Ask the Expert: When Will Laser Therapy Be Available For All Complexions?

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For some the answer to diminishing fine lines, wrinkles, irregular texture, age spots/sunspots, and even acne has quite often been laser therapy. Using methods such as red or blue light therapy, pulsed light, or diode laser therapy, dermatologists have helped their patients achieve younger-looking skin by heating the collagen layer, stimulating new growth and improving texture. But because of how these type of treatments can target melanin, they often lead to unpleasant side effects such as scarring, keloids, and hyperpigmentation for people of color. But certainly by now there have been enhancements to laser therapy making it available for all complexions. Two skin experts weigh in.

Dr. Joel Schlessinger is the president emeritus of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery and is the past president of the Nebraska Dermatology Society.  Dr. Schlessinger is board certified in dermatology, cosmetic dermatologic surgery and pediatrics, and is also the founder of one of the nation’s largest cosmeceutical sites- “Laser therapy is of very limited (if any) use for darker skin types,” says Schlessinger. “This is mainly because the most commonly performed lasers work on generating a difference between the color of the skin and the color of the birthmark or blemish to be treated. This means that in skin of color, there are fewer options for difference in color”.

Dr. Schlessinger continues, “Additionally, there are other lasers that are more aggressive and patients can actually end up having serious issues with scarring due to keloidal potential. Pigmentation after the procedure can be an especially vexing problem. All-in-all, laser therapy in patients with skin of color is a dubious and potentially disastrous procedure. While there are often physicians who will take on those cases, the reward to risk ratio is such that most serious physicians avoid these individuals due to the poor track record of lasers in skin of color patients”.

So what laser treatments are currently available for ethnic skin?

“The laser safe for dark skin is the Nd:YAG. It is safe for laser hair removal and some tattoos,” says Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, acclaimed dermatologist and creator of Specific Beauty. “Lasers can sometimes damage dark skin because the laser cannot differentiate between the pigment in the hair and the pigment in the skin, which can lead to burning. Nd:YAG can differentiate and is safe”.

Laser therapies such as Fraxel also claim to be safer for darker skin tones as it targets water in the skin, not melanin.

For those seeking these types of treatment, be sure to research professionals with a proven track record of successful work on skin of color.

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About Danielle

A former finance girl, Danielle is a New York City based freelance writer and fashion and beauty expert. She's a Hofstra University and Fashion Institute of Technology grad with an obsession with fashion and beauty which she loves to tell you all about every weekday on her award-winning blog. Think of her as your style and beauty entourage all wrapped up into one bubbly brown package. Danielle's work and expertise can be found in print and across the web in Cosmopolitan for Latinas,, and more! She's also appeared as an on-air style and beauty expert on The Real, CBS New York's "The Couch" and WPIX11's Savvy Shopper segment.
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4 Responses to Ask the Expert: When Will Laser Therapy Be Available For All Complexions?

  1. Dr. Elena Jones–published in Essence, among others–on Lexington & 85th does lasers for African Americans. been going to her for years

  2. Kimberlie Clarke via Facebook says:

    I’ve been getting hair removal laser for years (in 4 different states) & wanted to try it for hyperpigmentation & acne. I don’t have much acne but it shrinks the sebaceous glands which I figured would help w/oily skin-Dr. Woolery-Lloyd was so proud of me for asking that question lol.

    Cultura in DC has laser treatments for darker skintones. I’m thinking of going for a consult next month. Even though my skin has improved a great deal, I’m still curious lol.

  3. i really want some laser treatments, so great ones for brown skin would be awesome

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