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Laser Treatment of Dark Skin

An Updated Review

Abstract

The growing diversification of the patient population coupled with the increasing demand for cosmetic laser rejuvenation has highlighted the need to develop cutaneous laser systems and establish treatment protocols for patients with a wide range of skin conditions and phototypes. Recent technologic advancements have provided viable treatment options to achieve clinical outcomes that were previously only attainable in patients with lighter skin tones. This review provides an updated discussion of the range of laser treatments available for pigmented skin and sets the stage for further advancements.

Pigment-specific laser technology with green, red, or near-infrared light targets a variety of pigmented lesions such as lentigines, ephelides, café-au-lait macules, and melanocytic nevi as well as tattoos and unwanted hair. Short-pulsed alexandrite, ruby, and neodymium:yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Nd:YAG) lasers are used for pigmented lesions and tattoos, whereas their longer pulse-width laser counterparts are used for laser-assisted hair removal. Vascular lesions and hypertrophic scars can be treated with a variety of vascular-specific lasers, but it is the pulsed dye laser (PDL) that has long been the gold standard treatment for these lesions due to its high specificity for hemoglobin and its ability to improve skin surface texture in children and adults.

Laser skin resurfacing techniques for photodamaged skin and atrophic scars have been optimized with fractional technology to produce excellent clinical outcomes and minimal complication risks. Radiofrequency and nonablative lasers are also used to provide skin tightening and collagen remodeling with virtually no postoperative recovery.

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Acknowledgments

No sources of funding were used to prepare this review. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.

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Correspondence to Tina S. Alster.

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Shah, S., Alster, T.S. Laser Treatment of Dark Skin. Am J Clin Dermatol 11, 389–397 (2010). https://doi.org/10.2165/11538940-000000000-00000

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Keywords

  • Dark Skin
  • Intense Pulse Light
  • Pigment Lesion
  • Epidermal Melanin
  • Dark Skin Tone