Summary:As more and more non-medical spas and salons offer laser hair removal (LHR) treatments and an increasing number of manufacturers are producing at-home LHR systems promising “professional results,” it’s temping to imagine that this technique is safe for any patient in any setting.

While LHR can absolutely offer a safe and effective solution to the problem of unwanted hair on the face or body when performed by a certified laser technician, achieving the most beautiful results in the safest way possible is a matter of verifying the appropriate credentials. Unfortunately, a quick glance at the news reveals an increasingly widespread trend of LHR disasters resulting from insufficient training on the part of those offering these treatments.

Medical Lasers in Untrained Hands

In the hands of a certified laser technician, laser hair removal technology can deliver impressive results in complete safety. Yet, not all those operating these lasers have actually undergone the proper training. This shocking story of a British mother with permanent facial disfigurement caused by the beginner-level errors of an unqualified LHR practitioner in a London salon shows the dangers of having LHR performed in anything other than a professional medical spa environment.

The same dangers exist domestically, as the U.S. has widely varying regulations from state to state. In Connecticut, two unlicensed LHR technicians were issued cease-and-desist orders from the state’s medical examining board after a ruling that they were practicing medicine without a license. As if being unlicensed were not enough, one of the guilty parties was offering LHR in a gynecology and obstetrics practice, leading unsuspecting patients to erroneously assume access to a safe and ethical treatment, taking place as it did in a medical setting.

As for home laser hair removal kits, these remain wholly unregulated, with the only qualification for use being the balance in your bank account. Although these home devices may be significantly less powerful than their medical-grade counterparts, that doesn’t equate to complete safety in the hands of a novice. For the best results in terms of both hair removal and patient safety, it’s best to turn to the professionals for laser hair removal treatments.

Patient Safety = Superior Results

In some states, the rules and restrictions are stronger. The Florida State Department of Health requires all laser technicians to have a laser certification. In addition, technicians must only work under the direct supervision of a trained and licensed physician. Such strict regulatory requirements are regrettably the exception to the rule, with only two states currently requiring such licensing.

Such certification requirements offer patients results that are not only safer but also more consistently effective. The gravity of the situation cannot be overemphasized, even if LHR seems like a commonplace enough treatment—particularly when compared to more obviously medical procedures like surgery. To this end, patients should verify their LHR technicians’ credentials before committing to a single session.

Going Hair-Free Safely

While the risks of playing fast and loose with one’s skin are clear, the inherent safety and efficacy of LHR isn’t what’s being called into question here. When offered in a medical spa environment by certified and licensed professionals, these treatments can be as safe as they are effective. To verify the safety of your chosen treatment center remember these key factors: choose a medical-grade facility, verify that there is a board-certified supervising physician and ask to see the state certification of your LHR technician. While beauty is the overall objective, safety should always be the first goal for both patients and practitioners.

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