THE RISKS OF LASER HAIR REMOVAL

(The New York Times 1/6/14) Laser hair removal has become very popular in the last few years. Unfortunately, more procedures are being performed each year by non-physicians, who have minimal training. Improper treatment can lead to infection, scarring, burns, and permanent change in skin color. Sensitive areas such as the bikini line, moustache area, and legs can be particularly prone to problems. The percentage of adverse outcomes, and legal action for laser hair removal performed by non-physicians rose to 78% in 2011, compared to 36% in 2008. Similar problems arose in the use of IPL, or PhotoFacial Lasers as well. The public’s perception is that anyone can operate these machines as they are not all that complicated. This is just not true. The treatments are considered medical in 35 States, 26 States require on site medical supervision, and 11 States have no regulations for these laser operations. The biggest problem is that there is very little oversight of the laser operators, who often have very poor training.
 
HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS TO BE SAFE.
 
*DO YOUR OWN DUE DILIGENCE. IS THERE A DOCTOR WHO IS DOING THE PROCEDURE? IS THE DOCTOR TRAINED IN LASERS THEMSELVES? HAVE THEY JUST HIRED SOMEONE WHO DOES NOT HAVE A MEDICAL BACK GROUND AND WHO HAS ONLY BEEN TRAINED BY THE LASER COMPANY? IS THERE SOMEONE THERE WHO CAN RECOGNIZE COMPLICATIONS AND TREAT THEM PROMPTLY.
 
*ASK WHO WILL PERFORM THE TREATMENT, WHAT ARE THEIR QUALIFICATIONS, HAVE THEY TREATED YOUR SKIN COLOR AND TYPE, AS WELL AS THE BODY PART YOU ARE REQUESTING TREATMENT ON?
 
*WHO WILL BE REVIEWING YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY? IF YOU HAVE DIABETES, CANCER, IMMUNE PROBLEMS, LUPUS, KELOID PROBLEMS, HAVE BEEN ON ACCUTANE, HAVE SKIN OF COLOR, A CURRENT SUNTAN, ACTIVE HERPES, OR HAVE HAD A POOR OUTCOME WITH LASER HAIR REMOVAL BEFORE, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER TALKING TO YOUR DERMATOLOGIST.
 
* NOT ALL LASERS ARE CREATED EQUAL. SOME INEXPENSIVE LASERS CANNOT TREAT ALL SKIN COLORS AND ARE MORE LIKELY TO CAUSE PROBLEMS. LASERS CAN COST BETWEEN A COUPLE OF THOUSAND DOLLARS TO WELL OVER $150,000. THE CHEAPER THE LASER THE LESS SAFETY FEATURES IT HAS. ULTIMATELY, THE LASER’S SAFETY DEPENDS ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF ITS HUMAN OPERATOR. YOUR LASER HAIR PROFESSIONAL SHOULD KNOW ALL THE TYPES OF HAIR LASERS AVAILABLE, AND KNOW WHICH ONES WOULD WORK BEST ON YOUR SKIN TYPE. IF THEY DON’T HAVE THAT LASER, THEY SHOULD REFER YOU TO SOMEONE WHO HAS ONE. A GOOD FACILITY WANTS YOU TO HAVE A GOOD OUTCOME, AND THEY SHOULD NOT BE RELUCTANT TO REFUSE TO TREAT YOU AND MAKE SUGGESTIONS WHERE YOU WILL BE BETTER SUITED TO BE TREATED.
 
* NEVER, NEVER BE SHY ABOUT PAIN WITH A LASER. DON’T BE BRAVE; YOU DON’T HAVE TO. LASER HAIR REMOVAL DOESNOT HAVE TO BE PAINFUL THESE DAYS. IF IT REALLY HURTS TELL YOUR OPERATOR AND THEY SHOULD STOP, EXAMINE YOU AND MAKE CHANGES IN THE LASER SETTINGS. JUST BECAUSE IT IS THE SAME “SETTING” AS LAST TIME, IT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S CORRECT THE NEXT TIME. YOUR LASER OPERATOR HAS TO BE ABLE TO RECOGNIZE CHANGES IN YOUR SKIN, AND CHANGES IN THEIR LASER THAT REQUIRE THEM TO ADJUST THE SETTINGS. THIS IS ONLY POSSIBLE IF THAT PERSON HAS CORRECT TRAINING, AND A GOOD AMOUNT OF EXPERIENCE. IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE A COMPLICATION, CALL YOUR DOCTOR RIGHT AWAY. DON’T WAIT! MOST THINGS CAN BE SUCCESSFULLY TREATED IF SEEN EARLY BY A QUALIFIED DOCTOR EXPERIENCED IN SKIN TREATMENTS.
 
* IF YOU THINK YOU ARE IN A HIGH RISK GROUP, TALK TO A PHYSICIAN WHO IS EXPERIENCED IN TREATING SKIN, AND CONSIDER ASKING FOR A TEST SPOT. A GOOD OPERATOR WON’T MIND THIS AT ALL.