The ultimate guide to safe home laser / IPL hair removal for dark & black skin tones, plus top devices to chooseNot all home IPL and laser machines are safe for you if you have dark skin. That’s because of the science behind laser and IPL hair removal.
In this round-up, learn why not all devices are safe, why others are, how to check your skin tone, and which devices are safe and effective on darker and black skin tones. Keep reading to find your perfect device for your skin tone.
These safe for dark and black skin home IPL machines are widely available in the UK, Europe, Australia & North America.
In this guide to safe laser hair removal for dark skin:
About laser hair removal for dark skin at home:
First, let’s dig deeper into why not all laser machines are safe for dark and black skin.
Why aren’t all laser & IPL devices safe for dark skin?
It’s down to the science behind laser & IPL hair removal.
Substances in our body absorb light at different wavelengths. We call these substances chromophores. They’re the dark pigment in hair and skin (called melanin), oxyhaemoglobin in blood, and water. For laser and IPL hair removal the target chromophore is melanin in your hair.
The powerful light energy from IPL and lasers targets melanin in your hair to slow and reduce hair growth on the body and face.
Certain cells in your hair follicle (the bit below the skin) contain melanin. This melanin absorbs the flashes of IPL and pulses of laser energy and converts to heat. It damages areas of the hair follicle. The hair then shuts down and enters a resting phase. So, your hair grows slower and weaker, and eventually stops growing at all.
Related: Home laser & IPL hair removal 101 for how it works in detail
There’s melanin in skin too
Our skin also contains melanin. In light and medium tones, there’s just small amounts of melanin. This means there’s a big contrast between the light skin and dark hair with lots of melanin. The light energy easily targets the melanin in your hair and leaves your skin untouched. That’s why laser and IPL work best on light skin tones and dark hair.
However, there’s concentrated melanin in darker skin. Therefore, there’s just a small contrast between your skin and hair. This means, without the appropriate technology and configuration, your skin also absorbs the light energy. It converts to heat and causes pain, blisters and burns. Your skin can also darken or lighten in colour. This side effect is either temporary or permanent.
So, how do you know if your skin tone is safe?
All home-use devices come with a clear, safe skin tone range noted on the packaging and in the user manual. And most brands use the Fitzpatrick skin tone chart to do this.
What skin tone type do you have?
Thomas B. Fitzpatrick developed the Fitzpatrick scale in 1975. It’s used to estimate how different skin types react to ultraviolet (UV) light. The complete scale details skin tone, hair colour and skin response to the sun. But for home laser and IPL devices, we use the skin colours scale only. It helps clarify which tones can safely use a machine.
There are 6 Fitzpatrick types, measured from type I to VI. Type I is the lightest skin and type VI the darkest.
- I: Light, pale white skin
- II: White, fair skin
- III: Medium white to olive skin
- IV: Olive, mid-brown skin
- V: Brown, dark brown skin
- VI: Very dark brown to black skin
Use the scale to see which type you are closest to. Check different body areas because your tone can vary. And remember, your skin tone can deepen and darken in the Summer. So, try to base it on the tone your skin is during the Summer months.
- If you’re between type IV and V you can choose a device that’s safe for up to type V
- If you’re between types V and VI it’s best to choose a device safe for ALL tones
Home devices by safe skin tone
All home-use laser and IPL hair removal devices are safe for skin types I to IV. But be careful if you have lots of dark moles or freckled skin. The increased pigment makes some devices unsuitable to use, so try one of the following devices that are gentle on darker skin tones.
The Tria 4X is the only home laser hair removal device. It’s safe for Fitzpatrick types I to IV only. Therefore, the Tria 4X laser is NOT safe for dark skin.
Fortunately, a few homes IPL devices are safe for darker and black skin tones. Let’s learn why they’re safe next.
Why are some IPL devices safe for dark skin?
Some home IPL devices are clinically proven safe for dark skin (type V). They have intensity ranges starting low, additional filters and special configuration of the IPL flashes to make it gentle on darker skin.
