Laser Types for Dark Skin Tones

Laser treatments for dark skin tones require careful consideration, as individuals with more melanin are at a higher risk of complications such as hyperpigmentation and scarring. Traditional laser types and therapies were initially designed for lighter skin tones. These lasers can absorb too much melanin from darker skin, leading to adverse effects.

However, advancements in technology have introduced laser treatments specifically designed for individuals with darker skin tones. In this post I discuss some of the best laser types for dark skin.

Laser Types for Hair Removal
Laser types for hair removal. Source: StatPearls Publishing. Vaidya et al. 2023.

Laser Types for Darker Skin Tones

  1. Nd:YAG Lasers:
    • How it works: Nd:YAG lasers use a neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet crystal as the laser medium. They emit light with a longer wavelength of 1064 nanometers, which allows for deeper penetration into the skin without significant absorption by melanin in the epidermis.
    • Suitability: Nd:YAG lasers are particularly suitable for individuals with darker skin tones because the longer wavelength minimizes the risk of hyperpigmentation and other adverse effects. Makse sure to see my list of ND:YAG laser brands.
    • Uses: Common applications include hair removal, treatment of vascular lesions (such as spider veins), and skin rejuvenation. This laser is versatile and widely used in dermatology.
  2. Diode Lasers:
    • How it works: Diode lasers use semiconductor technology to generate a coherent beam of light with a wavelength typically ranging from 800 to 810 nanometers. This wavelength is effective for targeting melanin in hair follicles while minimizing impact on surrounding skin.
    • Suitability: Diode lasers are considered safe for individuals with various skin tones, including darker skin. One can also use blend diodes these days, although only on skin types III-IV on the Fitzpatrick scale and nothing higher.
    • Uses: Diode lasers are popular for hair removal on all skin types. They are also used for skin rejuvenation, with applications such as reducing pigmented lesions and improving overall skin texture.
  3. Fractional Laser Therapy:
    • How it works: Fractional lasers create microthermal zones in the skin, leaving areas of untreated skin between them. This promotes faster healing and reduces the risk of complications.
    • Suitability: Fractional lasers, especially those with longer wavelengths, are considered safe for dark skin tones. They provide an effective solution for addressing various skin concerns while minimizing the risk of hyperpigmentation.
    • Uses: Fractional lasers are employed for treating acne scars, fine lines, wrinkles, and overall skin texture improvement. They can be ablative or non-ablative, depending on the specific skin concern and the depth of treatment required.
  4. Erbium YAG Lasers:
    • How it works: Erbium YAG lasers use a crystal medium that produces light at a wavelength of around 2940 nanometers. They are often used for ablative skin resurfacing.
    • Suitability: Erbium YAG lasers are considered safer for dark skin compared to some other ablative lasers, as they have a shorter wavelength that is less likely to be absorbed by melanin.
    • Uses: Skin resurfacing with Erbium YAG lasers can address concerns such as scars, fine lines, and wrinkles. The controlled removal of outer skin layers stimulates collagen production and rejuvenates the skin.

Note that Alexandrite lasers should not be used on people with darker skin. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) products are also usually not suitable for people with darker skin. However, several IPL products can be used for at-home body hair removal in people with skin types III and IV. Moreover, the Me Sleek IPL and RF hair reduction device is suitable for all skin types.

When considering laser treatments for dark skin tones, it is essential to emphasize the importance of an individualized approach. Factors such as the patient’s specific skin type, the condition being treated, and the expertise of the practitioner play significant roles in ensuring both safety and efficacy.

Always consult with a qualified dermatologist or laser specialist who has experience working with diverse skin types to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific needs. Additionally, adherence to pre- and post-treatment care instructions is crucial for minimizing potential side effects and optimizing results.

Discoloration Serum from Good Molecules

In recent months, a discoloration serum from Good Molecules has garnered significant online discussion. There are numerous internet testimonials and reviews about this product that treats hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone.

Discoloration Serum Corrector from Good Molecules

Discoloration Serum from Good Molecules.
Discoloration Serum from Good Molecules.

Discoloration serums can treat dark spots and skin discoloration related issues. A company named Good Molecules has developed a solid reputation in making skin products that are cruelty-free and contain no harmful ingredients. Moreover, their products are all very reasonably priced.

The Good Molecules Discoloration Correcting Serum currently has almost 2,080 reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars. The product is fragrance free, vegan and contains tranexamic acid and niacinamide. It is advertised as being helpful in treating dark spots, acne scars, sunspots, hyperpigmentation and age spots. The current discounted price is only $12 for a 30 ml (1 oz) bottle. Quite reasonable for such a popular product.

