My Glow Up goddesses! You asked, and I got the answers on the best chemical peels and lasers for darker skin tones.
During last week’s “snow bomb cyclone,” I checked in with Dr. Michelle Henry, a Harvard-trained New York City dermatologist, to talk about the latest offerings in her practice. As a black woman herself, she had plenty of advice to offer The Glow Up about using lasers and peels on melanin-rich skin.
“For the darkest skin types, I like the Clear and Brilliant laser for resurfacing. I will also use the Fraxel laser with lower settings,” Henry says.
I’ve personally used both of these treatments, and they do remove every line and every speck of discoloration on the skin. The doctor warns that the effects aren’t permanent, though. “A newer laser that is safe for all skin types is the Infini laser. It combines microneedling and radio frequency, so it tightens and corrects textural issues,” she says.
This new generation of lasers allows the physician to tailor the treatment specifically to each issue on a patient’s face, whereas previous generations of lasers obliged the doctor to treat the face with multiple processes. Including microneedling is part of that tailoring, using microscopic needles to puncture the skin, causing controlled wounding that stimulates the natural healing process and the production of collagen, which restores both radiance and elasticity to the surface of the skin.
For specific tightening and toning, Henry says, “I love using the Aerolase 1064 Laser for skin rejuvenation and laser toning in darker skin types.”
Designed to deal with thicker areas of the skin, this laser is helpful for acne scars, stretch marks, spider veins, keloid revision and fungal issues with nails, among other things. Scars can thankfully now be permanently removed, commonly in about two to four treatments.
As for the best peels for African-American skin? “My go-to peels are the Vitalize Peel and VI Peel. Both are very effective but safe for all skin types,” says Henry. “The VI Peel is a deeper peel, so I use it for hyperpigmentation and textural issues.”
I’ve personally used peels, and they’re generally quick and painless—with the exception of a few minutes of stinging or tingling, depending on your level of pain tolerance. During treatment, a small handheld fan is often offered to reduce the temporary stinging sensation. Peels takes about 45 minutes in total, and the downtime is 24 hours without makeup. I’ve yet to try either of Henry’s favorite peels, but I’m about due for one. Once I do, I’ll let you know what the doctor orders.
Of course, living life brings the fine lines back over time; the better you treat yourself with diet, hydration and exercise, the longer the smoothing effect lasts.
Try to avoid factors like alcohol, junk food and sleep deprivation in order to preserve your investment in any treatment. Sun exposure and hormonal changes can trigger the return of discoloration on the skin. And no matter our skin tone, we should all use products with sun protection factor because cancer—including melanoma—doesn’t discriminate. If you live right, you can get up to two years of lasting effects from these treatments.