This means on the lower levels, only longer wavelengths travel through your skin. This jumps past the epidermis of your skin where your cells contain melanin. Therefore, it keeps darker skin safe. However, even these devices aren’t safe for the darkest skin tones.
But some home devices combine IPL with other energies. This boosts the effects of the IPL so you need just a gentle intensity to do its work. Home devices safe for the darkest skin are available with both IPL + Radio Frequency, and IPL + Galvanic energy.
Your results when using these home machines on darker skin may take slightly longer than the advertised schedules. That’s because using the lower intensities, your hairs absorb less IPL. So, it’s important to give it time to see hair reduction results.
Next, here’s the round-up of best home IPL devices for dark & black skin.
1. Silk’n Infinity
Safe for ALL skin tones | £140 to £220
The Infinity is a top choice for dark and black skin. It’s affordable, compact, lightweight and fast. You get a neat storage case and 400,000 flashes. That’s enough to last 15+ years of monthly full body sessions. Way more than you’ll ever need.
It’s clinically tested safe for all skin tones and works best on dark hair. Silk’n say it may work on fair hair, but it’s not clinically proven to do so.
The treatment regimen is 4 treatments at 2-week intervals (taking 6 weeks), then continue monthly until you get your desired results. Less frequent top-ups keep you smooth. On darker skin using the lower intensities, it’s likely to take more treatments to get to smooth. Silk’n suggest around 12 sessions.
So, how is it safe on dark and black skin?
The gentle IPL energy combines with Galvanic energy. Galvanic energy is a small electric current sent through your skin making your pores dilate. With wide open pores, the IPL reaches deeper down into the follicle and targets the melanin-rich cells there. It can therefore use super-gentle IPL that’s safe for the darkest skin tones because it’s so much more efficient.
TIP: The Galvanic energy also means your skin’s extra absorbent so apply moisturisers afterwards for extra soft and hydrated skin!
It has 5 intensity levels, but the high levels aren’t safe for darker tones. So, it has a sensor which scans your skin. It activates only the safe intensity levels for your tone. That’s levels 1 and 2 only for darker skin. Therefore, you can’t accidentally use a level that’s too high which could hurt and cause damage.
The Silk’n Infinity is a super choice for face, small and large areas. You can zap your full body in well under an hour.
Silk’n Infinity & FDA
However, it’s a bit confusing. In the UK and Europe, Silk’n promote it safe for types I to VI. But in the USA the range is I to V. So, why the difference?
There is clinical data supporting safety and effect on dark skin tones type V to VI. This is sufficient to market it as such in the UK and Europe. But it works differently in the US. There, Silk’n need FDA-clearance to market the Infinity safe for type VI.
FDA-clearance is given to home IPL and laser devices when a manufacturer can prove their device is similar to a previously cleared device, (called a predicate device). In the case of the Infinity, this is difficult because it’s the first of its kind to use IPL and Galvanic energies. It’s this combination which makes it safe for type VI.
Because it’s the first, Silk’n must get approval from the FDA to market the Infinity as safe for type VI. This is a much longer and expensive process compared to clearance. So, for now at least, Silk’n US promote it as safe for types I to V only.
If you live in the US, you can buy it from silkn.com and test it. If it’s not for you, return it within 60 days for a refund.
Unfortunately, there’s no money back guarantee in the UK and Europe.
Choose this if you have dark or black skin, or dark skin hard to place precisely on the Fitzpatrick chart.
2. Smoothskin Bare
Best for dark skin type V | £150 to £199
True, the Bare doesn’t look as fancy or premium and other devices like the Prestige, Muse and Braun Pro 5. But don’t be fooled by the compact, simple design. It’s the perfect match for darker skin up to type V.
This clinically-proven affordable home IPL is lightweight, incredibly comfortable to hold and effortless to manoeuvre. It’s mains-powered with a long flexible cord, feels solid and looks stylishly-neat yand fun.
And it’s ultra-fast too. You can flash a full leg in around 5 minutes. The flashes come every 0.6 seconds. This is the perfect speed to glide smoothly across your skin and cover it accurately in flashes.
