The popularity of laser hair removal treatment keeps rising since the first time it released to the market. Almost all costumers who had tried give excellent reviews about the procedure. Unfortunately, there is rumor about the drawbacks if applied on those costumers with toned (darker) skin. Is this even based on the fact?
Is It Really a Problem for Darker Skin Tone to Get Laser Hair Removal?
If this question is thrown out back in 1990s, many people might have witnessed the terrifying side effect after procedure. There will be certain pattern rises on the skin surface as the result of hyper pigmentation. The laser burnt might also go further as cutting into certain skin layer depth. Then, scars might appear, thus adding the unappealing skin.
Back in 1995, the first laser hair removal was generally acknowledged by the US FDA. The manufacturers hope that this new technology would penetrate the hair follicle permanently. This hypothesis soon crumbles down as the next week the cut hair re-growth. Seeing this result, the researchers immediately seek for the leak and try to improve it.
It takes three years for the laser hair treatment machine to get the “permanent” effect. Instead of going all the way to skin layer, the laser should be directed to the melanin part in hair follicles. This is where the truth hit; the procedure works well specifically to those with light skin tone. All of the laser machines approved by the FDA show similar side effects when applied to the dark skinned patients.
Referring to many laser hair therapy cases, the number of dark toned customers starts to go down. This concern since then has been the object of further laser therapy development.
How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?
The basic mechanism behind the laser machine is called selective photothermolysis. Light, especially laser has certain wavelength that could reach specific skin layers. Luckily, the wavelength could be controlled. This specifically selected wavelength could reach the layer deep inside the skin where the hair follicle lay. The target of the laser is chromophore or melanin.
After that, the light is transformed into heat energy. This power targetted on the base of hair follicle would diffuse to the matrix and stem cells. The protein in the base then coagulates, which gives domino effect to the cell next to it; the rise of temperature. As the result of this chemical reaction, the hair follicle will be damaged.
By controlling the level of damage on the hair follicle, the hair growth process will be disturbed. It is also important to know that the laser and any kind of light device gives quite strong impact to colors and melanin. This element is responsible for the pigmentation for skin tone and iris colors. Therefore, when the light strength is not set properly, several pigment might absorb too much heat and damage the hair follicle as well as the cell.
When Is The Best Time To Take Laser Hair Removal Treatment?
There are three stages in hair growth. They are anagen (active), catagen (regression) and telogen (resting). The first phase refer to the period when the hair actively growing. It takes around four to six weeks. The cells grouped in the root will divide rapidly and pop up from hair bottom. The second one, catagen, is the freeze period, where the growth slowing down and the root starting to age.
The last one, telogen, as expected is the peak hair development. The growth will no longer happen. From this stage, it takes approximately six month before the new growth cycle begins. When a person wants to take the laser hair removal treatment, it should be done during the anagen phase. Studies show that those who start the laser treatment on this period will have less hair grow back after the procedure ends.
What Is Fitzpatrick Scale?
In the first page of laser hair removal development, a problem arises when the technology could not give smooth result as the patients with fair skin for dark toned individuals. This phenomenon made several researchers wonder if there is any scientific explanation about it. The answer could be found to a chart developed in 1975 by T.B. Fitzpatrick.
He was a Harvard dermatologist, which gains a lot of popularity because of his study of complexion colors classification and its reaction to UV light. There are six levels in the scale, which is used as the reference for many other dermatologists to determine the action taken for specific skin level. In the other words, it will be the valid measurement for skin tone. Relying on bare eyes won’t be sharp enough.
In addition to the skin tone, there is one more important point that should be noted by the dermatologist. It is the ethnic background and also the genetics. Believe it or not, these items would affect the result of hair removal laser treatment.
- Skin Type 1
Those who belong to this category has very white complexion. Freckled skin also belongs to this group. This type of skin will be more likely to burns to the slightest touch of sunlight. It would be very difficult to get tanned complexion, even with the help of oil.
- Skin Type 2
This what people describe as “fair” skin. In the medical world, the right term is “white” or skin type two. Under the sun, those who have this complexion would usually burn. If the persons stay under the sun for too long, there is a probability to get tanned.
- Skin Type 3
For those who are grouped to the third skin type, then the complexion tone will be whitish, slight olive could also appear. When these people get exposed to the sunlight, sometimes the sunburn happens, but in some other times it doesn’t show. However, the skin will always get tanned.
