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Avoiding Injury with Laser Hair Reduction For People of Color

As times are quickly changing and our world is becoming more diverse, we have to be able to adapt to these changes.

Is your spa/med spa equipped to handle all ethnicities? 

Do you have a culturally diverse team?

I remember being in beauty school and seeing cosmetologists graduating without ever being taught how to care for African American hair or skin. I also know all too well how it feels to go into an establishment and everyone has this look of panic as to who will draw the short straw and have to provide my service. 

Or just outright saying “we don’t have anyone who can do your service.” These were some of the factors that drove me to my niche space of providing laser hair reduction for people of color.

Kurnita Wallace

Contribution by Kurnita Wallace

Kurnita was literally born into the beauty industry. Her mother and grandmother were both cosmetologists. From a young age, she was obsessed with skincare. She wanted to find a way to make people feel on the outside what they were feeling on the inside; which was beautiful. This led her on the path to becoming an Esthetics Educator and later on a Laser Hair Reduction Specialist. 

Kurnita’s beauty and wellness career spans 18 years. This includes being featured in publications such as Voyage Phoenix and American Spa. She was a featured panelist on a mental health forum sponsored by CVS Pharmacy. 

Kurnita is a wife to Darryl, a mother to Diara and Austin, YaYa (grandmother) to Maddox and Marley, and a Selfcare Coach to everyone.

Lack Of Training On People Of Color

After spending five and a half years at a big box laser company I saw firsthand the lack of training when it came to treating people of color. We were well versed on how to do laser hair reduction in general on all Fitzpatricks but there needs to be an extra step taken for people of color.

In the beginning, people of color weren’t able to even get this service done and when people of color finally were able to get it the technicians at that time didn’t know how to treat the skin and were burning people of color.

People Of Color Avoided Laser Hair Reduction

That in turn caused a lot of people of color to not want to get the service done or to think they couldn’t get it done. That coupled with horror stories from their friends and family made it a very hard sell. This lack of education by consumers and technicians is why I decided to make this my niche. I have a duty to my colleagues and clients to help them navigate this particular service in the beauty industry.

Kurnita Wallace

How To Succeed Doing Laser Hair Reduction on People of Color

In order to make this a successful experience for your client, you first have to start out with a thorough intake of your client which includes questions about their ethnic background. This is important because you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

A True Story Why InTake Is So Important

A client came to me for laser and to the naked eye, she looked caucasian with poker straight blonde hair (on her head) but thick dark hair on her body. Her lips looked to have way too much filler in them (no judgment about people who use lip filler; later on in the story you will see why this is important).

I took her back to the treatment room and began to ask her all the relevant questions like: In the past 7 days have you been on any antibiotics, started new medications, sun tanning, sunbathing, using sunless tanner, on your menstrual cycle, are you pregnant, or had any caffeine, new tattoos, etc.?

Now, as she is talking I’m studying her physical features i.e nose, lips, eyes, etc. I looked at her skin typing and ethnicity forms and as I suspected she was of mixed race. She was African American and Irish (hence the lips which were not a bad lip job but actually her natural African American features coming out and the straight hair and pale skin from her Irish descent). 

She was a Fitz 3, so I would advise against the Alex due to her African American ethnicity. Her hair was dark and coarse enough for the Yag. My point of this example is that on the surface an esthetician would just think oh just use the Alex but upon looking at her intake form and asking questions it is better to use the Yag to limit the risk of hyperpigmentation.

Why Training Is So Important 

Had I not been trained to look beyond the surface appearance and asked questions about ethnicities I would have treated her with an ALEX 755 laser and possibly damaged and or burned her skin. But by doing a thorough skin and ethnicity intake I used the ND YAG 1064 on her and got great results. Usually, in the land of laser hair reduction, you can treat a Fitz 1-3 (Caucasian, Irish, German, Italian) with the ALEX. Fitz 4-6 ( Asian, Hispanic, African American) with the ND YAG. There are of course exceptions to every rule. Bottom line please be thorough.

If you offer laser services to people of color or anyone for that matter to do a complete intake and don’t just treat them by looking at what you see on the surface. Take CE classes and if your state doesn’t require them like mine in Arizona then take it upon yourself to seek out classes or read books to learn more about ethnic skin.

Representation Is Important

People feel more comfortable with you when they know that you are educated about them and their needs. Spa owners should want their spa/med spa to be able to service everyone that walks through the door, regardless of skin tone. Let’s face it, all money is green!

Spa owners should also want their clients to feel welcomed in the spa. If owners have displayed posters at the spa, make sure they are inclusive. I remember having this conversation at my former job about not being able to attract people of color because all the posters have caucasian people on them. I said, “if I didn’t already work here and I came in off the street I wouldn’t think that you were able to service me because there is no cultural representation of me here.”

I would also encourage you to stay on top of trends in the industry. Even the crazy ones because you better believe your client has seen them and some clients have probably tried them or they are getting “information” a.k.a misinformation from their sister, cousin, and aunty “twice-removed”. You want to be able to give them your professional opinion about it because that’s why they come to you.

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