The Use of Lasers in Darker Skin Types

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The demographics of the US population continue to change at an extremely rapid pace. As of 2008, Asians, Hispanics, and African Americans accounted for 31% of the US population, and it is estimated that by the year 2050 half of the population of America will be represented by darker ethnic skin types. With the increase in the total number of individuals of skin of color, the demand for safe and effective laser therapy in darker skin types continues to increase. However, despite the increase in demand, the current literature regarding the use of lasers in darker skin remains limited. Most of the treatment parameters defined for laser platforms have been established primarily through extensive testing on skin phototypes I to III, and those studies that have been conducted on darker skin phototypes have been overwhelmingly conducted on Asian skin. Nevertheless, it has become clear that effective cutaneous laser surgery in darker skin types can be accomplished despite a relative overall greater risk for complications. Therefore, as the diversity of America continues to grow, the laser surgeon needs to maintain a clear understanding of the complexities associated with treating ethnic skin and remain mindful of the current, and ever-changing, therapeutic modalities available. This will allow the conscientious physician to maximize outcome and minimize risk when performing laser surgery on darker skin types.

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