Best Laser Hair Removal for Darker Skin Tones

Posted on: 30 June 2021

Even though it might take a number of sessions for the results to be permanent, laser hair removal offers the best way to banish unwanted body or facial hair. But is it effective on all skin tones? Darker skin tones have a different degree of pigmentation, and the method and equipment must take this into account for the efficient and safe removal of hair. 

Be Sure It's Actually a Laser

Some salons and clinics mistakenly offer intense pulsed light (IPL) hair removal as laser hair removal. This is not entirely accurate, since IPL is not technically a laser. While it's an effective means of hair removal for dark hair on light skin, it can be ineffective on darker skin tones, leading to some unwanted side effects. Although burns and physical injuries are rare, IPL can sometimes result in hyperpigmentation, which is the appearance of dark spots at the target site. Alternatively, hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin) can also be possible.

Laser Interaction With Your Skin's Melanin

For those with darker skin tones, a salon or clinic offering neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG) laser hair removal is better. It's all to do with how the laser interacts with the melanin (pigmentation) in your skin. The laser targets the hair follicle (which contains a high concentration of melanin). The laser heats the follicle and dermal papillae (which is where the hair shaft forms). The dermal papillae is destroyed, meaning it's unable to produce additional hair growth. Why is this method effective for darker skin tones?

Reduced Melanin Absorption

The Nd:YAG laser is best for darker skin tones because the method has a lower rate of melanin absorption. This means that it will serve its intended purpose (the destruction of the hair follicle and dermal papillae) without modifying the surrounding pigmentation. This avoids those unfortunate side effects such as hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation. 

The Number of Treatments

It should be noted that laser hair removal is only effective on active hair follicles. When hair is treated, it remains in place for a short period before detaching of its own accord. Do not manually pull it out, as this poses the risk of skin irritation (and even infection). Once inactive hair follicles begin to produce growth, you will need additional treatment. You have a finite number of follicles, so after several treatments, these will have been removed with the Nd:YAG laser, meaning the effect will be permanent. This is applicable to all skin types.

Darker skin tones can certainly receive laser hair removal, but it needs to be the right kind of laser.