The Top Expert-Approved Laser Treatments for Melanin-Rich Skin

The Top Expert-Approved Laser Treatments for Melanin-Rich Skin featured image
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Laser treatments can be especially tricky for those with darker skin tones. The use of lasers and energy-based devices comes with higher risks of side effects that can leave lasting marks and seriously affect your skin’s health and appearance. When considering laser treatment, the most crucial factor for individuals with melanated skin is the expertise of the aesthetic physician who performs the procedure. More important than the specific device used is the proficiency of the practitioner behind it. You need a specialist who truly comprehends the distinctive needs and potential challenges of darker, melanin-rich skin. Here, top skin experts share the safe and effective laser treatments they recommend for diverse skin tones.

Why Are Laser Treatments Riskier for Darker Skin Tones?

Using heat on darker skin tones carries higher risks of scars, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and other adverse reactions. Melanin-rich skin requires specific laser wavelengths and techniques to avoid targeting the pigment and causing damage. Shreveport, LA dermatologist Skylar Souyoul, MD explains, “All patients need to ensure they are getting procedures done by board-certified physicians with years of experience. This is especially important for darker-skinned patients because lasers need to be used differently to ensure they aren’t targeting the increased melanin in their skin.”

“Skin with more melanin is at higher risk of hyperpigmentation and scarring mainly due to their reactive melanocytes that make pigment and fibroblasts that can overproduce collagen,” notes La Jolla, CA dermatologist Azadeh Shirazi, MD. “There are many lasers that bypass surface melanin or generate less heat thereby lowering these risks in darker skin tones.”

Can Laser Treatments Permanently Lighten or Darken My Skin?

A common concern is whether laser treatment will permanently change skin color. Phoenix, AZ dermatologist Dr. Karan Lal explains that while temporary pigmentation changes might happen, the goal is to avoid permanent alterations. “Lasers that are safer for darker skin tones are effective at clearing pigment but require multiple sessions to avoid long-term changes in skin color.”

Choosing the right laser treatment for darker skin tones is crucial. Consulting with experienced, board-certified dermatologists who understand the complexities of darker skin tones is essential. By taking necessary precautions and selecting appropriate lasers, patients can achieve beautiful, healthy skin safely.

Laser Treatments for Darker Skin Tones

Aerolase Neo Elite 

Centerville, VA dermatologist Liza A. Moore, MD highlights the Aerolase laser as an excellent option for melanin-rich skin. “It improves pigment, texture and tone and can be used for laser hair removal,” she explains. The Aerolase laser’s 650-microsecond technology delivers energy in short pulses, minimizing the risk of hyperpigmentation and thermal damage. 

PICO Lasers

Picosecond lasers like PicoSure, PicoWay and Pico Genesis are highly effective for Fitzpatrick skin types 3-5, says Spokane, WA dermatologist Wm. Philip Werschler, MD, particularly for pigmentation and superficial scars. “I have the PicoLO from Laser Optek and with the adjustable depth handpiece, selective toning and tightening can be accomplished,” he explains. 

“I love my Pico laser to treat this group of patients because the laser can treat dark spots, scars, hyperpigmentation, sun damage, improve skin texture and wrinkles and of course, it is best known for tattoo laser removal in less sessions compared to other lasers,” adds Flushing, NY dermatologist Dr. Winifred Chu. “It uses fast pico second pulses that deliver light that penetrate deep into skin to promote collagen and treat skin concerns with minimal collateral damage to surrounding skin. Hence, it’s much safer for dark skin types.”

ND:YAG Lasers

Longer wavelength lasers like Nd:YAG emit wavelengths that penetrate deeply into the skin, bypassing pigmentation and minimizing impact on melanin without damaging the surface layer. Dr. Lal prefers the Picosecond Nd:YAG laser noting, “Picosecond lasers are great for texture, tone and pigment correction. They are so fast that they essentially do not disrupt your normal pigment.” They are highly effective for treating melasma and hyperpigmentation.

Nonablative Fractional Lasers 

“Fractionated lasers stimulate collagen production, improving the texture and appearance of scars by resurfacing the skin,” explains Los Angeles dermatologist Divya Shokeen, MD. “The laser wavelength minimizes surrounding damage.”

New Orleans dermatologist Mary Lupo, MD also likes nonablative fractional lasers like Clear + Brilliant and the Fraxel DUAL laser. She particularly likes the Fraxel DUAL 1550 wavelength for the treatment of acne scars in darker skin tones. “I usually use the 1550 wavelength at high fluence and low density for acne scars,” she explains. This method targets deep skin layers while sparing the surface, reducing the risk of hyperpigmentation and promoting effective scar treatment. 

Ultraclear Laser

Dr. Lupo highlights the UltraClear laser as a safe and effective option for darker skin tones. “Practicing in New Orleans for 40 years means I need devices safe for skin types 4-6,” she says. For ablative treatments, Dr. Lupo uses the UltraClear laser with the 2910 wavelength and turns off coagulation heat, ensuring safety for darker skin. This minimizes the risk of hyperpigmentation and thermal damage, making it suitable for precise, effective treatments.

AVAVA Miria 

New York dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD recommends the Miria laser for its advanced technology and effective results for darker skin tones. “The laser’s unique Focal Point technology ensures precise treatment at deep skin layers, while its built-in cooling system reduces downtime,” she explains.

Remember the Words “Low and Slow

When using laser treatments on melanated skin, several precautions are necessary to avoid adverse effects. Dr. Lal advises, “The key is to start low and go slow. We do not promise overnight results for patients with skin of color. It is a marathon! Sun protection is crucial both before and after treatment. Using topical treatments like hydroquinone, alpha arbutin and tranexamic acid before the procedure can also help reduce rebound hyperpigmentation.”

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