beauty industry, and laser hair removal was just one issue amongst many. Thankfully, things are changing.
Today, any beauty clinic and medspa worthy of your business will have the equipment required to treat darker skin effectively. You deserve to achieve smooth, hairless skin if that’s what you want, and technology is no excuse for discrimination.