Mandelic Acid for Darker Skin Tones

The three main types of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are glycolic acid, lactic acid and mandelic acid. Among these three, mandelic acid is the most suitable and least harmful for darker skin tones. This is primarily due to its larger molecular size that is gentler on the skin.

Mandelic Acid for Hyperpigmentation

Mandelic Acid
Mandelic Acid from The Ordinary.

Mandelic acid is especially popular in treating hyperpigmentation issues in people of color. It will help lighten dark spots over time by exfoliating the skin without causing any inflammatory reaction.

An especially popular product on Amazon is The Ordinary mandelic acid 10% + HA with alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and hydrating hyaluronic acid. This topical has an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars based on almost 2,000 reviews as of the time of writing this post. An even higher strength product is Naturium Mandelic Acid 12% plus Niacinamide. You can also purchase creams and gels containing this key ingredient.

A 2013 study from the US found that a combination treatment with vitamin C and mandelic acid resulted in successful short-term and long-term treatment of melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Mandelic acid does not kill melanocyte cells, so it will not exacerbate your existing hyperpigmentation and skin discoloration. According to New York based dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah, as told to Allure:

Despite its larger particle size, mandelic acid also delves deeper into skin than other AHAs because it is oil-soluble. Glycolic and lactic acids, on the other hand, are water-soluble, so they only work on the top layers of skin.

The Skin Benefits of Mandelic Acid

Mandelic acid can improve your skin texture, clear your pores, accelerate cell turnover, exfoliate, brighten dull skin, and reduce areas of discoloration and excess pigmentation. The end results is even toned, clearer, smoother, brighter and plumper skin. Note that it is recommended to use SPF sunscreen when using this acid, since it can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and UV ray exposure.

Other Alternatives

For people with sensitive skin, glycolic acids and lactic acids can sometimes cause side effects. In that case, mandelic acid is a great alternative. However, even the last mentioned can cause some skin redness and irritation. Make sure to also read my past posts on tranexamic cream for skin lightening and cysteamine cream for treating hyperpigmentation. If you are only interested in mild exfoliation and skin brightening, kojic acid is a good naturally-derived ingredient that is suitable for skin of color.

How often Should you use Mandelic Acid?

In the beginning, it is recommended to use a mandelic acid based product just one to two times per week. Thereafter, if your skin can handle it without any adverse reactions, you can increase the frequency of application to three to four times per week.

Me Sleek IPL and Radio Frequency Hair Reduction

In general, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) laser hair removal is not safe for people with dark skin tones (skin types 5 and 6 on the Fitzpatrick scale). In my post on the best at-home laser hair removal devices, almost none of them are suitable for people with very dark skin.

Me Sleek Hair Removal
Me Sleek at-home hair removal with IPL and Radio Frequency technology from Elos.

Me Sleek IPL plus RF Hair Reduction

However, recently I heard about a unique at-home hair removal IPL and Radio Frequency (RF) combination device called mē Sleek. It uses dual-wave patented Elos technology that has been used for over 15 years. It is advertised as being the only FDA cleared at-home hair removal technology that is effective on all skin tones and the widest range of hair colors. However, do note that Elos also makes a similar IPL plus RF hair reduction device called Iluminage.

The Sleek permanent hair reduction device is recommended to be used once a week for 7 weeks. After that, it can be used for touch-ups on an as needed basis. It can be used by both women and men. Any large area of body hair below the neck can be treated. Only use it for facial hair below the cheek line. Areas close to the eye region need to be avoided as this can be dangerous for your vision.

According to the manual, each leg can be treated in 8 minutes; an under-arm is done in just 1 minute; each arm takes 2 minutes; bikini area in 1 minute; face in 1 minute; male back in 6 minutes; male chest in 7 minutes; abdomen in 3 minutes; and an entire full body treatment can be done in 25 minutes. Each body area must be treated with 2 or 3 passes due to the gentler IPL energy in this product.

Advantages of Me Sleek

Among the pros of me Sleek include:

  • FDA cleared for all skin tones. Including fair, medium, olive, light brown and the darkest brown skin types.
  • CE certification.
  • Unlimited flashes. Life-time hair removal warranty without the need to purchase any replacement cartridges.
  • Rapid speed of clearance due to the fast light pulses and large treatment surface area. Among the fastest at-home hair removal devices on the market.
  • Flashes upon skin contact, so no need to press any buttons.
  • Sleek design that comes with a power cord, so no battery needed.
  • Features three speed settings.
  • Safe and side effect free, with no pain, irritation, discomfort, nicks, cuts, stinging or razor burns.