- Skin Type 4
Some individuals that often mentioned to have “the lightest tone of dark”, belongs to “brown” category. Thanks to the color, the sunburn rarely happens. There is no need to discuss about tanning; this is what skin type one to three are aiming for.
- Skin Type 5
This category pulls in those who have “dark brown” skin. Just like the brown fellow, there is rare burn case. The only difference is that the skin could get moderately pigmented if exposed to the light for too long.
- Skin Type 6
As the last skin type category, it could be expected that the complexion would be the darkest one. Thus, the group name is “black”. There is no need to worry about burning mark, but a certain care should be given to the possibility of pigmentation.
The early generation of laser skin hair removal could only cover and treat the skin type number one up to three. The dermatologists who wish to help those in third to sixth categories need a proper training before being able to do so. The patients who belong to the last three categories are from Latin, Mediterranian, Asian, East Indian and African-American ethnic.
Don’t forget that the ethnic and genetic factors also play important role in the attempts to avoid any damage related to pigmentation. It refers to all kind of damages including hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, burning or scarring.
What Are The Safest Laser Hair Removal For Dark Skin?
After reading about the case of initial laser treatment, many patients with dark skin might want to take precaution before signing into the procedural steps. Since the main problem is the machine, they should be careful with the machine used by the dermatologists. Make sure it has the latest and safest technology for the dark skinned individuals.
There is a developed laser hair removal machine called Nd:YAG laser. The other type of laser machine operates typically at 1064nm. This powerful machine, however, could go with higher wavelength, reaching deeper skin layer. It is probably quite early to mention about the effectiveness of this machine. However, several studies could give real results for the patients references.
The first study was conducted in 2012. There are 39 women in the group. They will undergo the procedure of hair removal in underarm area. The machine used in this experiment is Nd:YAG. These experimental group are the chosen one. Each of them should belong to either skin type 4, 5 or 6. Seen with naked eyes, their skin varied from light brown to dark brown or black.
In total, there are five sessions for the underarm hair removal. For the whole procedure, there is also four to six weeks interval periods that should be added to the whole laser procedure period. To see the permanent result or any follicle hair damage, close observation is repeated consistently six months after final treatment.
The result is quite promising, as 79.4 decrease in hair growth is shown. In addition, the adverse effect happened only temporarily. Some medical experts doubt the findings because the group number is small. They demand further study to ensure the effectiveness of the machine.
Surprisingly, the study that took huge number of patients had been conducted on 2010. It was conducted by researcher named Nanda with some other friends. Instead of removing hair in underarm area, the experiment wipes out the fine hair in the face. The total number of the participants that belong to skin type IV is 160 persons. While those who owns skin type V are 40 individuals.
They are then divided into three smaller groups based on the facial area where the laser hair removal treatment will be performed. As many as 88 participants receive the procedure on the chin, 64 of them on the lower face, and the rest on the upper lip. To complete the hair removal procedure, there are six sessions in total. The post treatment observation is conducted for six months.
The result of the study shows that there are more than 50% reduction. This condition is observed on 72% of the cases. There is no participants that have adverse effect such as uncontrolled hair growth. The temporary side effect is also found, but doesn’t last longer.
Is There Any Way To Limit The Side Effects?
Several specific studies have been conducted to find the possible way to reduce the post effect of laser hair removal. Of course, the researchers are focusing on the patients that belong to skin type 4 to 6. The most important step to take is using the recommended laser machine: Nd:YAG. As mentioned, it emits longer wavelength compared to the other machines.
The second option is to use active epidermal cooling. The old type of laser machine only does the burning job and the cooling system is applied manually. For modern laser machine, it comes with skin cooling device. Thus, it will give minimum pain as well as the side effect. Since the cooling agent is given directly, there will be almost no pain experience for the patients.
The last factor to cut the side effect is choosing a machine with longer pulse duration. It is different from the wavelength. Pulse refers to the length period of the laser to shine. The longer the duration, the wider the area that could be treated. On the other hand, the shorter the pulse, the burning procedure would be repeated until all the area treated. The last option will have higher risk for the patients.
If the patients still have a lot of doubts about doing the laser hair removal for dark skin, then ask the dermatologist personally. Some conditions include genetic illness, allergy, specific skin irritation or problems, etc. It is very important to understand all the dos and don’ts. Sometimes the best decision is to drop the laser option when the dermatologists say so. Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?
If not for its effectiveness, there might be less costumers who speak the good words and recommend this therapy to their families and colleagues. Thanks to the technology, there are safer options to perform hair removal, even for the darker skins. No need to worry about burnt skin after treatment anymore!