Debunking Myths about Laser Hair Removal on Black PeopleFeb 07, 2023 02:00PM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
While you might decide to get a manicure or facial on a whim, laser hair removal is one of those beauty treatments you usually have to think about before committing to the process, mainly for two reasons: the pain and the cost. Laser hair removal is a permanent form of body hair removal that uses pulses of laser light to destroy the hair follicle. Shaving removes the tip of the hair follicle and waxing removes hair from the root, and in both cases, those hairs will grow back. Laser light, on the other hand, essentially kills a hair follicle so that it will not grow back.
In recent years, we've seen advancements in inclusive technology made especially for dark skin tones. We give a debunk all the myths of laser hair removal for Black people, and let you know factors people of color must consider before booking a laser hair removal treatment.
Laser hair removal is painful and damages your skin
Most people are surprised to learn that laser hair removal is less painful than waxing. Most clients describe the sensation as the feeling of being snapped with a rubber band. With each laser pulse, the laser uses a cooling spray to cool the skin and decrease potential discomfort. The laser targets the hair follicle, so your skin won’t suffer through the abrasive action that razors, depilatories, or hot waxes can cause. Laser hair removal can also eliminate shaving side effects such as razor burn and ingrown hairs.
Laser hair removal doesn’t work on Black people
This myth was a fact when the FDA first cleared laser hair removal in the late ‘90s, but technology has advanced and made it safe all skin tones including the various shades of brown. Black people do need to look out for the right laser. The two main types of lasers that are best for people with darker skin tones are the Nd:YAG laser and the diode laser. The Nd: YAG laser has a weaker melanin absorption rate and longer wavelengths, so it’s safe to use on dark skin tones.
It is important to note that the number of sessions may vary depending on the skin tone. Some research shows that the diode might be slightly more effective at actually removing hair on brown or Black skin—it could also be worthwhile if you’re closer to 3 on the Fitzpatrick scale and have a low pain tolerance. Intense Pulsed Light technology is the same outdated technology found in most at-home devices and should never be used on darker skin tones. It doesn’t yield great result and may lead to burns and other complications for Black people.
What are the risks of laser hair removal for dark skin?
Discoloration, including both hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation, are the biggest risks with laser hair removal on dark skin, but choosing the right laser can minimize these risks. Other risks include burning and blistering, which are more likely to happen if devices are used incorrectly or the wrong laser is used on your skin tone, so it’s incredibly important to go to a medical professional who is thoroughly trained on laser hair removal.
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Caring for dark skin after laser hair removal
After you undergo laser hair removal, there are certain things you'll want to do and others that you'll want to avoid to ensure you get the best results possible. Pain and sensitivity during the sessions are normal, but those sensations should subside immediately afterward. Not everyone will experience the same sensation during treatment or side effects after the treatment. For irritation or redness, hydrocortisone can help to resolve the inflammation.
For an acne-like eruption, or ingrown hairs, use topical antibiotics. A good quality sun protection should be worn on all areas exposed to the sun. Keep the areas well moisturised with a rich body lotion. Exfoliation should be avoided for at least a week after treatment. Take precaution with hot showers or baths; rather opt for warm water instead of hot water.
Laser hair removal requires only one sitting or session
Since it is a non-invasive hair reduction procedure where only the laser is used for treatment, you may require between six to twelve sessions, depending on your skin tone and hair type. In the beginning stages of laser hair removal, sessions intervals will be spaced 4 weeks apart. Larger areas may require more sessions due to some hair remaining dormant for up to 6 years. With the completion of the recommended course, maintenance sessions may be considered to treat the dormant hair that become active at a later stage.
Laser hair removal treatments cost more than shaving
When you compare the recurring costs of waxing or tweezing year after year, you will notice that the cost of a laser hair reduction procedure is, in fact, affordable. Costs for laser hair removal vary by body area treated, geographical location, the expertise of the person performing the procedure, and time to perform the procedure. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2020, the average cost of laser hair removal with no other related expenses was $389. There’s a larger upfront cost with laser hair removal, but it actually costs thousands less over a lifetime than shaving, waxing, or using depilatory creams like Nair.
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Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies.
She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.
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