Many dermatologists and plastic surgeons like this machine because of its versatility in treating patients of all ethnicities and skin types.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and Radio Frequency (RF) Combination Treatment

The combination of both Intense Pulsed Light flashes and Radio Frequency current results in a very effective pain free and safe treatment for people with darker skin. The two energies work in combination to treat your hair follicles, and the resulting IPL is gentler on your skin. Note that the RF energy does not get effected by the melanin content of your skin. Both the IPL and RF provide separate heating of the hair shafts and follicles. i.e., it is a two-fold process of low intensity energy driven hair destruction.

Price and Results

On Brookstone’s website, me Sleek is currently priced at $299. On the Elos site, it is listed at a cost of $349. On Wal Mart’s site, it is priced at only $170. Considering the unlimited lifetime flashes, this is a very reasonable price in my opinion.

On average, the manufacturer states that customers will notice:

  1. A 46% hair reduction after just 2 weeks.
  2. Up to 94% hair reduction after 7 weeks.


Laser Hair Removal in Indian Skin: Many Options in 2023

In the past, laser hair removal was not safe and effective for Indian skin. However, laser device manufacturing technology has advanced tremendously during the past decade and this is no longer true.

As of 2023, laser hair removal can work well in Indian skin, but one has to be selective in the type of laser wavelength used. The treatment pulse duration, power setting and cooling mechanism all impact success and side effect rates in brown skin.

What Lasers are Best for Indian Skin Hair Removal?

A majority of people from India tend to have darker skin types IV-VI on the Fitzpatrick scale. For such highly pigmented skin, Nd:YAG lasers are the most suitable for laser hair removal, although Diode lasers can also be effective.

Among the main laser types, Nd:YAG (1064-nm wavelength) lasers penetrate the deepest into the skin (5-7 mm into the dermis). As a result, they only target the darker pigmented hair, but not the pigment in the skin. This prevents any trauma to the skin that could lead to scars and hyperpigmentation.

One of the most popular options for hair removal in darker South Asian skin is the GentleYAG® and GentleMax® series from Candela. The former is a YAG (1064 nm) laser, but the latter is a combination of the Alexandrite (755nm) and YAG.

The Musk Clinic in Ahmedabad (India) uses the unique Alma Soprano Ice Platinum laser for laser hair reduction. This laser combines all three main wavelengths that you see in lasers (Alexandrite, Diode and Nd:YAG) via one handpiece. The manufacturer calls this the trio clustered diode technology for laser hair removal. This laser targets the hair follicle bulge, bulb and deeper layer dermal papilla cells.

Laser Hair Removal Indian Skin
Laser Hair Removal in Indian Skin with Alma Soprano Ice.

Note that some Indians have fairer skin type III with a bit less melanin. In such cases, even some IPL at-home lasers can be effective for hair removal. Within South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), residents typically describe themselves as having a fair, wheatish or dark skin tone. A recent 2022 study from India found that an 810 nm diode laser is safe and effective in the reduction of dark, coarse terminal facial and axillary hairs in Fitzpatrick skin types III-V.

Before and After Results

On YouTube, you can find tons of videos of Indian patients discussing their experiences with laser hair removal, including before and after photos. One famous personality recently even discussed her 10 year laser hair removal update. On Reddit, many people also discuss their results in subreddits such as IndianSkincareAddicts. Some people had success with full body hair removal using both the YAG and Diode lasers.

In many cases, people will see major permanent body hair removal success after the recommended 6-10 treatments. However, all the body hair will not go away, hence the alternative term “body hair reduction” that is used by many industry experts.

Best Clinics for Indian Laser Hair Removal

Make sure to read my post on black and brown skin laser resources. In there, I list the names of most top clinics in India that specialize in treating Indian skin with laser. Many of them have numerous before and after photos of their tanned skin South Asian patients on their website.

Make sure to do a patch test before undertaking large scale laser hair reduction treatment. You want to get an idea about how your darker skin reacts to the light energy before opting for regular sessions.

Also make sure to not fall for marketing gimmicks and discount promotional offers. Check all online reviews of the clinic and doctor you select. Pick the best and safest, even if their prices are higher. In the long run, this will increase your overall satisfaction rate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about laser hair removal in Indian skin.

Does laser hair removal work on Indian skin?

Yes, laser hair removal does work effectively on Indian skin. However, one must be careful in using an appropriate wavelength laser such as the Nd:YAG that effectively targets the higher melanin content in Indian skin.

What is the best laser for Indian hair removal?

The Nd:YAG and Diode lasers are the most effective and popular lasers for Indian body hair removal. Their wavelengths ensure safe hair removal without damaging darker toned Indian skin.

Is IPL good for Indian skin?

IPL treatments are only safe for Fitzpatrick skin types 1-4. Most Indians have skin types 5 or 6. However, IPL is safe for South Asians with lighter skin tones.

Does laser hair removal cause side effects in Indian skin tone?

New generation lasers are perfectly safe the darker Indian skin tone. Older lasers used to result in side effects burns and skin darkening. But newer lasers that use Nd:YAG and Diode wavelengths are free from such side effects.