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The Effectiveness of Laser Treatment for Dark Skin

The Effectiveness of Laser Treatment for Dark Skin

If you’re a person of color who has been told to avoid laser treatments because your darker skin exposes you to certain risks, we have some good news for you. While each skin type and color is unique, modern laser aesthetics is now precise enough to accommodate a wide range of skin tones. Today, people with skin colors ranging from alabaster to ebony can enjoy the same laser hair removal, laser tattoo removal, facial rejuvenation, and other laser cosmetic services with minimal risk of skin discoloration so long as the laser center has the proper equipment and experience for your individual skin tone needs.

Body Details True Laser® Centers have been providing individuals with brown and black skin in Florida with safe and effective treatments for years. We offer a free consultation before every service, and we encourage potential clients to bring their concerns to us in advance of committing to any laser procedure. Read on and learn more about laser treatments for dark skin.

What Are the Differences for Laser Treatments on Dark Skin vs. Fair Skin?

One of the easiest ways to discuss the efficacy and safety of laser treatments on certain skin tones is to familiarize one’s self with the Fitzpatrick Scale. In 1975, Dr. Thomas B. Fitzpatrick developed his six-category scale to simplify the 36-category Von Luschan scale. It was originally used to determine the proper dosage of ultralight therapy for psoriasis patients, but it has applications elsewhere. The scale works like this:

  • Type I – Fairest skin. Always burns and is incapable of tanning.
  • Type II – Still light-skinned, but slightly darker than Type I. Capable of minimal tanning, but usually burns.
  • Type III – Mildly burns but tans uniformly. Golden honey or olive skin fall under this category.
  • Type IV – Skin burns minimally but always tans well. This is skin of a moderate brown tone.
  • Type V – Darker brown skin that rarely burns and tans easily.
  • Type VI – This is the darkest brown skin. It never burns and has the most pigmentation.

Darker colors tend to attract light in the visible light spectrum. When a laser is aimed at dark skin, it tends to get hotter more quickly. The way that that laser aesthetic works in many of the procedures are to create small amounts of controlled damage to the skin cells.

Naturally, the quicker the laser heats the affected area, the faster the desired destruction can occur. That means that focusing a laser on dark and light skin for the same amount of time will result in over-exposure for darker skin or not enough exposure for lighter skin. To safely treat darker skin types, a completely different wavelength of laser is required.

Laser Hair Removal on Dark Skin Types

Laser hair removal used to present its own set of difficulties when it came to darker-skinned people particularly when treating with only one laser wavelength. That’s because laser hair removal used to require a technician pointing a hand-held single wavelength laser at an individual hair. The light would shine through the shaft and destroy the sac at the end of the root, preventing future hair growth. There was a lot of eyeballing and time judgment involved. Dark hair against dark skin is much more difficult to see, so technicians would end up missing the hair and keeping the laser on the target area for longer than they should have.

The laser we use at Body Details is the GentleMax Pro True Laser Class IV. It is the most powerful laser in its class approved by the FDA. This device is a dual-wavelength laser and combines a 755 nm Alexandrite laser with a 1064 nm ND:YAG laser. What makes these lasers different are their breadth and wavelengths. We can calibrate the laser using either type of beam depending on whether we are working with lighter or darker skin.

The type of laser that we use is an important factor in safety when working with darker skin. For lighter skin, the Alexandrite laser is sufficient to target the hair follicles, but with darker skin, it’s necessary for us to target the blood vessel feeding the hair. The ND:YAG has a wider beam and has the ability to penetrate up to 4-5mm into the skin. Because the average depth of a hair follicle is 3-4 mm beneath the surface and the blood supply that feeds it is even deeper, it’s essential that we have the ability to go deeper. However, the ND:YAG doesn’t affect melanin as much, so it’s safer for darker skin.

Is Laser Treatment on Dark Skin Safe?

