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Laser Hair Removal 101

Laser Hair Removal 101: How Your Skin Type Can Affect the Procedure

Unwanted hair on your body and/or face can significantly impact the way you feel, your social interactions, what you do, and what you wear. The most  typically include shaving, plucking, waxing, and bleaching, all of which can either be painful. These hair removal procedures are time-consuming and can be costly. There is another option, laser hair removal, a safe and effective solution for removing unwanted hair, often, and the permanent removal of unwanted hair. The most common question for those considering laser hair removal is it effective for all skin types. Here is all of the information you’ll need regarding the best skin types for the procedure.

Does Skin Tone Matter?
When it comes to laser hair removal, skin tone does matter! To understand why this is important, you’ll need to know how laser hair removal works. A laser is a concentrated form of light energy; the light is absorbed by a targeted area, which in this case, is a hair follicle. The darker your hair is, the more pigment it contains, which allows for higher levels of energy absorption. When dark hair grows against light skin, the laser energy is drawn to the darker pigment because it stands out above the lighter skin beneath it. If you have an ethnic skin tone, the difference between the shades in skin and hair is less prominent, so there is a risk that the pigment in your skin may absorb the laser’s energy instead.

Different Skin Types Require Different Wavelengths
A selective photothermolysis uses various light wavelengths to target the laser absorbing pigmentation in the hair follicle. The light is converted to heat during the absorption process, which is then transmitted into the hair shaft, killing the hair follicle and preventing future regrowth of the hair. There are different wavelengths, so your technician will select the wavelength that’s best suited for your skin tone during your laser hair removal treatment. The lasers used are extremely sensitive, so if the wrong wavelength is used, the melanin (skin pigmentation) may wrongly be targeted by the laser. Customizing the wavelength and the depth of penetration for each individual’s skin tone and hair helps to ensure your safety and unnecessary damage to the treatment area. This step allows for effective laser hair removal for those with darker skin tones.

What is the Fitzpatrick Scale?
The Fitzpatrick scale helps laser hair removal technicians choose the ideal candidates for hair removal according to skin tone and choose the wavelength that will provide optimum results. A dermatologist created the guide; divides skin tones into six different categories:

1-Pale skin that may be freckled and burns instead of tanning
2-White skin that sometimes burns, but tans sometimes
3-White to olive skin that burns occasionally, but always tans
4-Brown skin that rarely burns
5-Dark brown skin that very seldom burns
6-Black, highly pigmented skin

Laser treatment may either permanently remove unwanted hair or permanently reduce hair density. Permanently reduced hair density means that some of the hair will regrow after one treatment, so you will need ongoing laser treatments to remove unwanted hair permanently. Permanent hair removal means that none of the treated area’s hair will grow back after one course of laser removal therapy, and you will not need ongoing treatment. When considering laser hair removal, it’s important to consider that the three darkest skin tones have the highest risk of injury from laser hair removal, according to the Fitzpatrick scale.