Why you can’t have Laser Hair Removal when you have a tan

By Ellie Taylor 3rd May 2022 Category: Advice

Laser hair removal is becoming an increasingly popular aesthetic procedure among those searching for a safe, effective and long-lasting method of hair reduction. Gone are the days of enduring painful, time-consuming alternatives such as shaving, epilation and waxing.

In this article we will be focusing on the impact of tanning on the efficacy and safety of laser hair removal, and also exploring how advancements in laser technology have improved accessibility of the procedure for those with darker skin tones.

How does laser hair removal work?

The concept of laser hair removal centers around the principle of Selective Photothermolysis. Although this sounds complex, the basics are easy to understand. Laser technology can be used to deliver specific wavelengths of light to an area of interest and cause highly selective heat damage. In laser hair removal, the target areas are melanin-rich structures such as the hair shaft and bulb. When the laser pulses are targeted towards melanin, the light can only be absorbed by structures containing this pigment. The heat energy applied to the melanin-containing areas then diffuses into the immediate neighboring tissue, causing damage to the hair follicle. This process inhibits future hair growth, providing the desired aesthetic outcome.

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Laser hair removal on darker skin tones

The epidermis of individuals with darker skin tones contains more melanin pigment and as we know, the hair removal laser is targeted towards the melanin in the hair. This presents a challenge in that the melanin in the dermis competes with the hair for the laser light. In other words, the laser is less able to distinguish hair from skin. The ‘off-target’ absorption of laser light by the skin is converted to heat and can result in blistering or scarring.

Without appropriate adjustment of the laser by an expert practitioner, laser hair removal can be ineffective and even dangerous for those with darker skin tones. At sk:n, our highly trained laser specialists are able to adjust the laser settings according to the requirements of the client. The duration of the laser pulse, wavelength of light applied, and extent of epidermal cooling can all be altered to ensure safe and effective hair removal for those with darker skin tones.

Click here to discover more information on Laser Hair Removal on darker skin tones.

What happens if you tan while getting laser hair removal?

The tanning process increases the amount of melanin in the dermis. In the same way as in those with darker skin tones, melanin in tanned skin causes ‘off-target’ absorption of laser light. Although the laser settings can be adjusted to accommodate darker skin, this can result in less effective hair removal and might mean that more sessions are required to achieve your desired results.

A second issue linked with tanning during the laser hair removal process is hair bleaching. Bleaching causes oxidation of the melanin in the hair, reducing the absorption of laser light and impairing hair removal.

Finally, the skin can become more sensitive to heat following laser hair removal, and sun exposure between sessions can lead to sunburn and problems with pigmentation. In a similar vein, sun exposure before sessions can make the skin more susceptible to laser-induced damage.

Laser hair removal and fake tan

Depending on the method of artificial tanning used, the process of ‘fake tanning’ can lead to the presence of melanoidins or increased melanin in the skin. This has the same effect as natural tanning on the laser hair removal process, making the skin susceptible to burning, blistering or scarring.

Visit the Laser Hair Removal section of our website to learn more about how sk:n can assist you in achieving your desired hair removal results.

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