darker skin


I’m an eighteen year old woman who will live in Los Angeles later this year. I don’t have EXTREMELY dense hair, but it is quite dark and VERY visible. During summer if I want to wear shorts I have to shave legs twice a day, and forget about bikinis or halter tops, or sleeveless ones since under my arms is quite visible even after shaving. I’ve tried depilatories, but because my hair is quite thick, it’s been mostly ineffective. The hair just stays there and grows back quickly. Even after shaving, the hair underneath the skin is visible. Waxing is unbelievably painful. Bleaching my face only lasts four to five days.

I am getting really desperate and depressed about this. I think my skin is a IV or maybe even V (4 or 5) on the Fitzpatrick chart, so that probably rules out laser work, huh? My legs are in a constant state of irritation and redness from too much shaving and I can’t even change shirts comfortably in front of other people.

Is there any laser-like or mostly permanent safe and effective solution for people with darker skin? All of this is driving me insane. Even treatment which just made the hair much finer would help.


Also, would losing weight help at all? I am about twenty pounds overweight.


Hello, hello!

The methods you’ve been using cause hairs to be cut off at the skin’s surface. One thing you might try is a pro waxing to see what you think. This gets rid of most of the hairs you can see below the surface and can significantly reduce the shadow effect you see now.

You might try this on a smaller area like your armpits and see what you think. You’ll need to grow the hair out a bit before getting it waxed.

If you’d rather just give e permanent option a shout, you might try looking around for a physician who treats African Americans for hair removal. Although several lasers are allowed to be used on darker skin tones, it’s absolutely vital you find someone REALLY good if you have darker skin tones. There hs been some recent study of super-long pulse lasers for darker skin.

Laser can be pretty expensive, as can electrolysis. That’s your only other method that can give you a permanent result. Again, it’s important to find someone good, and you might want to look for someone who uses blend if your hair is curly.

Weight can be a factor, but it’s usually only if you’re overweight enough to trigger diabetes or other glucose problems. Sometimes unwanted hair is a result of a serious medical condition, but if your family tends to have a fair amount of hair similar to yours, it’s probably heredity mostly.

The good news is that emoving dark hair root and all will make your hair look much better than it does now. The trick will be to find someone experienced with darker skin if you want a permanent solution.


My practitioner says that they are successfully treating African-Americans with the Sciton 1064 Nd:YAG Laser. Sounds like something worth looking into.



Yes, there have recently been some experiments with super-long pulse Nd:YAGs. I’ve spoken with the head researcher on one project, Dr. Eliot Battle. He seemed very optimistic, but personally, I feel there needs to be some more data before I’d tell African Americans to try laser. If anyone out there is considering it, be sure to go to someone recommended by another person with s,kin as dark as yours who is done and happy.


I must concur with the others on this. It is important to hear from other folks about thier experience.

I am African American. Thus, I was very concerned about trying laser. When folks recommend Certain ethnic groups against laser they are not thinking about the range of color and hir types. I eventually did try laser and have been very successful. My chin is mostly clear after two sessions. I still have some light fine hairs that I am not concerned about.

I suggest that you talk to a practitioner in Las Vegas. If they say that they have treated folks with your skin color ask if they can give you some examples. It may be difficult to find someone who will talk to you but it is better than risking scarring or other permanent damage.

Just to let you know–for comparative puposes:

My skin color is a beigish brown. My hair on my chin was dark brown and curly. LaserSheer diode was used to remove the hairs. Each session was 150.00.

Hope that this helps


Raihna1, thanks for posting!

The real criterion for laser is not ethnicity, but Fitzpatrick skin type. It’s a 6-level scale that is broken down by how easily the sun damages your skin. While the categories correpond roughly with ethnic heritage, there is a range of skin tones within every ethnicity.

African-American skin can range from Type II (usually bums, rarely tans) to Type VI (very darkly pigmented), according to physician/pharmacist Dr. Kerry Wong. Types II to IV usually won’t have problems with laser, while the two Fitzpatrick Types least likely to get burned by the sun are the most likely to have problems with laser.

Compounding the issue for people with African heritage is that lighter-skinned people often have more red in their hair. The redder your hair, the less effect laser will have.

There is a crossing point between skin tone and hair color, where skin and hair are similar in darkeness. These consumers need to be very careful, since getting results may take levels that injure their skin. Basically, the closer your hair color is to your skin, the worse a candidate you are.

Light skin, black hair: good :smile:
Brown skin, brown hair: not so good :confused:
Dark skin, gray hair: no way :fearful:

Be sure to go to someone who knows what they’re doing with darker skin tones. It can go well in the right hands, but it can go very wrong in inexperienced hands (see photo at the link below):

Hairfacts: Laser burns on medium African American skin

Raihna1, I’d love if you post your practitioner’s name in the referrals section! Thanks again for contributing!

[ July 19, 2002, 02:23 PM: Message edited by: Andrea ]