I Have Type 3-4 Skin and Want to Get Laser Hair Removal. Which is Better, Diode or Alexandrite?

I want to remove some of the hair on my sideburn area. Some of the hairs are lighter than others and I know I won't get 100% removal, but I'd like to get rid of the darker hairs without a great risk of hyperpigmentation or inducing excess hair growth. During some consultations I was told that the Alexandrite would be fine for reducing some of the sideburn area, while at others I was told that I should never use an Alexandrite on my skin. What should I do?

Doctor Answers 7

Laser hair removal on dark skin

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Laser hair removal works best on dark hair. Since your skin is somewhat dark, there is a risk that the epidermis would absorb more energy than is desired and this can cause a burn. Therefore a longer wavelength laser, that penetrates deeper in the dermis and not as superficial as the shorter wavelength lasers, won't risk injury to the epidermal pigmentation as much. Risks still occur and test spots can be done to determine what the best energy level is. It may take more treatments and might be less effective to reduce hair growth in darker skin as the energy level must be cautiously set and not be high.

Manhattan Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

LASER hair for dark hair and type 3-4 skin

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Fitzpatrick 3-4 skin and dark hair is often the best combination for laser as it targets the color in the hair (for this reason blonde haired patients are often not good candidates). There is not a single best laser to treat hair. Each laser has its pros and cons. Although many lasers are available with brand names, the key is to look at the frequency of laser to determine its effectiveness.
Types of LASERS:
  • Diode- Perhaps the best studied and good for many skin types (the type I favor in my practice).
  • IPL- Not as effective as diode in head to head studies and not good for all skin types. May require more treatments.
  • Nd:YAG lasers- A good selection for darker haired patients. May require more treatments than diode and has a smaller spot size typically and may require more treatments
  • Alexandrite- Best for lighter skin types however it is almost as effective as diode in efficacy.

Anil R. Shah, MD
Chicago Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 177 reviews

Nd:YAG laser best for hair removal on darker skin types.

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If you are concerned about the safety of laser hair removal due to your darker skin type and risk of hyperpigmentation, the longer wavelength lasers will be better for you. The Nd:YAG (CoolGlide) laser is what we use in our office with good results and little to no risk of dark marks left when safe treatment parameters are used. This laser also has contact cooling which additionally decreases the risk of hypo- or hyperpigmentation from the cooling itself.

Jessica J. Krant, MD, MPH
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 41 reviews

Which Laser for Asian or Hispanic Permanent Hair Removal?

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Hi ANY.  Your skin type is suitable for either laser with proper cooling, but we prefer the Lumenis Lightsheer because it uses contact cooling rather than air cooling.  As the other practitioners have stated, the long pulsed Nd:Yg laser is also an option, but we typically do not use this unless the hair is very coarse (Middle Eastern, Persian) or if the skin is very dark, African American.

With an experienced practitioner, you should do fine with the Lightsheer.

Harold J. Kaplan, MD
Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Diode is better than Alexandrite for Skin type 3-4.

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At SkinMD Seattle, we successfully use the Lumenis LightSheer Diode laser to treat all skin types. An alternative laser is the Nd:YAG. Make sure you are treated at a facility that has experience treating darker skin types.

If you wish to gauge how your skin will react to each the hair reduction lasers mentioned, I suggest you have a test patch treated, off-face and watch for any skin response over a 2 to 5 day period.

Hair removal lasers work best when the skin is not dark.

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Type 3-4 skin is borderline for reliable safety when having hair removal with lasers. Even darker skin types (type 5 for example) can have laser hair removal BUT the laser has to be a long wave length (say 1064 nm) and not the diodes nor the Alexandrite...........they may very well give you a burn. You need a doctor to carefully treat you with lasers to prevent injury (burns) and the difference between diodes and Alexandrite is not too significant. Diodes can have different wavelengths so the actual wave length is important to know where as the Alexandrite has only one wavelength (755 nm). A diode with longer wave length is safer than a diode with a shorter wave length.

Having the laser treatment done when your skin is the least tanned (mid winter perhaps?) would be the best time. Sun blocks to reduce any sun stimulation of your melanin (pigmentation) for a month or more in the area to be treated may also help reduce your skin pigment and make the laser safer.

Harlow Hollis, MD
Victoria Plastic Surgeon

Darker Skin type laser hair removal

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The safest laser for darker skin types is actually the long-pulsed ND YAG laser at 1064nm.  This will allow for deeper pentration to the base of the hair follicle while avoinding the more superficial pigment of the darker skin types.  No matter which laser you choose, you should consider a test spot first to ensure that optimal levels can be tolerated with no adverse effects.

Shawn Allen, MD
Boulder Dermatologist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.