When you go for your consultation you should be asked questions about your skin tone, or darkness. The clinician may visually judge it, or you may be asked direct questions. The purpose is to determine your Fitzpatrick Skin type. Before we get to what the Fitzpatrick skin type is, lets explore why:
Laser hair removal works by focusing a specific wavelength of light into the skin where the hair readily absorbs the laser’s energy. It is best absorbed by black, brown, and blue colors. So if you have fair skin and black hair, then maximum laser energy can be put on the skin and it will penetrate to the dark hair in the hair follicle to disable it with heat. With darker skin though the melanin in the skin will also absorb the laser’s energy and so it must be reduced to avoid burning the skin.
We’ll also ask about your natural hair color. If you have blond, gray, or red hair it just doesn’t have enough pigmentation to be affected by the laser. For those colors we have a different machine which can target the lighter colors.
So what is the Fitzpatrick Skin Type?
In 1975, Thomas B Fitzpatrick, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, developed a classification system for skin typing. This system was based on a person’s response to sun exposure in terms of the degree of burning and tanning the individual experienced. For successful removal of hair, wrinkles, veins, sun spots, and scars using LASER technology, it is necessary determine your correct skin type.
TYPE I: Highly sensitive, always burns, never tans.
Example: Red hair with freckles or Albino
TYPE II: Very sun sensitive, burns easily, tans minimally.
TYPE III: Sun sensitive skin, sometimes burns, slowly tans to light brown.
Example: Darker Caucasians, European mix
TYPE IV: Minimally sun sensitive, burns minimally, always tans to moderate brown.
Example: Mediterranian, European, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian
TYPE V: Sun-insensitive skin, rarely burns, tans well.
Example: Hispanics, Afro-American, Middle Eastern
TYPE VI: Sun-insensitive, never burns, deeply pigmented.
Example: Afro-American, African, Middle Eastern
Based on the Fitzpatrick skin type number this will be used to adjust the settings of the laser to lessen the risk of burning.