Aesthetic laser treatments are truly a modern marvel. Because today’s lasers are computer calibrated and often guided by robotic arms, it’s possible to be extremely precise. That means that the laser will not overheat the skin. Because we use the ND:YAG for darker skin, there is almost no chance of that happening. Additionally, we use cryogenic cooling to keep your skin cool during the process. Many of our laser skin treatments take place over the course of several appointments. In the unlikely event you begin to have any unintended side effects, we can discontinue treatment until we can reevaluate your skin’s individual response to laser treatment.

Are There Side-Effects for Laser Treatment on Dark Skin?

There are several possible, though rare, side effects that can occur with laser treatment. Dark-skinned people may have a slightly higher risk when it comes to some of them.

Hyperpigmentation

This is caused by an increase in the melanin in the skin. It’s possible that hyperpigmentation can occur as a result of laser skin treatments, such as hair removal or tattoo removal. There are other laser treatments for hyperpigmentations (dark skin spots) to help eliminate them if it happens.

Hypertrophic Scarring

This is a rare condition, but it can occur during tattooing. In fact, 10 to 15 percent of hypertrophic scars occur during tattooing, but they can also occur as a result of laser tattoo removal. If you have a hypertrophic scar from tattooing, you will be advised to wait until it’s healed before you begin laser tattoo removal. Fortunately, Body Details can pair it’s scar reduction technology to help reduce scarring and support effective tattoo removal treatment even in the area of a hypertrophic scar.

Hypopigmentation

This is the opposite of hyperpigmentation, and it was more common with older medical lasers. When the laser damages the skin and removes pigment, it can result in light-colored splotches. This condition is more apparent against black or brown skin. New laser technology has made this a thing of the past as long as clinics are using current devices.

Types of Laser Treatments for Any Type of Skin

Technology has come a long way since the dermatological community warned people of color to avoid cosmetic laser treatments. Here are some of the safe, effective treatments for people with any skin tone:

Laser Hair Removal

This is one of the most popular uses for medical lasers. The laser targets individual hairs and destroys the hair-producing follicle beneath the epidermis. After several sessions, the patient no longer experiences hair growth in the targeted areas.

Laser Tattoo Removal

In the past, medical advice was against darker-skinned people getting tattoos removed. Advances in laser technology have opened up these treatments for people with all skin types. Lasers penetrate the epidermis where the tattoo ink is trapped, the beam breaks up the pigments, and white blood cells remove the remnants.

Skin Rejuvenation

When lasers create tiny points of damage to the skin, the body responds by releasing collagen, which has the effect of “plumping” the skin cells. This results in the reduction of wrinkles and stress lines, giving the skin a healthier glow.

Scar Reduction

Scarring is the result of dead skin cells covering healthy, living skin. Lasers can remove some of the dead skin while triggering the body’s healing system. The result is a reduction in the size and prominence of the scars and the promotion of healthy, living skin.

Fat Removal

Laser fat removal targets fat cells beneath the skin. The laser penetrates the fat cell and liquifies the hard white fats trapped inside. This releases the fats for disposal by the body’s lymphatic system and kills the cells to avoid future fat accumulation. This is a particularly effective process for lower stomach fat, which also tends to be extremely difficult to lose through diet and exercise.

Body Details True Laser® Centers

If you are unfamiliar with laser cosmetics, you may not know what differentiates us from our competitors. To begin with, we have the most stringent safety protocols in the business. All of our FDA-approved laser machines are routinely inspected and calibrated every time they’re used. This ensures that you’re receiving the right treatment for your skin.

In addition, all of our laser techs are medical professionals — either physician assistants (PAs) or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). Each of our laser centers is staffed by a medical doctor with either a dermatology or a cosmetic surgery background.

If you are considering a laser treatment, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of our no-obligation free consultation, where you can speak with a medical professional about your desired course of treatment. Either call a Body Details True Laser® Center near you or schedule your free appointment online.