When cosmetic lasers for hair removal and wrinkle reduction were first approved by the FDA back in the 1990s, the devices were only safe for a small portion of the population. Just a handful of wavelengths had been approved at that time for laser hair removal, all of which worked strictly on patients with fair skin and dark hair. And when it came to wrinkle reduction, the options weren’t much better. At the time, only ablative lasers, which removed the outer layers of the skin and epidermis, were available for the procedure. For those with darker skin types, this posed the risk of permanent hyperpigmentation.
Luckily, technology is beginning to catch up to the needs of a wider population, and many aesthetic laser treatments have been approved for patients with darker skin. However, even now, not all of them are. Below, we’ll look at some of the best laser devices for patients with darker skin (and the lasers to be weary of) so you can treat all of your patients safely and effectively.
Determining Your Patient’s Skin Tone
The Fitzpatrick Scale, developed in 1975, is a system for classifying skin type based on the skin’s pigment and how it reacts to sun exposure. Not only can this information be used to predict a patient’s risk of sun damage and skin cancer, it can also help clarify for practitioners whether or not a particular laser treatment is safe. Individuals who fall at or above a 4 on the Fitzpatrick Scale are at a heightened risk for unpleasant, even permanent side effects if the wrong aesthetic laser is used.
The Risks Of Choosing The Wrong Laser
Lasers that target pigment (as many of them do) have the potential to damage melanated skin, and when it comes to laser hair removal, they tend not to work at all. Similarly, lasers that emit bursts of high energy and heat are generally unsafe, as darker skin will absorb more energy than lighter skin will.
Treating a patient with the wrong laser could result in burns, scars, hypopigmentation, and hyperpigmentation – and these symptoms could be permanent. Needless to say, it’s crucial the practitioner is well-trained, has experience with darker-skinned patients, and of course, uses the right device.
The Best Aesthetic Laser Treatments For Patients With Darker Skin
With traditional laser hair removal devices, the light beam will target dark pigment, also known as eumelanin. This is effective for patients with lighter skin and dark hair, but if both the patient’s skin and hair are high in eumelanin, the results will be underwhelming at best, as these lasers require a certain level of contrast between skin and hair pigment to work (which is why they’re just as ineffective on patients with lighter skin and light hair).
Luckily, there are many strong alternatives to traditional aesthetic lasers. 1064 nm Nd:YAG devices still target dark pigment, but they’re able to penetrate deeper into the skin’s dermis, thus bypassing the skin’s pigment. In short, they can narrow in on the hair follicle itself without impacting the skin above.
When choosing a hair removal aesthetic laser, your safest bet will be a q-switched 1064 nm Nd:YAG. Instead of emitting light in one continuous beam, q-switched lasers emit rapid pulses of concentrated energy, and they do so fast enough that they don’t damage the surrounding tissue.
Fine Lines And Wrinkles
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is popular for treating fine lines and wrinkles, but it isn’t a safe option for patients with darker skin tones. The risk of burns, and the dyspigmentation that could follow, make IPL a poor choice for many. So, practitioners have turned to pico lasers instead. Pico lasers create pressure waves that go deep below the skin’s surface to stimulate collagen production and decrease hyperpigmentation, reducing the appearance of fine lines and age spots. Since these devices create less heat and work faster than most other lasers, they’re a safer option for those with darker skin.
Rosacea And Spider Veins
Vbeam lasers are considered the gold standard for treating rosacea and spider veins, but up until recently, it wasn’t considered safe for patients with darker skin. However, by lowering the speed and temperature of the aesthetic laser, it can be a suitable option. But, it’s still advised that patients with darker complexions considering treatment with a Vbeam do a test on a less noticeable area before diving in (under the chin is a popular option).
Unwanted Marks And Pigment
For unwanted marks such as sun spots, scars, hyperpigmentation, birthmarks, and most notably, unwanted tattoo pigment, pico lasers are rapidly becoming the device of choice. These devices work by sending ultra-short pulses of energy to the targeted area without heat, shattering the problematic pigment or particles, which are then eliminated through natural bodily processes. The best part is, this aesthetic laser is safe for all skin types, there’s virtually no downtime, and patients can return to regular activities immediately.
Acne scars have long been treated with fractional CO2 lasers, but they unfortunately aren’t typically safe for patients with darker complexions. These devices go through the epidermis, potentially damaging pigment-producing cells, which could cause hyper or hypopigmentation. That’s bad news. Nonablative lasers such as the Fraxel 1550, on the other hand, affect only the dermis, completely bypassing the epidermis (where melanin is located).
Find The Right Cosmetic Laser For Your Clientele At Laser Resellers
You want to be able to treat as diverse a population as possible, but considering the fact that many cosmetic devices are ineffective (and downright unsafe) for patients with darker skin tones, finding the right equipment for your practice can be a bit tricky. Luckily, new technologies have expanded the treatment options for patients with darker skin tones immensely.
Laser Resellers offers a wide range of lasers and other cosmetic machines that are suited for patients of all complexions. Our devices are always serviced before they are shipped to you to ensure they are in perfect working condition, we never advertise products we don’t have in stock, and if you aren’t happy with your purchase, we even offer a 30-day warranty. (And don’t worry – if you need help finding a device that meets your clients’ needs, our customer service team is happy to be of assistance.)
Ready to expand your treatment offerings with a brand new used laser? Request a quote today!