There are two myths that Eliot Battle Jr., M.D., would like to dispel about using lasers to treat skin of color:
Myth: Lasers are not safe for skin of color
It’s been almost 20 years since Dr. Battle and Harvard University researchers first published research demonstrating how practitioners can safely treat skin of color.
“I still have patients who come into my office and tell me their dermatologist or laser center told them that it is not safe to treat skin of color with lasers,” says Dr. Battle, who is CEO and co-founder of Cultura Dermatology and Laser Center in Washington, D.C. He recently spoke on laser treatments for ethnic patients at the Skin of Color Seminar Series held in New York City in May.
Myth: Focus solely on skin color when considering laser treatments
Skin color is just one criteria practitioners should consider. The patient’s ethnic mixture, sun exposure and health history are key factors that should be taken into consideration.
“A person who has been raised in the northern United States with shorter summers will react differently than a patient raised in the south. Similarly, a patient raised in the Caribbean will react differently than a person raised in Africa or in the United States, based on the sun’s impact to their skin,” he tells Dermatology Times.
Health history is also an important component.
“For example, the skin changes of patients with diabetes will impact how lasers react to the skin,” Dr. Battle says.
However, despite major advances in laser technology over the past 20 years to improve the safety and efficacy of treating patients with skin of color, “we are seeing a disproportional number of side effects within that group,” he says.
Two reasons for this disconcerting statistic are the exponential number of darker skin patients receiving cosmetic treatments, coupled with the lack of appropriate training for practitioners.