Yes, it does.
Laser hair removal treatments target the dark melanin pigment found in the hair follicle. The melanin pigment absorbs light energy and converts it into heat energy. The heat destroys the hair and inhibits its regrowth by inducing swelling, which triggers the hair follicle to move from the anagen (growing) phase of the hair growth cycle to the catagen (intermediate) and telogen (resting/shedding) phases. However, melanin is not only located in hair but is also found in the skin.
The darker a person’s skin tone is, the more melanin is present is to absorb the light energy and convert it to heat, making it harder to avoid damaging the surface of the skin. As such, hair removal lasers have to be focused on the target area long enough to heat the hair, but not so long that they heat up and damage the skin.
The Fitzpatrick scale was developed in 1975 by Thomas Fitzpatrick as
a means of classifying skin types based on their responsiveness to ultraviolet light and identifies six distinct skin types. Laser hair removal technicians make use of this scale to determine which laser to use during the treatments, as well as the likelihood of damaging, burning, or scarring the skin.
Hair removal lasers fall into three broad categories: alexandrite lasers, diode lasers, and YAG lasers. YAG lasers produce the longest wavelengths, which penetrate the deepest into the skin and are absorbed by melanin pigments at the lowest rate. This makes them the safest laser to use on dark, melanin-rich skin. Diodes are the most common and efficient hair removal lasers. These hair removal lasers have a longer wavelength than alexandrite lasers, but not as long as YAG lasers. Alexandrite lasers emit the shortest wavelength and have the highest rate of absorption by melanin.
Skin type 1 is light, pale white or ivory in tone and usually freckled. This skin type always burns and peels, but never tans. This skin type is associated with individuals with light blonde and red hair, with light blue, grey, and green eyes. This skin type is usually treated with alexandrite laser, although technicians are increasingly using diode lasers on this skin type as well – especially the most recent ones on the market. These lasers are often used in conjunction with epidural-cooling (skin-cooling) techniques – such as contact cooling, cryogen spray, and air cooling – especially when treating patients with dark skin tones.
Skin type 2’s tone is fair or white and often freckled. This skin type is usually found in individuals with blond or red hair and either hazel, blue, or green eyes. While individuals with this skin type do sometimes tan, more often they usually burn and peel. As with skin type 1, alexandrite and diode lasers are used in hair removal treatments.
Skin type 3 is cream white in tone. Individuals are able to tan easily and uniformly, while only sometimes burning. Individuals with this skin type usually have dark blonde or light brown hair, with any eye color. As with skin types 1 and 2, both alexandrite and diode lasers can be used, however, diode lasers are more commonly used to treat this skin type.
Skin type 4 tone is olive or light brown and is usually found in individuals with hazel eyes. This skin type tans well, while rarely burning or peeling. Diode lasers are most commonly used for this skin type. YAG lasers may be effective but will require more sessions that diode lasers, due to the low absorption rate of the light they emit.
Skin type 5 is dark brown to black in tone. Individuals have dark brown to black hair, and very rarely burn. While diode lasers may be used on this skin type, YAG lasers are usually recommended for hair removal treatments, as these are the safest for melanin-rich dark skin tones. It is important that epidural-cooling techniques should be used when treating this skin type to avoid causing damage.
Skin type 6 is black to dark black in tone, and never burns. Individuals with this skin tone almost always have black hair. As with type 5 skin, while both diode and YAG lasers can be used, individuals with this skin type are advised to be treated with the YAG laser, and it is important that epidural- cooling techniques should be used when treating this skin type to avoid causing damage.