Laser Hair Removal and Your Skin Type

Harold J. Kaplan, MD

Article by
Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon

Before starting laser hair removal, it's important to know which type of lasers are safe and effective for your skin type. There are six skin types, I - VI as follows.

Skin Type I - Caucasian, fair and typically Northern European or Scandinavian.
Skin Type II - Normally Caucasian, fair and associated with European descent. English, German, Russian etc.
Skin type III - Includes Caucasians of Mediterranean descent and some lighter skinned Hispanics, Italians, Spanish, and Greeks. Typically, light-skinned Hispanics are from South America.
Skin Type IV - Medium-skinned Hispanics, Asians, and Persians or other Middle Easterners.
Skin Type V - Light skinned North Africans or African Americans.
Skin Type VI - Dark skinned Africans.
 

Now that you know skin type, below are a few lasers commonly used for laser hair removal. Three accepted types of Class IV medical lasers for hair removal are:

  • The Diode Laser
  • The Alexandrite Laser
  • The Nd:Yg Laser

Diode Lasers.  The Lumenis Lightsheer is the most common hair removal laser.  It is a "Diode laser" and many practitioners consider it the gold standard for laser hair removal. The Lightsheer works well for skin types I-IV and may be used on higher skin types (according to the manufacturer) if certain models of this equipment are used.  In our practice, we use the Lumenis Lightsheer only for skin types I-IV.

Alexandrite Lasers.  The Alexandrite Laser is less commonly used than the Diode laser but is very effective for laser hair removal in lighter skin types. It is not normally used for skin types IV, V and VI because there is a risk of hyperpigmentation (a change in skincolor) and or blistering.  Cynosure is a leading manufacturer of Alexandrite lasers.

Long Pulsed Nd:Yg lasers.  The long pulsed Nd:Yg laser is used for darker skin types and very thick coarse hair.  The physical properties of this laser allow it to penetrate more deeply than the other two lasers, thus bypassing the upper layers of skin that contain higher levels of melanin in darker skin types.  One common model of long pulsed Nd:Yg is the Sciton Profile.

While it can be confusing to find the right practitioner and the right laser for your particular skin type, taking the time to understand the differences between these laser hair removal devices will ultimately lead to better and safer outcomes for you.