Why does my skin color matter for laser treatments?

Why does my skin color matter for laser treatments?

 The Fitzpatrick Scale explained (for men)

Thinking of getting laser hair reduction done? The color of your skin will determine key factors, such as number of sessions, total price, and what kind of laser technology may deliver the best results. Being familiar with the Fitzpatrick Scale will make things easier and clearer to understand.

Imagine yourself at the beach with some friends. You all spend about 4 hours in the sun, then go back home for dinner and bedtime. Ever notice the next day that some of your friends have a golden tan, while others are red like a lobster and in pain? Then, a week or two later you all get together again. Some of your friends still have a caramel tan, while your friends who burned are almost as pale as before?

That’s the Fitzpatrick scale in effect!


What is the Fitzpatrick Scale?

The Fitzpatrick Scale is a system to classify human skin color. It was developed in 1975 as a way to estimate the response of ultraviolet light on different types of skin. Different genetics, usually associated with the base color of your skin, will determine how you respond to ultraviolet light.


Why does it matter for laser hair reduction?

In our article “(name)”, we explained that the laser is capable of burning the bulb of each hair by targeting the dark pigment. Laser treatments burn dark pigment. Think on that for a moment… If someone has very dark skin, how is the laser to know what to target? How does the machine know that the dark pigment it’s about to ‘zap’ is hair, instead of skin? The laser could burn your skin rather than your hair.

The easiest candidate to perform laser hair reduction on is a man who is pale (Fitzpatrick 1 or 2) with dark coloured hair. The reason is because the difference between the pale skin and the black hair is very obvious, so the laser is able to reliably target just the hair. Because of this, the technician is able to use stronger settings as well, if appropriate.

The more difficult it is to differentiate between the pigment in the skin and the pigment in the hair, the more sessions you will likely need. This applies equally to darker skin clients with dark hair (Fitzpatrick 5 & 6) and pale skin clients with very light blond hair (Fitzpatrick 1 & 2).



The color of your skin matters for three reasons.
Reason #1: Safety. Generally, a technician will need to reduce the power of the laser and program the laser device differently to ensure a safe treatment.

Reason #2: Number of sessions. Because the laser settings need to be adjusted for safety, this means that you will likely require more treatments, which unfortunately also means more money.

Reason #3: Type of laser. We presently do not provide laser hair reductions at Bodé. We don’t have years of hands-on experience with multiple different laser technologies, so we can’t get into the nitty-gritty of recommending the exact laser technology that will work best for you.

In this video, Dermatologist Dr Davin Lim recommends the following laser technologies according to men’s skin colour:
Fitzpatrick 1 & 2: 755 Alex or 810 Diode
Fitzpatrick 3 & 4: 810 NM Diode, followed by 755 Alex
Fitzpatrick 5 & 6: Nd:YAG laser with a 1064 NM wavelength


We hope this quick lesson on the Fitzpatrick Scale is helpful in answering your question.
If you want to learn more or ask us questions, contact us directly (Toronto, Ottawa). We’re happy to help!