Friday, February 17, 2012

Laser Hair Removal for Dark Skin - Part II


In part I of this series, I discussed my reasons for pursuing laser hair removal and the types of lasers that are available for laser hair removal.  In this post, we'll discuss briefly the skin typing system called the Fitzgerald system, the challenges of treating dark pigmented skin, and choosing a practitioner.

The Fitzgerald Skin Typing System

The Fitzgerald system was created in 1975 by Thomas B Fitzpatrick, MD of Harvard Business School.  The skin type was based on a person's response to sun exposure in terms of burning and tanning.  This system is often used to determine the best type of laser to use for hair removal to minimize damage to the skin.  Please click this link to see an excellent  Fitzgerald chart.  I am a Type VI as are most darker complected African Americans.  The most common device recommended for Type VI skin is the Nd: Yag laser.

Challenges of Treating Dark Skin

Burning from using the incorrect laser for hair removal
Hair removal lasers are designed to be absorbed by the melanin pigment in the hair shaft.  Candidates such as African Americans, Africans, or people of Middle Eastern heritage have a lot of melanin in their skin.   Melanin is in the epidermis layer of the skin.  One of the functions of melanin is that it absorbs light.  The laser is trying to address the hair follicle which is below the the epidermis layer.  The laser doesn't know that the surface of the skin containing melanin pigment is not a target that we are trying to destroy.  So if a proper laser is not used two things can occur:  the melanin will steal the light away from what you're really trying to treat (i.e. the hair follicle) or it can actually damage the the epidermis.

There are several reasons why the Nd: Yag laser is the most recommended laser for Type VI skin.
  • It uses the longest wavelength of light.  Melanin is designed to absorb the shortest wavelength of light such as UV rays.  The ability of melanin to absorb light decreases as your wavelengths increase therefore reducing the risk to darker skin.
  • It still sees the melanin in the hair shaft.  Yet, least absorbed by the melanin pigment in the epidermis. (Win/Win)
  • The practitioner has the ability to manipulate the pulse duration.  This creates an opportunity for effective treatment of thicker hairs (with longer pulses) and thinner hairs (with shorter pulses).
Choosing a Treatment Center

These factors make it very important that when choosing a practitioner you are very selective and one with documented experience with darker pigmented skin.   Before choosing a location, get a consultation and ask questions!  During my search I had 3 consultations.  The other places that I eliminated were not chosen primarily because they either did not have the Nd:Yag laser or they could not show me proof of success with dark skin.  Be aware that other skin spas will try to convince you that other lasers are effective, however because of my concern of damage to my skin I still eliminated their spa from my options.  No promotion is worth my level of comfort.  It is ok to walk away!  After much research, I chose Bodylase Medical Skin Spa. I'll share with you what I looked for.

1. A licensed doctor on staff. 
2. Nurses or other licensed personnel providing treatment.
3. The proper laser being used for my skin type.
4. Documentation of success with dark skin.  Bodylase had pictures on their website AND in a different pictures in a book when I went in for my consultation (HUGE plus!)

There was one final determinant that tipped the scale in this location's favor.  Customer service.  No business receives 100% glowing recommendations (if they do, be concerned that they may not be real comments). During my search that was 1 other spa that I considered.  They also had what I was looking for.  When I looked at the reviews for Bodylase, I noticed that the owner had taken the time to respond to the few unhappy customers that had left reviews.  She addressed the concern in the review, invited them to call her directly and/or to come in a talk to her personally.  I felt that showed true concern for the voice of the customer.  (SN: It also quite frankly is the marking of a successful business.  It's easier to retain customers for repeat business than to obtain new customers.  But that's a whole other discussion!)

Next week, I will share with you pictures of my progress and Karen of Bodylase has agreed to allow pictures to be taken of my treatment and equipment used so you will see what happens during a laser treatment!

Any questions about my experience that you would like me to address?

1 comment:

  1. Really Good Post!!

    West Park Clinic is registered with The Consulting Room so that you know you are getting the highest standards of care.

    Hair Removal


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