There’s an automatic sensor to check your skin’s not too dark. And importantly, the IPL flashes are of just one lower intensity at 3 J/cm2. That intensity is safe for tones I to V. And because darker skin tones need lower intensities, it’s the perfect match for type V skin. This means you needn’t pay more for a high-power device when you can’t use the highest intensities anyway.
Use the Bare weekly and after about 4 treatments most see some hair reduction. Keep going until you’re fuzz-free. Then do top-ups as you need them to stay smooth. Smoothskin suggest every 2 or 3 weeks.
The Smoothskin Bare is superb value for the quality and speed. And comes beautifully packaged. Choose this if you’ve darker skin up to type V. You get a 90-day money back guarantee from CurrentBody.com too. So, try it and keep it, or return it if it’s not for you.
3. Braun Pro 5 IPL, Smoothskin Muse & Lumea Prestige
Safe for dark skin type V | £249.99 to £610.00
All these are clinically-proven premium devices with premium features.
They feel solid with quality materials and build (especially the Prestige and Braun). And all are ergonomic and comfortable to use, albeit with different shapes, grips and motions.
The Prestige is stand-out becuase it has curved flash windows to fit your contours, so there’s no faff getting a flash on knobbly-knees and other uneven surfaces. Plus, you can use it cordless on smaller areas. Perfect for your face in the privacy of your bathroom.
They’re all fast too so you can finish a full body in under an hour and in one sitting. You’ll not get tired or bored (the Braun Pro 5 is the fastest).
There’s loads more you can learn about them in the detailed reviews. But what makes them top choices for type V skin is their clever skin tone sensors.
Clever skin tone sensors
The sensors won’t flash on skin that’s too dark, so they protect you from pain and side effects. But they also adapt the intensity level to suit your skin tone before every flash.
This intelligent feature is especially important with these devices because they’re powerful. Their highest intensity is around 6 J/cm2. This is far too high for darker skin tones. Darker tones must use the lower intensity levels.
With the Prestige, you manually activate the sensor. It’ll show which of the 5 levels is safest for your skin tone. For darker skin it’ll suggest one of the lower levels.
The Braun and Muse automatically scan your skin and select the safest intensity from 10 levels. For darker skin they’ll choose from the lower intensity levels. So, you always get the perfect balance of power and safety for your skin tone. This reduces the risk of side effects from choosing a level that’s too high.
There’s even a gentle mode to lessen the intensity if it smarts.
It’s especially convenient if you have varied tones (up to type V) across your body. No need to faff about changing levels because it does it all for you.
However, the higher-power is one reason why these devices are expensive. And it seems daft to pay out for something you can’t safely use anyway. Therefore, you could choose a lower cost, gentler IPL device more suited to your skin tone like the Bare or Infinity above.
Braun suggest you’ll need 4+ weekly sessions with the Braun Pro 5 to get to smooth. This is optimistic on darker skin tones as you’ll use the lower intensities. So, you’ll likely need more than 4 before switching to maintenance sessions. Smoothskin suggest 4 to 12 weekly sessions which is more realistic.
Philips say you’ll need 4 or 5 sessions every 2 weeks before switching to top-ups. On darker skin you may need a few more sessions.
Once you’re smooth you can switch to less frequent top up sessions. Monthly sessions are common. However, you may find you need them slightly more frequently because of the less intense IPL energy you use. Keep going though, because the more you do the longer the results last.
Philips give a 100-day guarantee. And the Muse has a 90-day money back guarantee. It’s a very reassuring thing to have. You can choose a device and test it out. If you don’t like it, if your skin is too dark or you can’t find a comfortable intensity, you can return it within the returns period for a refund.
Unfortunately, the Braun money back guarantee has now expired so once you’ve bought it, it’s yours to keep or sell on.
WHAT ABOUT THE ILUMINAGE TOUCH, PRECISE TOUCH & elos devices?
You may have heard of these. Models are called Me Elos, My My Elos, Me Sleek and Iluminage.
