laser hair removal in asian skin
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Laser hair removal in Asian skin

Three studies evaluated the effect and results of Alexandrite laser hair removal on darker Asian skin types. This hair removal was successful on lighter skin. Doctors used one, two or three treatments on the study groups. They evaluated effectiveness of multiple treatments and if they cause skin problems for the study groups. They determined the benefits of test patches before treatments.

One hundred forty four people were in the study. They each people had Type III, IV or V Fitzpatrick skin types. Cooled laser fluences of 16 to 24 J/cm squared were used. A test patch was done before the treatments began. Participants were divided into three groups.

Group A contained 35 people with 66 sites, and received three treatments. Group B contained 35 people with 66 sites, and were given two treatments. Group C contained 74 people with 124 sites, and had one treatment. Their evaluation covered nine months.

Each group was checked for significant hair reduction nine months after their final treatment. Group A experienced 55% reduction of hair, Group B had 44% reduction and Group C had 32% reduction. The researchers checked for scarring and long term changes to skin pigmentation, but they found none. Researchers concluded Asian skin responds well overall to Alexandrite laser treatments, although there are some temporary complications.

The Study

Familiar hair removal methods include: shaving, waxing, tweezing, depilation and electrolysis. These methods provide temporary hair removal. Laser hair removal is an option being tested with various laser wavelengths. Wavelength changes and different number of treatments, give varying results.

This study will evaluate complications associated with laser skin removal on darker skin. Researchers want to identify the effects of this treatment and what complications are experienced. It would determine if there was any relevance between use of test patches and future complications. The final reason was to determine whether additional treatments were more effective.

The Methods

Healthy Asians from 18-48 were involved. 144 people participated. The researchers eliminated participants who “were pregnant, had infections, systemic diseases or a history of skin problems”.

An alexandrite hair removal laser was used. “This laser emits a 755 nm laser with irradiation through a lens-coupled optical fiber”. During these treatments, cold air cooling is used to cool the skin. The temperature can be -30 degrees with a flow of 500-1000 Liters per minute.

The study subjects had 256 areas which needed to be treated. 2cm x 2cm test patches were done beside the affected areas, 72 hours before the treatments began. The fluency was determined based on each skin type and the site to be treated.

Researchers took digital pictures before treatment and when treatment finished. They also counted the number of hairs in each location before treatment and after completion. Hairs were counted by hand and figured digitally.

Before treatments began, the areas were treated with hydroquinones or glycolic acid, shaved and cleaned. The “laser parameters included a fluence of 16 to 24J/cm squared, 40-ms pulse duration and 12.5 mm diameter spots”. Each parameter was determined by the test patch results. These patches gave indications of skin problems, such as: crusting, whitening, blistering and so on. After the tests, the researchers picked the highest fluence that was safe.

The study subjects were instructed to use sun screen during the study. They would have the treatments, and then checked for complications. The schedule would be “after 24 hours, 1 week, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months and finally at 9 months after the treatment was completed”. Any complications were documented through notes and photographs.

The Results –

The results varied between the groups. However, the group with three treatments had greater hair reduction. Group A had a 77% reduction three months after the treatments ended and 55%, 9 months after treatment. Group B had 62% reduction at 3 months after two treatments and 44%, 9 months after their final treatment. Group C had the least reduction with 44% after three months and 32%, 9 months after their initial treatment.

No important difference was noticed in effects to the skin types. There were minimal short term side effects. They didn’t note scarring or long term changes to the skin. Researchers knew that darker skin types usually had short term side effects, but not all study subjects had problems.

Most complications disappeared within 9-14 days. One subject had severe crusting, which was gone within four weeks. Another subject had widespread folliculitis on her legs, which began two weeks after her treatments, but was gone within ten weeks. The researchers did not find any connection between the test patches and later results.

The Discussion –

Even though this process is accepted, questions remain. Are the effects dictated by the number of treatments? Is this treatment (755 nm wavelength) safe for Asian skin? Were the reactions to the test patches indicative of later complications?

Other studies were done, but there were too many differences to compare them. The wavelengths used in this study were based on reactions on the test patches. However, they believe increased sun exposure before the treatments could lead to complications.

Minor complications were experienced and most passed quickly with no permanent difficulties. A stronger fluence could cause damage to Asian skin. Keeping the skin cool during the treatments limits the possible problems.

The researchers waited nine months to verify if treatment results were permanent. Additional treatments provided better results.

The Conclusion –

The researchers found that caution must be exercised when using laser hair removal techniques on individuals with Asian skin. Their results show that a 755nm alexandrite laser with longer pulse duration should be used. More hair can be removed if the doctor uses a higher pulse, but that brings a higher chance of complications. As mentioned earlier, there is no connection between the test patches and final results. Another study could test the time between test patches and the actual treatments are done. This change could produce different conclusions

Laser hair removal in Asian skin references

  • Hussain M, Polnikorn N, Goldberg DJ. Laser-assisted hair removal in Asian skin: efficacy, complications, and the effect of single versus multiple treatments. Dermatol Surg. 2003 Mar;29(3):249-54. PMID: 12614418
  • Chan HH, Alam M, Kono T, Dover JS. Clinical application of lasers in Asians. Dermatol Surg. 2002 Jul;28(7):556-63. PMID: 12135505
  • Hussain M, Suwanchinda A, Charuwichtratana S, Goldberg D. A new long pulsed 940 nm diode laser used for hair removal in Asian skin types. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2003 Jun;5(2):97-100. PMID: 12850801
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