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Can Individuals With Darker Skin Tones Undergo Laser Hair Removal?

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Since laser hair removal was cleared for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998, there have been many advancements and changes to how the procedure is administered. Technology has improved, making the procedure safer and less painful than in years past, but one of the most commonly asked questions is whether or not individuals with darker or ethnic skin tones can safely undergo laser hair removal.

Early Laser Treatments Were Meant for Lighter Skin Tones Only

In 1998, the FDA cleared the first cosmetic laser treatment to target melanin (pigment) in hair follicles. This type of permanent hair reduction was only available to individuals with light skin tones. At the time, only a limited number of laser light wavelengths had been approved, all of which were damaging to darker skin tones because of their inability to safely target only the melanin in hair shafts. This prevented many darker-skinned individuals from taking advantage of the latest high-tech beauty trend.

Since that time, cosmetic lasers have progressed into precision tools with the ability to project light from across the light spectrum in a variety of new ways. The roles of melanin and hair growth are clearly defined throughout laser hair removal, making laser hair removal treatments much safer and more effective for ethnic skin tones.

Laser devices used in hair removal procedures are highly sensitive to all color and melanin, which plays a crucial role in the treatment of darker, ethnic skin types. The laser targets the pigment responsible for the color of skin and hair, which makes up eight percent of the epidermis, or top layer of skin. If the proper wavelength or depth of penetration of the laser is not correctly set for use on darker-skinned individuals, the skin’s pigment will overly absorb heat from the laser, damaging the treatment area and resulting in discoloration of the skin. Thankfully, today’s advances in laser and light-based technology have given treatment providers the tools required for safe and effective hair removal treatments on a variety of skin types.

Have a Consultation to be Sure

If you are still unsure whether you are a candidate for laser hair removal, you can consult a licensed aesthetician or registered nurse who is skilled in the process of laser hair removal. Laser hair removal is now widely available at salons, spas, and doctor’s offices, the majority of which offer complimentary consultations to ensure that you are a good candidate for the procedure.