Laser Hair Removal and Tanned Skin

This is the way permanent hair removal lasers work: the laser emits a beam of energy that is attracted to the melanin (pigment) in the hair follicle.  Enough energy is released to destroy or permanently disable the follicle from producing hair in the future. Now, when your skin is tanned, there is excess melanin (pigment) at the surface of your skin.  The laser cannot determine if the melanin is in the hair follicle or your skin.  It doesn’t care.  All the laser cares about is the pigment. So if the pigment is in the skin cells (rather than the hair follicle), the energy produced will be absorbed by the skin cells resulting in one or a combination of three things: 1) Permanent hypo-pigmentation meaning that when your tan fades, you will have noticeable lighter spots where the laser killed the melanin in your skin; 2) Permanent hyper-pigmentation, meaning the laser didn’t kill the melanin, and when your tan fades, you will be left with square freckles because the laser only damaged the melanin in your skin and made it worse; 3) The energy (heat) from the laser is too intense and cannot be released due to the amount of melanin in your skin cells and you will be left with blistering burns that can leave permanent scars.

The ideal candidate for laser hair removal has thick, dark hair and fair skin. However as laser hair removal is becoming an increasingly popular choice as the preferred method for hair removal, people of many different skin profiles and hair types are wanting to undergo treatments to have that smooth hair free feel, permanently; and who could blame them!

Laser hair removal was previously contradicted in patients with typically dark skin (skin types 4 – 6), however, it is now recognized as a safe and effective method of permanent hair reduction in all clients. Longer wavelengths, conservative fluencies, longer pulse durations and appropriate cooling methods are necessary to minimize side effects and maximize efficacy. These treatment parameters all come with experience and a true understanding of Laser Hair Removal. An added benefit of this treatment is that side effects of conventional hair removal such as folliculitis and post inflammatory depigmentation, more commonly seen in darker skin, may also respond favorably to the laser, thus increasing the potential for client satisfaction and minimizing the risk of complications.

The removal of unwanted hair, an accepted practice in many cultures, has been performed since ancient times. It has evolved from temporary modes of depilation (removing hair visible above the surface of the skin) and epilation (removal of the entire hair) such as abrasion, chemical depilatories, shaving, waxing, tweezing, and threading, to even procedures which provide more permanent hair reduction. Although permanent epilation became possible with the introduction of electrolysis, this process proved to be like some of the traditional methods noted above, tedious, time consuming and very painful; additionally, in those with curlier hair and darker skin types electrolysis was a complicated procedure, prone to result in exacerbation of inflammation, folliculitis, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and scarring. Laser hair removal revolutionized the industry of epilation, providing a more time-saving alternative to the hair-by-hair approach of electrolysis and the traditional methods of hair removal. Initially contraindicated in patients with dark or sun-tanned skin, laser hair removal was recommended only for non-tanned, skin types 1 – 3 skin because of the risks of untoward side effects and worsening of pre-existing conditions more often seen in skin types 4 – 6.

Your skin type is categorized according to the Fitzpatrick scale, and the two main factors that influence skin type and treatments are genetic disposition and reaction to sun exposure.

To effectively treat unwanted hair in any patient, laser light must safely pass through the epidermis to treat the dermal hair target. Laser hair removal works because the light of the laser beam can be converted to heat and the light is attracted to the pigment (melanin) in the hair. Dark pigment absorbs the light and then turns it to heat. The heat then affects the hair follicles to prevent hair growth. The challenge in performing laser hair removal on darker skin is that the epidermal melanin competes as a chromosphere for the laser light by absorbing the light, in competing for laser light, epidermal melanin also decreases the amount of light that is available to reach the intended dermal chromosphere, which affects treatment outcomes, number of treatments required & causes more discomfort during the treatment.

The reason a skin type 1 – 3 patient is more suitable for hair removal is that there is usually more of a contrast between the color of the hair & the color of the skin. The darker and the thicker a hair is, the more pigment it will hold, and the more light it will absorb. When the skin is lighter in color, it means that it can treat at a higher intensity which results in a more effective treatment. However, because laser light cannot decipher between pigment in the hair and pigment in the skin, generally the darker the skin, the higher the risk of complications such as burns hyper-pigmentation & hypo-pigmentation. Darker skin also increases the chances of complications such as failure to achieve the desired result, laser-burn, and change in skin color.

IPL is not an ideal solution for patients with darker skin. Anecdotally, they are more prone to cause burns when used for hair removal. Some of the IPL devices, however, are more specific and can target the hair follicles better however a test patch should be performed first to be safe.

