Understanding different skin types is key to delivering an effective and safe treatment and diagnosis to a client. The skin type of a new client should always be one of the first considerations when looking at the next steps of their treatment – this goes for all laser treatment procedures including, laser hair removal, laser tattoo removal, and vascular lesion treatment.

Different skin types will all react differently toward exposure to a laser. Without the correct match of treatment to skin type you will not only fail to deliver effective treatment, but also risk damaging the treated skin area. It is important to make sure all of the practitioners in your laser clinic understand how to treat skin types correctly.

Why Does Treatment Effectiveness Vary with Skin Type?

The type of skin your client has is one of the largest factors to consider when assessing the treatment you will give. The general rule when it comes to skin type is the lighter the skin complexion the more effective treatment and the less side effects there will be. Older laser treatments have been known to cause discolouration and damage to dark skin types, however advancements in laser treatment have reduced this.

Darker skin types contain higher amounts of melanin. This acts as a chromophore which absorbs the energy from the laser – the more melanin, the higher the absorption. As more energy is absorbed there is a higher risk of injury to the treated area. Considerations should also be made to whether the skin of your client scares easily. Skin which is more prone to scarring is more likely to be adversely affected by laser treatment.

Skin Types & Treatment

Skin types are typically categorised in the beauty industry by the Fitzpatrick scale. Laser hair removal is most successful when there is a large contrast between the skin and hair (dark hair on light skin being the optimum combination). For darker skin complexions devices such as the Helios III are ideal thanks to its Nd: YAG laser. Below are the six skin classifications on the Fitzpatrick scale, and how you can help identify each skin type.

Skin Type I

Skin type I is extremely fair skin which will always burn but never tan. They will possibly have freckles and may have had issues with sunburn in the past. Physical characteristics of people with skin type I may include red or blonde hair, freckles (Irish, Scottish, Celtic descent) and blue eyes.

Skin Type 2

Those with skin type II are slightly less prone to burning than type I however they will still rarely tan and remain at risk of burning.  Any skin tanning will fade over a short period of time and will only ever reach a light tan. Most common in red/fair-haired people with green or blue eyes.

Skin Type III

Skin type III will tan after exposure to sun, however still remain at some risk of burning if there is too much exposure. They will tan in the summer however have lighter skin in the winter time. Physically they will usually have brown/fair/sandy hair with green, hazel, or blue eyes, with a Mediterranean heritage.

Skin Type IV

People with Skin Type IV are most likely to have a year-round tan, and tan after limited sun exposure. Skin type IV will tan quickly, this tan will fade slowly over time. It is still possible to burn skin type IV however this will usually only occur after extended sun exposure. Look for those with dark hair and green, brown, or hazel eyes. Typically, those with skin type IV will have Mediterranean-type, Caucasian, lighter Indian, or some Asian heritage.

Skin Type V

Skin type V will rarely burn even after long sun exposure and will tan well. Look for those with dark or black hair and brown or dark brown eyes. This skin type known to be insensitive to sunlight with people usually coming from an Indian, the Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and African American descent.

Skin type VI

Skin type VI never burns and is sun insensitive. Typically, those with skin type VI are deeply pigmented and will most commonly come from African American or African decent and will have black hair and dark brown eyes.

Conclusion

Before starting any treatment be sure to consult the Fitzpatrick scale and assess the skin type of your client. While providing treatment always be aware of the skin type you are treating, and the characteristics it has – this will help provide a more effective treatment to your client and reduce any adverse effects of laser treatment. Here at Laseraid we offer full training on all of our equipment to ensure both you are your client have the best possible experience with laser treatment.