Everything dark-skinned folk need to know about laser hair removal

Written by MAYA ALLEN
medically reviewed by DR. JULIA SIEGEL, MD - Board-Certified Dermatologist.

A few decades ago, receiving a laser hair removal treatment would have been rather risky for a person of color.

These lasers weren't made with darker skin tones in mind, and therefore, were safest for individuals with fair skin and dark hair follicles. The main disconnect was that the lasers did not properly distinguish hair follicles and skin pigment, so those with dark skin could run the risk of severe burns, scarring, discoloration, and more.1

Best professional laser hair removal machine for dark skin

To figure out what laser works best on dark skin, it's worth understanding how hair removal lasers work. Murphy* explains, "The contrast between the color of the skin and the color of the pigment in the hair follicle is what allows the laser to easily pick out what to target." As you can imagine, it's easier to decipher dark hair from fair skin than it is dark hair on dark skin. However, thanks to advancements in laser technology, there are now safer and more effective options available for dark skin types.

Among them is the GentleMax Pro Laser. "It's safe for darker skin types because it offers two wavelengths: one being a 755 nm wavelength or a 1064 nm wavelength," says Murphy. The 1064 nm wavelength, better known as the Nd:YAG wavelength, is selectively absorbed by the deeper levels of the dermis—bypassing the skin's surface and only targeting deeper melanin at the level of hair follicle.2 And since Nd:YAG essentially bypasses the epidermis, Karavolas also cites this wavelength as a safe option for dark skin.

* Meghan Murphy, RN, BSN, is a registered nurse at Candela, an American laser company. She has over five years of professional experience working with lasers and energy-based devices.
1. Chadwick S, Heath R, Shah M. Abnormal pigmentation within cutaneous scars: A complication of wound healing. Indian J Plast Surg. 2012;45(2):403-411. doi:10.4103/0970-0358.101328.
2. Alster TS, Bryan H, Williams CM. Long-pulsed Nd:YAG laser-assisted hair removal in pigmented skin: a clinical and histological evaluation. Arch Dermatol. 2001;137(7):885-889.