The New York Times recently ran a story on the dangers of laser hair removal at the wrong places. Noting that nearly 500,000 such treatments performed by dermatologic surgeons in 2011, the article really focused on the unquantified number of procedures performed each year by non-physicians who have minimal training and experience. And when performed improperly, laser hair removal procedures can cause disfiguring injuries and severe burns – including in sensitive areas like the bikini line, the mustache area above the lips, and under the arms.
It was a study done in the dermatology version of the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA Dermatology) and published in October. That study revealed the percentage of lawsuits as a result of laser surgery involving non-physician operators rose 78% in 2011 from 36% in 2008. In fact, laser hair removal was the most commonly performed procedure cited in the litigation. Other treatments included intense pulse light which is used to rejuvenate aging skin and remove wrinkles.
This particular area of “personal health care”, is subject to abuse because of the lack of state controlled regulations or guidelines in many states. The licensing and training of laser hair-removal operators vary from state to state, and there are no consistent regulations that govern the practice. Many people seeking out laser hair-removal will visit a “spa” and never be seen by a doctor. And the training provided to the operators of the machine is often not given by anyone with a medical background, but is left up to the manufacturers that sell the laser equipment.
If you are thinking about laser hair removal, ask the establishment if it is owned by a medical doctor and whether the doctor is available during the procedure or procedures. Make sure the provider knows your medical history and does a proper determination to make sure you are a good candidate for the procedure. Things they should consider include your skin type, hair color, complexion and body area. Ask who will actually perform the procedure and determine what licensing and training that operator has. Also, ask how many times the operator has performed laser hair removal, and whether the operator has done the removal on the body part you want the hair removed from.