While the model and Instagram star Chrissy Teigen might not mind shaving twice a day, permanent hair removal is a game-changer for most women, especially in the summer months. But until recently there weren’t many options for those with darker skin tones. Fortunately, the industry has advanced and there plethora of lasers available making laser more accessible and effective for all (all most).
Light based hair removal, including IPL (Intense Pulse Light) and laser use specific wavelengths of light that are absorbed by the pigment in your hair. The light travels down the hair shaft until it reaches the root, where the build up of heat kills the cells in the roots. While IPL scatters the light rays and is less predictable, lasers provide an intense beam of light and are thought to be more effective in their results.
While the principal hasn’t changed, the quality and efficiency of the machines have advanced. “They are more precise and faster,” says the laser expert and skin specialist Debbie Thomas. “Plus, they’re better at cooling down the skin, which results is safer, less painful treatments.” The goal for manufacturers now is to create a device able to treat a larger area with little irritability to make the sessions more tolerable,” explains David Jagroop, the senior marketing manager at III Harley St. “At the moment, patients are usually required to have around 6 sessions.”
For years laser hair removal was a luxury for those with pale skin and dark hair as the bigger the colour contrast the more successful the treatment. Fortunately, technology has come a long way and now there is a laser hair removal system that works on virtually all skin tones and hair types.
For light-to-medium skin tones: If you have pale to Mediterranean tones, you can use most of the light devices available as long as there is a contrast between the colour of your hair and your skin. The experts at 111 Harley St. use Syneron Candela systems, which are one of the most renowned brands and offer various lasers for different areas of your body.
For darker skin tones: If you’re black, Asian or Indian, you need to be more specific with the type of laser you opt for and skip IPL altogether. Thomas recommends an Nd:Yag laser, which has a longer wavelength (1064 nanometres) and is less aggressive on the skin. In her clinic, Thomas uses the Fontana SP Dynamis machine, which works as long as the hair is darker than your skin tone.
The exceptions: “If you have blonde, white or grey hair, the treatment will have little or no effect,” says Thomas. “There are claims that some lasers can treat these light hair shades, but I have never seen evidence of it.” Red hair is another tricky colour to treat. While it’s not impossible, the results are more varied.
On lighter skin tones Thomas opts for the Candela GentleLase Pro machine as it has three different spot sizes (12mm, 15mm and 18mm), so you’re able to cover more ground quickly. For the more sensitive areas, such as your bikini line or face, and on darker skin tones, Thomas employs the Fontana SP Dynamis system.
Laser hair removal is by no means painless, but you won’t be writhing in agony. With the newer machines you will feel a stinging sensation similar to when the wax strip has been pulled off. Even with the new lasers you will still need on average six to 10 session.
Debbie Thomas at the Chelsea Private Clinic, 250 Kings Road, London, SW3; 020 7118 9000
111 Harley St. Clinic, 111 Harley Street, London, W1G; 0344 692 1111
New U Laser Clinic, 248-250 Gorgie Rd, Edinburgh EH11; 0131 629 4560
Pierre Alexandre Aesthetics, 38 King Street West, Manchester, M3; 0161 834 5837
VG Medispa Leeds at Toni & Guy, 1A Albion Pl, Leeds LS1; 0113 246 0300