(Disclaimer: The contents below is provided for general information and educational purposes, and does not constitute medical advice, and is not intended to be a substitute for personal medical advice, and should not be relied upon as such. Readers are advised to see their personal medical practitioner for further information and to determine what machines and procedures are best for them.)
Laser hair removal seems to be popping into many women’s minds as the seasons change, concurrent with a desire to lay by the pool in the sunshine, armed with a good book.
Whilst waxing, threading and shaving offer many benefits, laser hair removal has grown in popularity for its long-term effects, empowering many women with convenience and extra confidence.
Unfortunately, many people with skin of colour are not aware of the side effects that laser hair removal can have on their body, because of their heightened melanin levels. The result is often dark patches where the machine was run through their skin (pictures below), with the potential to remain if not proactively addressed in time.
Award-winning doctor and cosmetic formulator, Dr Vanita Rattan (Dr V), has sought to rectify some of the myths in the marketplace, with a no-nonsense set of guidelines for people with skin of colour to consider before getting laser hair removal.
Rattan runs UK-based The Hyperpigmentation Clinic which is said to be one of the world’s only clinics specialising in pigmentation removal specifically for skin of colour.
What is a Doctor-recommended in-salon laser hair removal machine suitable for skin of colour?
According to Dr V, a recommended in-salon laser hair removal machine suitable for people with skin of colour is the: Nd-YAG Laser and Soprano ICE Platinum.
These machines are deemed to offer a good combination of hair removal results, with reduced risk of dark patches/hyper pigmentation in skin of colour, due to a cooling system and other internal components which directly target the hair follicle to bypass melatonin.
Consumers are advised to check online for authorised salons who use the machine.
What does laser hair removal do, and why are those with skin of colour more at risk?
Laser hair removal targets the pigment in a person’s hair follicle, heats it up and destroys it so that hair no longer grows. This cosmetic procedure works best for dark hair on fair skin, however, the technology has since advanced machine-by-machine to cater to varying skin tones.
People with skin of colour are at risk of scarring and hyperpigmentation marks, because the laser might target their melanin instead of the hair follicle – especially when there’s dark hair over dark skin.
“The inflammation from the burn triggers your melanocytes,” warns The Hyperpigmentation Clinic founder and cosmetic formulator,” Dr Vanita Rattan.
“If you have not seen a resolution within 6 months it will likely remain.”
Depending on the intensity of personal hair growth, the minimum length for treatments is six sessions spaced four – six weeks.
What should people with skin of colour do before getting laser hair removal?
Ask their skin clinic for statistics of burns and pigmentations in other clients with similar skin tones as themselves, and ask for pictures if available/check their work online.
Ask for a patch test on small areas first.
Before the treatment, don’t wax, exfoliate or apply any acids to the skin to make sure your skin barrier is intact.
What should people with skin of colour do after getting laser hair removal?
Avoid sun exposure before and after treatment. Make sure there’s limited opportunity to get actively tanned. If possible, it is best to have the procedure during winter.
After the treatment, individuals may experience hair fall, inflammation, redness or soreness, and Dr V recommends applying 1% hydrocortisone right away, to avoid triggering the melanocytes within the skin that cause hyperpigmentation (or dark mark patches).
Consumers are advised to consult their doctor should they experience acne eruptions, cold sores, pus or anything else unusual with your skin after treatment.