These devices from Iluminage Beauty are both clinically proven and FDA-cleared as safe and effective on fair hair, and dark and black skin. They use a patented combination of IPL and Radio Frequency (called Elos) which makes them safe and effective on all skin tones. But unfortunately, Iluminage Beauty ceased trading in 2018.
You may find final stock available through some retailers. However, before you buy check if the retailer honours the manufacturer warranty. (Iluminage won’t because they don’t exist anymore). Get confirmation in writing. This is your peace of mind if anything breaks within the warranty period the retailer will either replace it or give you a refund. Otherwise there’s no one to help if anything goes wrong and you may be out of pocket!
Here’s a comparison table so you can compare & contrast the detailed device specifications of the recommended safe for dark skin devices:
|Silk’n Infinity||Smoothskin Bare||Braun Pro 5 IPL||Smoothskin Muse||Philips Lumea Prestige|
£140 to £220
£150 to £199
£249 to £610
£250 to £399
£300 to £500
|Type||IPL & Galvanic energies||IPL||IPL||IPL||IPL|
|Safe skin tones|| Dark & black tones
Type V & VI
| Dark tones
| Dark tones
| Dark tones
| Dark tones
|Power|| 5 levels
3 to 5 J/cm²
| 1 level
| 10 levels
3 to 6 J/cm²
| 10 levels
3 to 6 J/cm²
| 5 levels
2.5 to 6.5 J/cm²
|Safe levels for dark skin||Level 1 or 2||There’s just 1!||Lower intensities||Lower intensities||Lower intensities|
|Skin tone sensor||Activates only safe intensities||Disables on too dark skin||Auto-matches intensity & disables on too dark skin||Auto-matches intensity & disables on too dark skin||Optional intensity match & disables on too dark skin|
|Hair colours||Dark hair||Dark hair||Dark hair||Dark hair||Dark hair|
|Operation||Mains-power, 180 cm cord||Mains-power, 200 cm cord||Mains-power, 200 cm cord||Mains-power, 200 cm cord||Cordless & Mains-power, 200 cm cord|
|Flash Windows||x1 multi-use flash window||x1 multi-use flash window|| All models multi-use window
Small precision window with some models
|x1 multi-use flash window|| Large curved body window & small flat face
Small curved precision window with some models
|Lifetime|| 15+ years of use
|Unlimited|| 15+ years of use
|Unlimited|| 15+ years of use
|Speed (on lowest level)||66 flashes & 180 cm² per minute||100 flashes & 300 cm² per minute||100 flashes & 300 cm² per minute||60 flashes & 200 cm² per minute||30 flashes & 120 cm² per minute|
|Speed per leg|| Advertised: 8 mins
Test: 10 to 12 mins
| Advertised: 4 mins
Test: 4 to 6 mins
| Advertised: 5 mins
Test: 9 mins
| Advertised: 8.5 mins
Test: 12 mins
| Advertised: 7 mins
Test: 10 mins
|Proven?||Clinically proven||Clinically proven, FDA-cleared||Clinically proven, FDA-cleared||Clinically proven, FDA-cleared||Clinically proven|
|Warranty||2 years||2 years||2 years||2 years||2 years|
|Money back guarantee||60-day (US & Canada only)||90-day||90-day||100-day|
You can check prices and buy using the links below.
Where to buy
Found this review helpful? Please support future reviews and shop via these links.
Smoothskin Bare for body & face, skin types I to V. Buy from:
Silk’n Infinity for body & face, safe on ALL skin tones type I to VI. Buy from:
- Silkn.com : US orders with 60-day guarantee
- Smooth, Premium Smooth, Velvet & Fresh Silk’n Infinity Limited Editions
Philips Lumea Prestige models for body & face, skin types I to V. Buy from:
Braun Silk expert Pro 5 IPL models for body & face,
skin types I to V. Buy from:
Smoothskin Muse IPL for body & face, skin types I to V. Buy from:
Fair skin and dark hair?
Lucky you! Because you can choose from all home IPL and laser devices! To narrow it down, try my Best IPL and laser hair removal guide. These are the top devices available for home hair removal. All are tried and tested by myself and my small team of testers. All are safe for light skin and dark hair.