Everything you need to know about laser hair removal and dark skin

Smooth and safe hair removal for all.

For many women, hair removal is difficult at the best of times. Not only is there the societal pressure to be perpetually hairless (a topic for another time) but every removal option seems to come with its own list of downsides. Shaving can cause ingrowns, waxing is painful and depilatory removal creams aren’t always effective – does a magical hair-be-gone cure exist?

In short, not really. But for a lot of people, laser hair removal comes pretty close. The method works to gradually and permanently damage the hair follicles using intense light, giving long term-effects and helping to reduce pesky issues like ingrown hairs. The only downsides are that it takes a while, can be pricey and for many years, it was a risky process for those with darker skin tones.

For more hair talk, head to our Beauty section.
Prior to advancements in hair removal technology, lasers weren’t sophisticated enough to differentiate between dark skin and dark hair. For people with darker skin, this meant risks like hyperpigmentation, blisters and burns, caused when the laser beamed onto the skin surrounding the hair follicle.

Thankfully, the call for more diverse beauty industry standards – and the rise of brands like Fenty – has led the way for more inclusive hair removal technology. Laser Clinics Australia is one of the businesses using the new, market-leading laser technology, allowing safe and frequent hair removal for a wide variety of skin tones. Below, Laser Clinics’ Global Director, Dr. Jonathan Hopkirk, speaks on the new technology and the relationship between darker skin and laser hair removal.

Let’s start off with the basics. What is laser hair removal and how does it work?

Laser hair removal (LHR) permanently reduces hair. It works by directing a concentrated beam of light at the hair follicle, where the light is attracted to the pigment in the hair itself (hence why blonde hair is not as responsive). The concentrated light travels down the hair shaft into the root of the follicle, causes a disunion at the bulb of the hair and it falls out.

The laser inhibits the hair’s ability to grow without disrupting or damaging the skin’s surface, so even the most sensitive skin can be treated. Our experienced therapists use lasers that have a wide beam which allows for the removal of multiple hair follicles at the same time.

What effect does skin tone have on laser hair removal and its effectiveness?

Laser hair removal treatments don’t target the skin itself but rather the pigment in the hair follicle – or for darker skin types, [it targets] the blood vessels supplying the hair follicle. For this reason, it is not generally considered to be a treatment dependent on the complexion of one’s skin.

However, if a patient has experienced hyperpigmentation after heat-based treatments previously (especially laser-based treatments), there’s a small chance the heat from the LHR treatment could trigger a transient darkening of the patient’s skin. So it’s important to disclose this history at your consultation with your therapist.

Can you explain this new laser hair removal technology and why it works better on darker skin tones?

At Laser Clinics, we treat all skin tones with our medical-grade Candela lasers. We offer two different laser machines – the GentleLase Pro and GentleYag – to achieve safe, effective results. Our laser technicians use the Fitzpatrick classification scale to determine your skin tone at consultation and select the most suitable machine for your laser hair removal treatment.

The GentleLase Pro is suitable for fair to medium skin tones and the GentleYag is suitable for medium to darker skin tones. The GentleLase Pro targets the pigment in the hair follicle, while the GentleYag targets red pigment (haemoglobin) in the blood vessels which supply the hair follicle. Both lead to a safe disruption of the union of the base of the hair follicle which leads to it falling out.

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How can people with darker skin tones ensure they’re getting effective last treatment? Is it something that should be specified prior to appointment?

We recommend booking in for a complimentary consultation with one of our experienced therapists at your nearest Laser Clinics Australia location prior to your treatment.

For more on laser hair removal and darker skin tones, head