Key Ingredients in Good Molecules Discoloration Serum

The key ingredients in Good Molecules Discoloration Serum are as follows:

  1. 3% tranexamic acid (cetyl tranexamate mesylate). This targets skin discoloration and helps promote a clear skin tone. Make sure to read my post on tranexamic acid for skin lightening.
  2. 4% niacinamide to improve the appearance of uneven skin tone, dullness and enlarged pores. Niacinamide is a key ingredient in numerous products that help reduce hyperpigmentation in people with dark skin.

Cetyl Tranexamate Mesylate

Note that one of the two ingredients in this product is an interesting new derivative of tranexamic acid (TXA). It is called cetyl tranexamate mesylate. On Good Molecules website, it is classified as a melanin inhibitor, skin conditioning agent and astringent. They call it a “first of its kind anti-aging depigmentation active” that results in a naturally even skin tone.

A 2021 US study analyzed the safety and skin-lightening performance of this new topical TXA derivative cetyl tranexamate mesylate. It found that when using the facial serum twice a day for 8 weeks (35 female subjects):

Melanin and erythema indexes improved significantly and continuously from the baseline to the end of the study (-16.9% and -34.3%, respectively).

The topical serum containing cetyl tranexamate mesylate caused no adverse reacions or side effects. Moreover, it significantly improved overall facial skin tone and the appearance of dark spots and redness.

Do note that according to Paula’s Choice, despite showing promise, more research is needed before this tranexamic acid derivative can be assessed as thoroughly as TXA itself.

Other Pigment Corrector Products

Among other related pigment corrector product, “Topicals” has a faded discoloration serum that is also quite popular. It also contains tranexamic acid and niacinamide and can treat dark spots, blemishes and skin discoloration.

Its skin brightening effect is enhanced by the use of azelaic acid. You can also purchase it on Sephora, where it currently has 1,500 reviews. This faded discoloration serum from Topicals is safe to use daily on all ethnicities and skin shades.

Paula’s Choice makes a discoloration repair serum that contains tranexamic acid and botanical ingredient bakuchiol. The latter is a gentler alternative to retinoids. The skin repair product claims to visibly reduce patches of discoloration that can appear on the cheeks, forehead, nose and chin.

Nigerian Women and Skin Bleaching Creams

Skin bleaching via the use of skin lightening creams (and other such products) is increasingly popular throughout Africa. Doctors and beauty experts in some African countries are sounding the warning bell regarding the rampant abuse of these potentially harmful chemical products.

Skin Bleaching Nigeria
Skin bleaching in Nigeria and other African countries.

Skin Bleaching in Nigeria and Africa

According to a new article in Premium Times (Nigeria), a staggering 77 percent of Nigerian women use skin bleaching creams. This is based on data from Nigeria’s┬áNational Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). More details can be found here.

This is the highest rate in Africa, well ahead of second placed Togo at 55 percent, third placed South Africa at 35 percent, and fourth placed Senegal at 27 percent. All of these statistics are estimated from surveys and interviews, though many countries in Africa do not conduct any such surveys.

Make sure to check out NAFDAC’s “Prohibition of bleaching agents and unsafe cosmetic products document“.

Bleaching creams can cause many side effects, including: cancer, allergic reactions, damage to vital organs, skin irritation, skin burns, rashes, wrinkles, premature skin ageing, long-term hyperpigmentation and prolonged wound healing.

The Desire for Ligher Skin and European Beauty Standards

For many Nigerian women, having lighter skin is considered more desirable and attractive. The historical colonial influence and later embrace of European beauty ideals has made the attainment of fairer skin a much desired goal. This is made worse by constant TV and social media advertisements for skin whitening creams and bleaching agents. There are many ongoing efforts being made to promote local cultural and beauty preferences and standards.

Colorism

Even among African and other ethnic immigrant communities in the US, skin bleaching is rife. A recent article in the Independent found that in one survey of minority migrant communities (with the vast majority being of darker skin types), 21.3 percent of respondents admitted using skin-lightening products. It should be noted that some of them want are using these for skin conditions such as acne, melasma or hyperpigmentation.

However, for most, the issue pertains to colorism and the perception that lighter is better.

Colourism, the system of inequality that views fairer hues as more beautiful than darker skin complexions, can be the motivation behind skin lightening, the study found.

Some ingredients found in over-the-counter ligtening agents can be very harmful, especially with overuse. These include mercury, hydroquinone and various acids.