What You Need To Know About Laser Hair Removal On Deeper Skin Tones

What You Need To Know About Laser Hair Removal On Deeper Skin Tones

When it comes to hair removal, most of us have many options, from home wash kits to hair removal creams to electrolysis and more. But having dark skin for a long time means that you won't be able to choose one of the most popular and long-lasting options for removing unwanted facial and body hair - professional laser hair removal. The first laser hair removal devices were not only ineffective in removing hair from darker skin, they were also dangerous. But thanks to the growing demand for inclusion and some major advancements in laser technology, there are now some great laser hair removal options for dark skin.

But before making an appointment, you first need to know what to look for. Further on, two dermatologists (Mitchell Henry, MD and Sherin Idris, MD) share what you need to know about laser hair removal if you have dark skin, how these lasers work, how to prepare for your appointment, and more. I will share.

How does laser hair removal work?

Laser hair removal is ideal for those who want to stop or slow down the growth of hair in specific areas of the face and / or body. Home laser hair removal devices are available that can be effective when used correctly and consistently, but the best and safest results are usually achieved with professional laser hair removal performed in a dermatologist's office.

"The laser removes hair by emitting a beam of light that targets the melanin pigment in the hair follicle," explains Dr. Henry. "The light emitted by the laser is converted into heat, which damages the hair follicle and slows or prevents its growth." Historically, it was the contrast between dark hair and light skin that allowed lasers to target follicles, so these devices couldn't tell dark skin from dark hair, making them dangerous for deeper skin.

Is laser hair removal safe for dark skin?

Because many old-school lasers had a hard time distinguishing dark skin from dark hair, they posed risks to dark-skinned patients, such as hyperpigmentation, blistering, and scarring. Lasers today are smarter and more accurate, so they can eliminate unwanted hair on a wide variety of skin tones.

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"With the latest technological advances, laser hair removal on dark skin is safer," says Dr. Henry, "because the new technology can bypass epidermal melanin and only affect the melanin pigment in the hair follicle." Translation: Many new lasers can tell the difference between your hair color and your skin color.

Which laser hair removal is best for dark skin?

Although laser hair removal is now an option for darker skin, it is important to remember that not all lasers are created equal. "The two main types of lasers for people with darker complexions are the Nd: YAG laser and the diode laser," says Dr. Idris. "Both work on patients with darker skin and darker hair."

Both types of lasers are fairly common (but always call your dermatologist to make sure it's safe to treat you before making an appointment). Don't worry about the details - your doctor will decide which laser is right for you, but FWIW, Dr. Idris claims to be a particular fan of the Lumenis laser, which is a combination of a diode and Nd: YAG.

What are the risks of laser hair removal for dark skin?

Discoloration (including hyper- and hypopigmentation) is the greatest risk of laser hair removal on dark skin, but choosing the right laser can minimize these risks. "The way the laser works is that it hits a certain depth of the skin depending on the wavelength," explains Dr. Idris. "Some lasers, such as Nd: YAG, penetrate deep into the skin, beyond the layer of skin cells that produce pigmentation, so they don't cause hyperpigmentation."

Other risks include burns and blisters, which are more likely to occur if the devices are used incorrectly or if the wrong laser is used for your skin tone, so it is important to see a doctor who has been fully trained in laser hair removal .

How to prepare for laser hair removal?

Although your experience with laser hair removal will largely depend on your hair and skin type, there are steps you can take to ensure safety and increase effectiveness. Dr Idris warns: "Before prescribing a treatment, make sure you have not bathed or sunbathed recently." "For laser hair removal, you need the hair at the root, and waxing removes the root and the darkening will make it more difficult for the laser to work."

We recommend that you avoid retinol creams and exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs for a few days before your treatment. So what should you do? Use a razor to shave the laser areas (like the options below) within 24 hours of your appointment and come to your appointment with clean, dry skin.

How many laser hair removal sessions do you need?

"In general, you should see a noticeable reduction in hair growth after six to eight sessions of laser hair removal," says Dr. Henry, but you may need ten sessions. The cost of your treatment will vary depending on the type of treatment, the size of the area covered and where you get it from. For example, laser hair removal of a small area, such as the upper lip or armpit, costs about $ 300. It pays about $ 2,000 for larger areas, Dr. Henry said.


Historically, laser hair removal was not considered safe for dark-skinned patients, but thanks to some major technological advances and a greater focus on inclusiveness, it can now be done safely on all skin tones. For the safest and most effective results, be sure to choose a provider who is well trained in treatment and has experience in treating people with similar skin tones to yours.

Meet the Experts:
  • Michelle Henry, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon and founder of Aesthetic Skin Surgery in New York, New York. Dr. Henry's areas of expertise include skin cancer treatment, cosmetic surgery, and treatment of pigmented skin.

  • Sherin Idriss, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Idriss Dermatology in New York, NY. Dr. Idris specializes in facial aesthetics and rejuvenation as well as minimally invasive body lighting. He is also the creator of the #pillowtalkderm Instagram series.

  • Why does he trust believers?

    Gabby Shackney is a New York-based journalist with years of experience researching, writing, and editing beauty and health stories about everything from beauty treatments to ways to reduce sweat for millennials. Gabby is an authority on all hair removal techniques, but she is an expert when it comes to laser hair removal. Work with industry-leading dermatologists and hair removal specialists to evaluate new laser hair removal brands and technologies.

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