Your guide to the best type of laser hair removal based on your skin type

If you’re considering laser hair removal, it pays to be clued up about the various systems out there so that you can make sure you choose the best, most effective laser system for you. There are lots of laser hair removal machines that use varying laser frequencies tailored for different skin types. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to laser for hair removal – the key to success is to use the right type of laser at the right setting, so that it’s strong enough to destroy your hairs without damaging your skin.

Laser hair removal – the basics

The basic principle behind laser hair removal is that the pigment within your hair absorbs the laser energy, which heats and destroys it. So far so good, right? The tricky thing is that skin also contains pigment – the darker your skin, the more pigment – and this can also absorb the laser energy, which can potentially lead to skin damage and scarring, not to mention pain during the procedure. Different types of lasers also aren’t always effective on all hair types. Fine, light hairs can be very difficult to banish using laser energy.

So, if you’ve got very pale skin and fairly dark hair, powerful lasers can usually be used effectively, as there’s very little pigment within the skin that could absorb the laser energy. On the other hand, laser hair removal on those with darker skin tones can be tough and unpredictable, as the extra pigment within the skin would absorb far too much of the more powerful laser frequencies. It isn’t as simple as just turning down the power to reduce the pain and potential skin damage though, as this can mean that there’s not actually enough energy to effectively destroy the hairs, pretty much defeating the object of the procedure.

A look at the types of lasers used for hair removal

With all of this in mind, you need to be aware that different laser frequencies have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to hair removal. The best laser system for one skin type might be completely ineffective or, worse still, dangerous to use on a different type of skin. When assessing skin type, the Fitzpatrick scale is commonly used to help give an indication of the best laser systems for each individual.

Ruby laser (694nm)

The Ruby laser is one of the original lasers used for hair removal, but is rarely used these days and uses relatively old technology. Its short wavelength is powerful and effective even on finer hairs, but there’s a high risk of burns or changes to pigmentation when used on darker skin tones, so it’s best used on very pale skin only.

Examples of Ruby laser hair removal machines:
RubyStar, Palomar E2000

Alexandrite laser (755nm)

The Alexandrite laser has a longer wavelength than the Ruby but, again, can cause changes in pigmentation and burns in darker skin tones, so is usually best used on pale skin. It can be effective on finer hairs that other laser types can struggle to tackle.

Examples of Alexandrite laser hair removal machines:
GentleLASE, EpiTouch Plus, Apogee

Diode laser (810nm)

The Diode laser has a longer wavelength again, and the fact that it’s able to penetrate deeper into the skin can reduce the risk of damage to the epidermis, or upper layer of skin that contains the pigment. This means that it’s generally considered one of the best lasers to use on mid-toned skin, though the technology is still relatively new so there’s less data to refer to. It’s not recommended for use on dark skin, and isn’t generally as good at targeting fine hairs as lasers with shorter wavelengths.

Examples of Diode laser hair removal machines:
LightSheer, Epistar, Apex 800, Soprano, SLP 1000

Nd:YAG laser (1064nm)

The Nd:YAG is currently thought to be the best hair removal laser for dark skin. Its longer wavelength allows it to target hairs with less risk of damage to pigment within the skin, and it’s particularly good at treating coarse hairs. The downside is that YAG lasers can be particularly painful and they aren’t very effective on finer hairs. There’s also less known about how good these systems are at providing long term hair reduction.

Examples of Nd:YAG laser hair removal machines:
Varia, Coolglide, Medlite IV, GentleYAG

In summary –  the best hair removal laser for your skin type

So you can see that the laser that may be best for one skin type isn’t necessarily a good option for everyone. This outline of the various types of laser will hopefully help to give you an indication of which type of laser may be most effective for you, but remember that different machines will offer different settings and cooling systems that can impact on the overall effectiveness of the treatment.

The most important thing if you want to give laser hair removal a go is to seek out a highly qualified technician who uses good quality equipment. After all, a machine is only as good as its operator! You need a full consultation and spot test to compare local offerings and make sure that not only the correct laser, but optimum settings are used, to reduce the risks and get you the best possible results.

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