A closer look at the latest opportunities for laser cosmetic procedures on patients of color.
Historically, there have been challenges in treating cosmetic skin issues on patients of color, but there have been significant advancements in medicine and technology, making laser treatments a safe and reliable option for those with darker skin. Read on to understand some of the background, as well as which lasers we trust for darker skin and the rules our providers follow for optimal results.
Where does this hesitation come from? Dr Munavalli explains, “Despite the numerous advances in laser technology, side-effects on patients of skin of color can be a challenge, especially for practitioners who have limited experience treating skin of color. It is important to minimize inflammation and erythema, which can result in hyperpigmentation. Darker skin types can be more sensitive and reactive so a more conservative approach can help to avoid complications.”
Dr. Kosari adds, “One of the targets of lasers is melanin, which is found in abundant supply in patients of color. As such, overheating the skin is an inherent risk. This can lead to complications such as the risk of hyperpigmentation (brown staining) which is temporary; and hypopigmentation (loss of pigment due to injury to native cells).”
Advancements in Laser Technology
So what has changed? For starters, older devices in the early days of lasers were not fitted with technology to keep the surface of the skin at cooler temperatures. Current lasers are better able to treat the desired target while leaving the rest of the skin alone. For instance, if the goal is to treat blood vessels, current lasers are better at treating the blood vessels and bypassing pigment cells. This, in essence, reduces the risk of injury. We have also developed pre- and post-laser treatment procedures intended to minimize complications.
Our providers have broad experience safely treating dark skin with lasers. “We treat patients of all skin types and have done so for decades. To properly treat skin of color, we must not only have a thorough understanding of the skin but a competent understanding of lasers and the tissue-light interaction. Our clinic is known for providing solutions for patients told by other providers that they are not good candidates because of the color of their skin. We have successfully treated complex skin conditions with lasers, which has further strengthened our ability and understanding,” shared Dr. Kosari.
Safe and Effective Treatment Options
Through decades of experience and research, our providers have a wide array of conditions and issues they can confidently treat in patients of color. This list is a great starting place if you’ve been considering a treatment or have been told by another doctor that they won’t treat darker skin. Of course, every case should start with a consultation so our board-certified dermatologists can provide a personal plan.
We have found the following issues to be safely and effectively treatable in patients of color:
- Skin laxity, necklines, and to defining the jawline
- Skin texture improvements and evening out skin tone for patchy hyperpigmentation, wrinkles or freckles
- Mild to moderate rhytids and perioral lines
- Reducing the effects of photoaging on the skin
- Laser hair removal
- Birthmark and tattoo removal
- Scar treatments
Special Considerations for Dark Skin
There are still precautions and special considerations we take when treating patients of color to ensure we protect their skin. This includes not using IPL lasers, instead choosing devices that don’t put a lot of thermal energy into the skin. We also opt for lasers that are photo-mechanic more than photo-thermal and that incorporate adjunctive cooling for the skin during treatments, which better protects more melanated skin. We always begin by performing test patches if there are any concerns and we are sure not to over-treat lesions (prudent is better with darker skin!). Across the board, we always opt for more melanin-specific wavelengths on our devices when treating darker skin.
“Though the common misconception is that you can’t use lasers on darker skin, most lasers are able to safely treat skin of color when used correctly. The key is to adjust the density and fluence, so they are appropriate for the skin type you are treating.” – Dr. Munavalli
Have an area of concern or further questions?
See our experts for a custom consultation if you would like a personal, expert opinion on your specific skin needs and concerns. Call our office today to schedule an appointment at (704) 375-6766.