Byline: Andrea M. Grossman

NEW YORK — Eliot F. Battle Jr. and R. Rox Anderson, both of Harvard Medical School’s department of dermatology, aren’t household names. But their research on how women of color now can benefit from laser hair removal — they couldn’t up until now — could gain them a modest amount of attention.
Last week, Battle and Anderson joined more than 170 dermatologists on staff at medical schools, hospitals and in private practice, as well as university researchers and scientists, to discuss this and other ethnic-beauty-related issues at the industry’s first international symposium on ethnic hair and skin research.
The symposium, held in Chicago, was entitled, “Ethnic Hair & Skin: What Is the State of the Science?” and was sponsored by Chicago-based L’Oreal Institute for Ethnic Hair and Skin Research and the Howard University Department of Dermatology.
The goal of the symposium, according to Victoria Holloway, M.D., M.Ph., director of the L’Oreal Institute and chair of the symposium, was to “trigger further research on the advancement of understanding the unique properties of the hair and skin of people of different ethnic backgrounds.” Dr. Rebat Halder, chairman of the Howard University Department of Dermatology, served as the symposium’s co-chair.
Battle’s and Anderson’s research, for example, revealed that to lure lasers toward dark hair rather than dark skin — rays are attracted to pigment — it’s necessary to combine longer pulses of rays with skin-cooling techniques.
“This was some of the more conventional research that can be directly applicable to consumers,” Holloway said, noting that “much of the work presented really raises more questions, so I think a lot of research suggested the need for further research.”
Other topics included: laser resurfacing therapy to improve wrinkles, scars, complexion and skin texture for dark skin; hair breakage; baldness; and hair follicle biology.
The next symposium will be held in two years, “enough time for people to research and raise more answers,” Holloway said. The symposium exceeded Holloway’s expectations outside of the research it delivered.
“I was also aware and respectful that this was close on the heels of the Sept. 11 tragedies. But people came on planes representing many different countries such as Nigeria, Brazil, Jamaica, France, Haiti and Italy,” Holloway said.
She contacted thousands of prospective attendees by utilizing the American Association of Dermatologists mailing list. The L’Oreal Institute was established last year and is the first and only facility in the beauty industry to specialize in the study of hair and skin science of people of African descent. It’s temporary home is at the Illinois Institute of Technology. A permanent site will be selected in the next six months.