Last week a video went viral of this woman with a darker fitzpatrick skin type who was severely burned by a BBL treatment. She was administered this treatment by an unqualified esthetician and she experienced third degree burns and was admitted to the ER. She has been left with extreme scarring and hyperpigmentation that will now need to be addressed as a result of a treatment that was supposed to improve her skin.
It’s important to note that this result wasn’t the fault of the device alone, it was the result of an untrained and likely inexperienced provider who didn’t know how to effectively treat skin of color. While I wish that every provider was expertly trained and the risk of this happening was zero, that’s unfortunately not the case. This is why it’s so important to do your research on any provider you choose to go to, ask questions, and understand their expertise, training, and credentials before they ever get near you with a powerful device.
Prior to any laser treatment on darker skin types there needs to be use of pre and post treatment skin care to reduce the activity of the melanocytes. This means reducing the amount of pigment that melanocytes are producing. We do this with the use of hydroquinone and non-hydroquinone lightening agents. This inhibits the skin’s ability to produce excess pigment and lessens the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
So, with that being said, what lasers are appropriate for darker skin tones?
- Pico laser. I love this laser for darker skin tones! Pico is short for a picosecond, which is 1 trillionth of a second. This laser acts super fast to shatter pigment, and has no heat dissipation so there is less risk for hyperpigmentation. Pico is usually (not always so don’t quote me on this) a one and done treatment. There is usually a scabby bruised area where treatment is administered that lasts about one week. The results are amazing and safe for even Fitzpatrick 6 skin!
- Clear and Brilliant Permea. This laser was specifically designed for use in higher Fitzpatrick skin types and will yield beautiful results in evening skin tone and stimulating collagen and elastin in a safe manner.
- Energy devices. Softwave, Ultherapy, and Thermage are safe for all skin types! They use energy to stimulate fibroblasts to stimulate collagen with zero risk of hyperpigmentation.
What about treatments that I don’t recommend?
- Microneedling. I’ve seen a lot of complications with this treatment in all skin types, not just darker ones. I never recommend it because we have much more advanced and elegant treatments available.
- Chemical peels.These can be useful, however, they need to be administered with caution to avoid post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
- IPL & BBL. These treatments use broadband light with a filter to basically try to mimic a laser. The results are not nearly the same and they come with a much higher risk of hyper- and hypopigmentation (damage to melanocytes).
While darker skin types can be more tricky to treat, it’s not impossible and you can get beautiful results with the right settings and a skilled provider!
For more detailed information about this topic check out my YouTube video below. While you're there make sure you subscribe so you see my videos every Sunday! My content is always completely unsponsored so I can give you unbiased information based on my experience and knowledge.