In the last few years, major improvements have been made to hair laser technology, debunking the idea that laser hair removal either doesn’t work for African Americans, or worse, that it results in burning and blistering. However, the answers still aren't that simple for those with darker skin tones. For some, laser treatments will work just fine, while others still are not a candidate. We certainly don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but if you have dark skin and are considering laser hair removal, you still have some homework to do.
The laser hair removal and black skin combination can be summed up in two words: Catch 22. The reason why lasers are effective is because of the skin’s ability to absorb light. However, when skin is especially dark (Type V and VI), the concentrated amount of melanin tends to absorb more light than average, increasing the chance of burning, blistering or skin discoloration. This is precisely the reason behind the laser hair removal horror stories you may have heard or read about.
Even with the advancements in technology, the results of laser hair removal on African American skin vary greatly. This is largely attributed to the tone variation between dark skin tones. For example, your skin may be light enough that a Light Sheer (diode) laser will be very effective. However, you’ll probably require more treatments than someone whose skin is Type 1-3.
There are two ways you can find out which lasers work for African American skin: 1. Through reputable consumer websites like www.HairRemovalForum.com, and recent publications from medical organizations or experts in aesthetic dermatology. 2. By attending at least three consultations with fully licensed laser clinics, medi-spas, or cosmetic surgeons in your area. Only then can you be completely educated about your options and have 100% confidence in your laser hair removal provider.
We wanted to make your homework a little easier on you, so we’ve created a handy little cheat sheet for you to use during your research process. We also recommend that you print it out and bring it to your consultation so you can keep track of the lasers that are proven to work with dark skin tones. Most importantly this guide will help you ask the right questions. You can also visit our Know Your Hair Removal Lasers page for more information.
Printer Friendly Chart
Click here to print
|Laser Type||Common Names||Candidates|
|Ruby||RubyStar, E2000||Skin Types 1-3
Known as the original laser system. It still effectively treats light to olive toned skin, but is definitely not recommended for Types 4-6.
|Alexandrite||GentleLase, Apogee, EpiTouch||Skin Types 1-6
This laser is extremely quick and is one of the most widely used lasers on the market today. It is safe for all skin tones; however, because of the speed of its pulse, it works best on Types 1-3.
It can also be uncomfortable for moderately dark/black toned patients because the skin absorbs the light at such a high rate of speed.
|IPL (AKA “Pulsed Light” or “Ultimate Light”||EpiLight, PhotoDerm, Aculight, Quantum, Vasculite||Skin Types 1-6
IPL is known as a "painless” laser hair removal treatment, but does require additional sittings to be effective on moderately dark/black skin.
A plus for the IPL is that the laser is also used for Photofacial treatments, so skin imperfections are often treated by default.
|Diode||Light Sheer, MedioStar, LaserLite, Epistar, Apex 800, F1 Diode, SLP1000||Skin Types 1-6
The diode laser can require up to 10+ treatments for best results with dark skin.
|Nd:Yag||CoolGlide, Medlite IV, Varia, Athos, Lyra, Image||Skin Types 1-6
This is considered by many experts to be the perfect laser for dark skin because it requires fewer treatments than a diode laser.
If you’re a Type 5-6, we recommend attending a consultation with a clinic that utilizes the Yag laser hair removal system.