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Why Skin Tone Matters in Laser Hair Removal

Close-up of a woman in underwear lying on her bedThe idea of never having to shave, wax or tweeze again is appealing to most people, which is why laser hair removal has become so wildly popular. However, before scheduling any LHR treatments, you should fully understand the affect your skin tone can have on your results.

How LHR Works

Laser hair removal permanently destroys hair by focusing laser energy into the hair follicle and destroying its ability to grow hair. The laser is attracted to melanin, or pigment, so darker hair is eliminated faster and easier because it receives more of the effect of the laser.

However, just as it’s drawn to melanin in the hair, the laser is equally drawn to melanin in the skin. Therefore, patients with darker skin tones can sometimes experience lightening of the skin, particularly if the laser is used on the wrong wavelength. This change in pigmentation can be turned into a positive when used properly. For example, laser hair removal treatment sessions can often be a way to achieve a freckle-free complexion for patients desiring a more even skin tone.

The Best Candidates

Dermatologists and cosmetic practitioners use the Fitzpatrick Scale to classify skin into six types based on the natural complexion of the skin and how it reacts to sun exposure. This scale, which ranges from Type I (very fair skin) to Type VI (very dark), can also be used to predict how a patient’s skin will react to laser treatments.

In the end, the ideal candidates for laser hair removal—those who can expect the best results and the least risk of pigmentation issues—typically have light skin coloring (Type I-II) and dark hair.