The silky hair-free skin of your dreams is a laser beam away – provided you use the right type of laser.
How many hours have you wasted shaving and waxing away your unwanted body hair?
Let’s be real, ain’t nobody got time for that! Thankfully, you can put down your shaving and waxing tools for good because laser hair removal is here to save the day (and your time).
Once thought to be available only to those with a lighter skin tone, we spoke to Dr Jonathan Hopkirk, Global Medical Director at Laser Clinics Australia and Natalie Song, Dermal Therapy Manager and Dermal Clinician at Sinclair Dermatology to get the low-down on how laser hair removal works for every skin tone.
What Exactly Is Laser Hair Removal?
The clue is in the name! “Laser hair removal utilises laser light to destroy hair follicles, providing long-term results for unwanted hair growth,” says Song. So, you can say goodbye to your shaving and waxing tools.
Both experts agree that laser hair removal is very effective at reducing hair growth in the long-term.
In addition to offering permanent hair reduction, Hopkirk notes that laser hair removal can remove ingrown hairs and hair grows back thinner and lighter with every treatment. Which is a win for those of us who have had to deal with thick, dark regrowth (it’s the worst!)
How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?
Laser hair removal works by selecting a specific wavelength of laser which is directed into the hair follicle.
“The laser light is absorbed by the melanin in hair follicles, which heats up and in turn, destroys hair follicles and the surrounding stem cells,” says Song.
It’s a precise art, that’s for sure.
Does Skin Tone Matter?
You may have heard that laser hair removal is best suited to people with light skin and dark hair. According to Song, this is because there is a good amount of melanin present in the hair follicles and less competing melanin in the skin.
However, with technological advances and a range of lasers now available, all skin tones can get laser. So you can say bye Felicia to unwanted hair growth!
But before you book in a laser hair removal treatment, there are a few technical details to be aware of, depending on your skin tone.
To determine which laser, and which settings, to use on different skin tones, our experts refer to The Fitzpatrick Scale. This is a skin typing system which classifies skin into six groups based on the amount of pigment in the skin and tolerance to the sun.
Hopkirk highlights that the lighter the skin is, the more heat it can hold, which determines what kind of laser to use. At Laser Clinics Australia, the GentleLASEPro is used for lighter skin tones (Fitzpatrick types 1 to 3) and the GentleYAG laser is used on medium to darker skin tones (Fitzpatrick types 4 to 6).
Song notes that lasers with Alexandrite, Diode and YAG are suitable for medium to darker skin tones.
She also explains that “lasers with a shorter wavelength are suited to those with fairer skin types and lasers with a longer wavelength are suited to those with medium to darker skin types.” This is because lasers with a longer wavelength can penetrate deeper into the hair follicles, bypassing melanin in the skin.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Your high school science teacher wasn’t joking when they said you shouldn’t mess around with lasers!
Using the right type of laser and settings is necessary to avoid adverse effects such as burns, pigmentary changes, blisters and scarring, which can impact darker skin tones in particular says Song.
Hopkirk also notes that laser hair removal can be impacted with certain barriers like fake tan or recent sun exposure.
Both our experts agree that this is why it’s important to have a consultation with a qualified and experienced laser technician before going ahead with the treatment.
In addition to wavelength and skin type, qualified laser hair removal technicians will also consider factors like hair growth, medication and medical history to ensure the hair removal process is safe and smooth.
So, regardless of your skin tone, be sure to consult a professional before you laser away your unwanted body hair. Your skin will thank you for it.