Laser and Light Treatments for Hair Reduction in Fitzpatrick Skin Types IV–VI: A Comprehensive Review of the Literature

Abstract

Unwanted facial and body hair presents as a common finding in many patients, such as females with hirsutism. With advances in laser and light technology, a clinically significant reduction in hair can be achieved in patients with light skin. However, in patients with darker skin, Fitzpatrick skin types (FST) IV–VI, the higher melanin content of the skin interferes with the proposed mechanism of laser-induced selective photothermolysis, which is to target the melanin in the hair follicle to cause permanent destruction of hair bulge stem cells. Many prospective and retrospective studies have been conducted with laser and light hair-removal devices, but most exclude patients with darkly pigmented skin, considering them a high-risk group for unwanted side effects, including pigmentation changes, blisters, and crust formation. We reviewed the published literature to obtain studies that focused on hair reduction for darker skin types. The existing literature for this patient population identifies longer wavelengths as a key element of the treatment protocol and indicates neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG), diode, alexandrite, and ruby lasers as well as certain intense pulsed light sources for safe hair reduction with minimal side effects in patients with FST IV–VI, so long as energy settings and wavelengths are appropriate. Based on the findings in this review, safe and effective hair reduction for patients with FST IV–VI is achievable under proper treatment protocols and energy settings.

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Correspondence to Ariel E. Eber.

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RAF, MP, AEE, ASA, and KN have no conflicts of interest.

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Fayne, R.A., Perper, M., Eber, A.E. et al. Laser and Light Treatments for Hair Reduction in Fitzpatrick Skin Types IV–VI: A Comprehensive Review of the Literature. Am J Clin Dermatol 19, 237–252 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40257-017-0316-7

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