IPL can be a useful tool for specific skin conditions, but it is not the ideal technology for hair removal and must be used conservatively on a dark skin for reduction of dark spots and skin rejuvenation. Laser facial treatments would be the best option for the treatment of pigmentation in darker skin types.

Laser hair removal is the trendiest solution for removing unwanted hair that grows in some parts of our body. However, hair removal is not guaranteed for everyone. There are some things to consider before undergoing such treatment.

The decision and determination of enhancing your physical appearance through the removal of the unnecessary hair on other areas of your body serve no assurance that you can already go through the treatment. Hence, you must first assess yourself if you qualify.

The absolute requirement is that one's hair must be darker than the surrounding skin. Since laser hair removal is an advanced technological product and uses high laser equipment, this should be taken into consideration. People who have darkly pigmented skin are not that suitable to have the treatment because they tend to absorb more light energy. Physicians typically need to make use of high laser treatments for them.

Tanned patients with light hair are not candidates. Tanned patients with dark hair cannot be treated with the usual hair removal lasers.

Various skin types need different laser hair removal methodologies. Light skin makes laser hair removal easier to perform. Fewer treatments are required and better; faster results are obtained unlike to those who have darker skin. Although people with dark skin can still be treated, the expected outcomes are slower and more treatments are required.

Dark hair absorbs more laser energy and is easier to treat. Coarse dark hair responds the best to laser treatment. Light hair is more difficult to treat. Blonde or red hair is very difficult to treat. Numerous treatment sessions are required, and results are changeable. Blonde hair usually contains pheomelanin, which absorbs laser energy less fervently than the eumelanin pigment that is present in black or brown hair.

Laser or light source hair removal (photo epilation) is less effective for individuals with light blond, red or grey-silver hair, though the results have been significantly improved with the use of Melamine before the treatment. Laser Hair Removal is very effective for problematic ingrown hairs.

While laser treatments for darker skinned patients have improved, it must be considered that those patients with tanned skin are still not candidates and must wait until their tan fades before they can be treated. This is the reason why patients are instructed not to suntan or use sunless tanning products before laser treatment. This is very true since tanning alters skin pigment and can affect how the skin absorbs the laser energy.

Modern day lifestyles can be demanding and tiring. From challenging careers and expectant children, there are sometimes not enough hours in the day to complete everything on your to-do list. But no matter what your lifestyle is and how much there is to juggle, we all want to look and feel our best. For many men and women, this includes having glowing tanned skin which is smooth, silky and hair free.

Tanning changes your natural skin pigmentation. Whether you choose to tan in the natural sunlight, use sunbeds in a tanning salon or use tanning creams, all methods of tanning have the same effect on skin by changing the skins natural pigmentation.

Laser hair removal is quickly becoming the number one choice as it is fast, convenient and affordable. Laser hair removal gives you hair removal without all the fuss and mess of other options.

However, people who favor tanning have been discouraged from having laser hair removal because of tanning, whichever method is used, darkens the skins and changes pigmentation. People are advised to use SPF15 or higher, even in everyday sunlight. This is because the procedure for involves light energy passing through the skin and entering the hair follicles below to disable them and prevent hair growth. However, a tanned skin will absorb excess amounts of light energy as it passes through the skin. When the skin absorbs excessive amounts of light energy, the skin can suffer burning or discoloration. People were therefore advised to wait six to eight weeks after the last exposure to sunlight or tanning creams or until the tan had faded from their skin to avoid any adverse side effects.

But now as lifestyles changed and technology develops, lasers using longer wavelengths which provide safer treatments for people with darker or tanned skin are becoming more popular. The longer wavelength lasers enable people with tanned or darker skin types to have laser hair removal treatments comfortably and without the burning or discoloration which may have damaged skin when using other lasers.

Thanks to the constant development of technology, there is now a safe method of laser hair removal available every skin tone and type.

Anyone who has just had a laser hair removal treatment, no matter which laser was used or what their skin type is, needs to look after their skin properly. The area which has been treated will be sensitive to treatment and patients should avoid exposure to sunlight and tanning creams until the sensitivity has gone and skin is treated. SPF 30 or higher should be used on treated areas to ensure the skin is not overexposed to sunlight and enable the skin to heal properly.

If not followed properly this could lead to increased side effects such as blistering or discoloration following treatment. The laser hair removal for tanned skin seems to be more complex as compared to those types of skin that are well suited to undergo the treatment. However, people with that type of skin must remain to be optimistic because nobody can tell; maybe years from now newly improvised types of equipment for hair removal of tanned patients will be invented.

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