Using the Fitzpatrick Skin Chart for Laser Hair Removal

June 7, 2011 in Laser hair removal

There are many different types of lasers available for hair removal, but people sometimes have trouble deciding which laser is best for the texture of their skin. Thankfully, patients can figure out their skin type through the Fitzpatrick skin chart. This classification system was developed by Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, MD, PhD of Harvard Medical School in 1975.

In order to determine the skin type, patients usually fill out a questionnaire so that the doctor can classify the skin into a category. This chart uses a numeric score to judge the type of skin, based on the physical features of the body.

These questions are used to determine how the skin will react to contact from the laser. Three main determining factors include the person’s genetic disposition, the skin’s reaction to sun exposure and the degree at which the skin tans when exposed to sunlight.

For instance, if a person’s eyes are blue, that person would probably earn two points in the “genetic disposition” category. However, if the skin rarely burns, the patient may then add three points in the “reaction to sun exposure” section. People will continue to score their skin in the “tanning habits” category.

Finally, the patient would then add up the scores for each of the three sections. Based on the overall score, the doctor would then determine the overall skin type for the person.

There are six skin types, based on the Fitzpatrick skin chart. Skin tone I is generally light, pale white and always burns when exposed to the sun. Tone II is a fair white complexion that usually burns in the sunlight. Tone III is a medium texture from white to light brown that sometimes burns, but not all the time. Tone IV is a moderate brown color that doesn’t often get sunburned. Tone V is a brown color that hardly ever burns in the sun. Lastly, tone VI is a black tone that never burns in the sun.

Based on the patient’s skin classification, the doctor can now decide which laser works best. There are many types of lasers available. Some of the more popular lasers include the alexandrite laser, the pulsed diode laser and the Nd:YAG laser.

Some lasers are best used for only certain types of skin. The alexandrite laser often causes side effects on darker skin types. Thus, it is best used only on skin classes ranging from type I to type III. The diode laser is about 810-nanometers wide and is generally used more generally for darker skins, from types II to IV.

The Nd:YAG is the laser of choice when doctors want to remove hair from darker skin types, from IV to VI. This is because this laser is least absorbed by the melanin pigment in the skin, minimizing any changes in color. The doctor can also change the settings of the laser to optimize the amount of hair removal for thicker or thinner hairs.

Skin can still burn or tan if the laser isn’t adjusted properly, so it is highly recommended that patients speak to an experienced practitioner in laser surgery. There are many variables that doctors must pay attention to when they are using the lasers, so it is important for people to take the necessary precautions beforehand.

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