Whether it’s excessive hair growth, blood vessels, deep wrinkles, age spots or bad tattoos, there are any number of reasons to seek laser therapy as a treatment option. Because of the huge success laser treatment has had since entering the market, a common misconception these days is that lasers are magical wands. Lasers too have limitations, especially when it comes to darker skin tones.
You may be a little surprised, and even a tad frustrated, at the lack of information available on the web regarding laser treatment for dark skin types. The reason for this is simple – laser treatment for darker skin types wasn’t an option for a long while after lasers hit the market, because of the increased difficulty in successfully treating these skin tones. Now that technology has caught up and there are safe treatment options, more information regarding these will come to light. For now though, let’s have a look at what we do know.
Laser stands for – Light Amplified by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. This means that the light is amplified using a gas, liquid or solid medium that supplies electrons, which stimulates the emission of radiation (energy). The amplified laser light then targets a component of the skin called a chromophore – this may be melanin, haemoglobin (blood), water or even tattoo ink. The light is divided into different wavelengths, and each specific wavelength targets certain chromophores.
When lasers are used to treat darker skin types, the laser light travels through the skin – which has a great deal of melanin. This melanin may absorb the laser light, become heated, and as a result damage or destroy the skin cells. Where the light does reach its intended target and is absorbed by the right chromophore, the heat generated can spread into surrounding skin again damaging or destroying cells.
Laser light has the potential to cause a number of different injuries to darker skin including, blistering, scarring, or discoloration in the skin, as well as increasing due to the increased melanin content. Because of the increased melanin content in darker skin, individuals with brown skin are at increased risk of developing side effects from laser therapy. For this reason it is extremely important to seek out a clinic that specialises in laser therapy for dark skin.
Thanks to advances in modern technology, there are now a number of lasers which can be used for laser treatment on dark skin such as the Q-Switch or IPL lasers, however we can’t stress enough how important it is that these lasers are in experienced hands.