For those wanting to improve a skin condition, remove sun damage or rejuvenate their skin, laser skin treatments are acclaimed as one of the best options for people who want to achieve their skin goals without the need to go under the knife.

While laser skin treatment is an option for many people, those with darker complexions need to be wary when opting for this kind of treatment.

Types of Laser Treatments

Laser skin therapy is a prominent non-surgical treatment consisting of a high-energy beam of light that targets the epidermis. It causes the uppermost layers of the epidermis to peel away, which leads to the production of collagen and new skin cell growth. The result will be improvements to the skin tone and texture.

People who suffer from acne, rosacea, sun damage, or those who want to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and scars or remove lesions often turn to laser skin treatment.

A variety of laser treatments are available with the type of laser therapy used depending on the needs of the patient. This results of this type of treatment lasts between 3 to 5 years.

Below is a list of the four types of lasers used in cosmetic procedures and what they are best suited for.

C02 Laser

The CO2 laser is an ablative laser treatment and is one of the most commonly used lasers due to its well-energy absorption, and the fact that it has only a few side effects. The laser uses carbon dioxide or C02 to create a cardinal light beam and is the gold standard in treating deep acne scars.

This treatment is not recommended for people with darker skin tones.

IPL Lasers

IPL lasers (intense pulsed light lasers) is a non-ablative treatment. It uses an intense pulse of light that works well on red and brown pigments. This kind of laser is commonly used in a dermatology setting to help treat uneven marks of pigmentation caused by sun damage, freckles, vascular lesions, rosacea, remove unwanted hair and smooth out wrinkles.

Alexandrite Lasers

The Alexandrite Laser is considered a non-ablative red light laser; it produces a laser in a wavelength that is best known for being effective in penetrating red spots.

This kind of laser may be the best option for people wanting laser hair removal, leg vein treatment or to say goodbye to a tattoo that no longer suits them.

Fraxel Lasers

The Fraxel Laser has recently made a name for itself in pop culture with icons such as Kim Kardashian turning to it as the go-to solution to get rid of crow’s feet and wrinkles for a more youthful look and overall skin rejuvenation.

This laser treatment uses microscopic laser columns to penetrate deep into the skin and remodel collagen. It is not recommended for people with darker skin tones.

Melanated Skin and Laser Treatments

While lasers are a great solution for people with a fair complexion, it’s not the same for those with darker complexions.

Before getting any laser treatment done, understanding that skin tone matters is crucial. Not all laser treatments are suited for people of darker skin tones, especially anyone in the range of Fitzpatrick skin types IV to VI.

The Fitzpatrick skin type depends on the amount of melanin pigment in the skin, and describes a way to classify the skin by its reaction to exposure to sunlight .

Fitzpatrick skin chart

Cometic lasers target water, red hemoglobin, or brown melanin in the skin, therefore highly melanated complexions tend to have a greater risk of complications from ablative laser treatments. Indeed, the more melanin the skin has, the more risk one has for skin damage.  

Unsatisfactory results from these procedures for darker skin tones can include hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, infections, burns, and scarring.

Despite this setback, melanated people can still receive laser skin care treatment. However, finding a provider that caters to darker skin tones is crucial.

What To Consider Before Choosing The Right Healthcare Provider?

For melanated folks considering laser treatment, it is imperative to know that the lasers used for treatment are either non-ablative, picosecond or Q-switched. One major pro of these lasers is for make-up loving patients, as they can continue to use make-up while in recovery.

Research and consultations with several providers are crucial in helping you figure out which practitioner is best suited for your needs. Read all the reviews you can about the practitioner to complete your research.

A final factor to consider is the healing time and aftercare for a non-ablative treatment varies depending on the treatment received, just like with an ablative laser treatment. Recovery time can range from a few days to up to a month.

At-Home IPL devices

There’s lots of buzz on social media about at-home IPL devices specifically for hair removal. With bathing suit season coming up, the temptation to get rid of razors and smelly depilatory creams is looming. But what’s the deal, are at-home laser devices safe? Do they also work on darker skin tones?

Instead of an actual laser, at-home hair removal devices issue an intense pulsed light (IPL) which is absorbed by the dark melanin in the hair. This causes it to heat up, damaging the follicle and preventing it from being able to re-grow new hair. This also means that this is not a suitable option for darker skin tones.

Take home devices will not necessarily permanently remove all of the hair, and many consumers find that some of their hair regrows a few years after the treatment. Generally considered safe for lighter skin tones, you should nonetheless follow instructions, and only use if indicated for your skin type and if approved by Health Canada.

Laser Skin Treatment Cost

Costs for treatment can vary from around $50 and upwards to thousands of dollars, depending on the type and frequency of the treatment.

Laser skin therapy is not covered under provincial medicare but may be covered under private insurance. Be sure to ask your insurer if you are covered before you move ahead with the treatment.

At-home IPL devices will set you back about $400 and up.

Everyone can receive a laser treatment no matter how light or dark their skin tone is. However, remember to do your research when choosing the right treatment and healthcare provider.

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