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Skin Colors and Fitzpatrick Skin Type

The ideal candidate for laser hair removal has thick, dark hair and fair skin. However as laser hair removal is becoming an increasingly popular choice as the preferred method for hair removal, people of many different skin profiles and hair types are wanting to undergo treatments to have that smooth hair free feel, permanently; and who could blame them!

Laser hair removal was previously contraindicated in patients with typically dark skin (skin types 4 – 6), however it is now recognized as a safe and effective method of permanent hair reduction in all clients. Longer wavelengths, conservative fluences, longer pulse durations and appropriate cooling methods are necessary to minimize side effects and maximize efficacy. These treatment parameters all come with experience and a true understanding of Laser Hair Removal. An added benefit of this treatment is that side effects of conventional hair removal such as folliculitis and post inflammatory dyspigmentation, more commonly seen in darker skin, may also respond favorably to the laser, thus increasing the potential for client satisfaction and minimising the risk of complications.

The removal of unwanted hair, an accepted practice in many cultures, has been performed since ancient times. It has evolved from temporary modes of depilation (removing hair visible above the surface of the skin) and epilation (removal of the entire hair) such as abrasion, chemical depilatories, shaving, waxing, tweezing, and threading, to even procedures which provide more permanent hair reduction. Although permanent epilation became possible with the introduction of electrolysis, this procedure proved to be like some of the traditional methods noted above, tedious, time consuming and very painful; additionally, in those with curlier hair and darker skin types electrolysis was a difficult procedure, prone to result in exacerbation of inflammation, folliculitis, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and scarring. Laser hair removal revolutionized the industry of epilation, providing a more time-saving alternative to the hair-by-hair approach of electrolysis and the traditional methods of hair removal. Initially contraindicated in patients with dark or sun-tanned skin, laser hair removal was recommended only for non-tanned, skin types 1 – 3 skin because of the risks of untoward side effects and worsening of pre-existing conditions more often seen in skin types 4 – 6.

Your skin type is categorized according to the Fitzpatrick scale and the two main factors that influence skin type and treatments are genetic disposition and reaction to sun exposure.

Type Reaction to first sun exposure Skin Colour
I Always burns easily, never tans extremely sensitive to the sun Caucasian
II Always burns easily, tans minimally, very sensitive to the sun Caucasion
III Sometimes burns, tans gradually to light brown, sun sensitive Light Olive/Asian
IV Burns minimally, tans to moderate brown, minimally sun sensitive Dark Olive/Asian
V Very rarely burns, tans well, sun insensitive Light African/Indian
VI Never burns, deep pigmented, sun insensitive Dark African/Indian

To effectively treat unwanted hair in any patient, laser light must safely pass through the epidermis to treat the dermal hair target. Laser hair removal works because the light of the laser beam can be converted to heat and the light is attracted to the pigment (melanin) in the hair. Dark pigment absorbs the light and then converts it to heat. The heat then affects the hair follicles to prevent hair growth. The challenge in performing laser hair removal on darker skin is that the epidermal melanin competes as a chromophore for the laser light by absorbing the light, in competing for laser light, epidermal melanin also decreases the amount of light that is available to reach the intended dermal chromophore, which effects treatment outcomes, number of treatments required & causes more discomfort during the treatment.

The reason a skin type 1 – 3 patient is more suitable for hair removal is because there is usually more of a contrast between the colour of the hair & the colour of the skin. The darker and the thicker a hair is the more pigment it will hold, and the more light it will absorb. When the skin is lighter in colour it means that we can treat that particular client at a higher intensity which results in a more effective treatment. However, because laser light cannot decipher between pigment in the hair and pigment in the skin, generally the darker the skin the higher the risk of complications such as burns, hyper-pigmentation & hypo-pigmentation. Darker skin also increases the chances of complications such as: failure to achieve desired result, laser-burn, and change in skin color.

IPL is not an ideal solution for patients with darker skin. Anecdotally, they are more prone to cause burns when used for hair removal. Some of the IPL devices however are more specific and can target the hair follicles better however a test patch should be performed first to be safe.

IPL can be an effective tool for specific skin conditions, but it is not the ideal technology for hair removal, and must be used conservatively on dark skin for reduction of dark spots and skin rejuvenation. Laser facial treatments would be the best option for the treatment of pigmentation in darker skin types.

For individuals with darker skin tones laser hair removal can be performed safely with the right laser.  We can safely & effectively treat clients of different profiles but always advise to book a free consultation to assess skin and hair suitability prior to commencing treatments. “Test patching” the treated area and adjusting the appropriate energy is very important with darker skin types. You would need to be treated at specific settings for your skin type, and strict sun-avoidance would be imperative.

EXPERIENCE: 
Medical staff & paramedical laser practitioners. Since 2005, over 2,000,000 treatments performed using only the best medical grade technology. We continue to learn about the safest, most effective, fastest, and most comfortable laser hair removal available.

EFFECTIVENESS: The lasers we use are the industry standard for hair removal worldwide. These sophisticated lasers target the root of the hair so specifically that they not only eliminate very dark and coarse hair, but are also the most effective lasers for the removal of fine hair and even hair with a light brown root.

The lasers we use have a large spot size, proven to be most effective for hair removal. We also use lasers with the highest watts of power available to provide the maximum amount of power to the root of the hair without damaging surrounding tissue.

We use a cooling device that means a more comfortable treatment and eliminates the need for topical anesthetic. The DCD, dynamic cooling device is the only cooling device that provides consistent cooling from the first pulse to the last. No cooling system is safer or provides a more comfortable treatment.

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