Skin type refers not only to how light or how dark your skin is, but it also refers to how your skin reacts to the sun, tanning habits, etc. Ethnicity has the most significant impact when considering your skin type. When choosing which laser treatment is appropriate for a patient, skin type is the first factor considered. Skin types range from I – VI with the lower numbers being fairer skin types and the higher numbers being darker skin types.
Lasers work by using a specific wavelength of light to treat a very specific piece of the skin tissue. But the type of laser used for treating a certain condition will depend not only on the condition itself but the skin type of the patient. Generally speaking, the shorter the wavelength of laser the more risk is involved for darker skin types. Why is this true? For certain wavelengths of light, the laser energy will heat the melanin (color) in the skin tissue as well as the target (hair, vein, birthmark, etc.). With certain lasers, is not able to easily differentiate the target tissue from the natural pigment (melanin) in the skin and for this reason, the risk of side effects can increase. The good news is that laser technology has advanced greatly in the past decade and there are many different types of lasers that can now be used to safely and effectively treat dark and black skin types.
Although there are many laser technologies completely safe for darker skin types, there are many that are not appropriate or may not be the most effective. This is why it is extremely important to choose a practitioner that understands the basics of laser physics and safety and is completely trained in how to administer safe and effective laser treatments for all skin types.