Hair removal options for dark skin—what are they and are they safe?

Different skin tones react to treatments uniquely. So what are the most effective hair removal options for dark skin?

woman holding her hair, to illustrate hair removal options for dark skin
(Image credit: Future/Getty Images)

If you have dark skin, you may be more sensitive to some hair removal methods than women with lighter skin. That doesn’t mean there’s no solution for you—in fact, there are plenty of hair removal options for dark skin out there.

Whether you plump for waxing, shaving or at-home laser hair removal, you need to be aware of all the options and the potential risks for different skin types. Then, you can hunt down the perfect hair removal method for your complexion and skin tone.

Why does skin tone matter for hair removal?

Skin is skin, right? Well, not exactly, when it comes to hair removal. No two skin types are exactly the same and qualities as seemingly minor as tone can cause significant differences in how your skin reacts to certain treatments.

In general, darker skin types are more prone to two conditions: hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation. Hyperpigmentation occurs when a skin injury or irritation causes dark spots on the skin. Hypopigmentation is a similar phenomenon, but it results in light spots.

Some hair removal methods can be harsh on the skin. Shaving can produce cuts and irritation and waxing can sometimes result in burns—and this can lead to issues like hyper and and hypopigmentation. 

Sometimes, dark skin is more prone to dryness and irritation as a result of hair removal, too. “Darker skin can get dry and ashy or gray when it lacks moisture,” says Malynda Vigliotti, owner of Boom Boom Brow Bar. “For example, when you remove hair with wax, it tends to leave a clear line.” But there are remedies for issues like these. For example, Vigliotti recommends that women with dark complexions "coat the skin before waxing with a thin layer of Vaseline or Aquaphor. Afterwards, moisturize like crazy." Using the best vitamin C serums can also be very helpful in reducing pigmentation.

So what are the hair removal options that are best suited for dark skin? There are so many methods out there, you’re sure to find one that suits your skin tone and type.

What are the best hair removal options for dark skin?

a woman walking up steps in fitness gear

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Women with dark skin should feel comfortable using most traditional hair removal methods

However, as there are more risks associated with darker skin, it’s important to keep these in mind when choosing the right option for you.“When skin gets inflamed, as it does with hair removal, there is always a possibility of hyperpigmentation,” explains Purvisha Patel, a dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Associates and founder of Visha Skincare

That being said, Dr. Patel advises that most of the common hair removal methods are safe for dark skin, including:

  • Waxing
  • Sugaring
  • Electrolysis
  • Laser hair removal

Dark-skinned women who use these hair removal methods should still proceed with caution. "Any hair removal method mentioned could result in inflammation," Dr. Patel notes. She also adds that the risk of hyperpigmentation becomes greater if the inflamed areas are then exposed to sun—which is something to be aware of.

Is laser hair removal safe for dark skin?

If you have dark skin, you might have heard that laser hair removal is the most risky method. While that may have been true once, Hasna Khabarate, an esthetician at Park Slope Laser, says that’s not the case any more.

"A few decades ago, laser hair removal would have been rather risky for darker skin tones. Risks of discoloration and scarring were pretty high." As such, it was considered unsafe for skin types prone to hyperpigmentation. “Thankfully, advancements have been made, and now we have the safest laser machines for everyone," she said.

An additional problem with older laser technology was that they “were unable to penetrate the follicle.” In other words, Khabarate explains, lasers were unable to distinguish between the pigment in hair and melanin in skin. However, now, "advanced laser technology can target black hair on patients with darker skin safely and effectively," says Khabarate. “The YAG laser, for example, emits a longer pulse (beam of light) that can penetrate deeper into the skin, minimizing any skin damage surrounding the hair.”  

In fact, the experts My Imperfect Life spoke to agreed that laser hair removal is actually one of the best options for dark skin, for several reasons:

  • It’s semi-permanent, so you won’t have to consistently put your skin through trauma.
  • It touches very little of the skin itself, because it specifically targets the hair follicles.
  • Newer laser hair technology significantly lowers the risk of hyperpigmentation for dark skin tones.

Obviously laser hair removal isn’t for everyone. It’s typically pricey, and some find the procedure uncomfortable. 

If that’s the case, try one of the alternative methods suggested above (waxing, sugaring or electrolysis). Just keep an eye out for hyperpigmentation, and follow up with a dermatologist if it starts to arise.

What should you watch out for when removing hair on dark skin?

Each type of hair removal mentioned above has elements of risk associated with it. "With waxing and sugaring, if not done in the hands of a professional, there could be damage and skin removed with the wax or sugar," Dr. Patel warns. Whereas with laser hair removal and electrolysis, "there can be an increase in pigmentation at each hair follicle treated," she adds.

But these effects shouldn't hold you back from exploring different hair removal options for dark skin. As long as you see a professional for your hair removal treatments, or you are extremely careful with your home remedies, such as hair removal creams, you can avoid issues like hyperpigmentation. You just need to follow expert advice, and keep a close eye on your skin after hair removal procedures.

My Imperfect Life thanks Malynda Vigliotti of Boom Boom Brow Bar, Purvisha Patel of Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Associates, and Hasna Khabarate of Park Slope Laser for their time and expertise.

Aleesha Badkar
Deputy Editor at My Imperfect Life

Aleesha is deputy editor and beauty & fashion lead for My Imperfect Life, where she heads up the beauty, fashion and eCommerce pages. Previously she was shopping writer for woman&home and gained an AOP awards nomination after working on their news team. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 and has since worked with a number of brands including, Women's Health, Stylist and Goodto. When she’s not testing new products, Aleesha spends her time soaking up the newest bestsellers and Netflix releases, learning about different wines, attempting new languages and travelling as much as she can.