Laser and IPL hair removal: are they safe?

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03.The CHOICE shadow shop

CH1011_LaserHRemoval_glasses_WEBCHOICE sent consumer Kerry out in Sydney to make enquiries about having permanent hair reduction treatment on her legs at a mix of beauty salons and walk in clinics.

Kerry, who has fair skin and a mix of fine brown and blonde hairs, was assessed by Dr Sharron Phillipson, who specialises in permanent hair reduction, before visiting the salons.

Phillipson says that while Kerry is suitable for treatment, her fairer hairs may not respond as well. Kerry also has a slight tan which is not ideal prior to treatment.

Phillipson said it’s important that all operators ask if she has any medical conditions or was on any medication as well as checking to see if she had a tan.

The first salon went into detail about the treatment but when asked about training, the operators were trained by the machine manufacturer only. They were also keen to get her to pre-pay for 6 treatments for a small discount, although earlier they said she’d only need 5 treatments in total.

  • The advice on the number of treatments Kerry would need ranged from just 5 at one salon to 10 at a clinic.
  • On staff training the responses ranged from training by the manufacturer to none but “it’s okay, we’ve been doing this for years”.
  • Most places used plenty of technical jargon but struggled when questioned further.
  • One clinic insisted all the staff had “qualifications” but couldn’t provide details.
  • Another said their team was trained in the use of “Fraxel” which is a device used to treat skin, but isn’t used for hair reduction.
  • One clinic told Kerry that the reason they use an IPL machine is because “lasers can burn you”.
  • None of the establishments Kerry visited asked about medical conditions, if she was taking any medication or if she had been tanning.

User experiences with laser and IPL hair removal

The Good
‎“I had dark facial hair on my upper lip which I was very self-conscious about. I had a number of laser treatments and most of the hair is gone now.” – Liz

“I had two sessions of laser hair removal. I went to a professional, reputable company….even with two sessions there was a significant permanent difference.” - Lyn

“I suffered from shaving rash on my neck. I had laser hair removal done through a dermatologist with trained nurses operating the laser. After one treatment I had a noticeable improvement. After 4 treatments I no longer have a shaving rash or a sore neck from infected hairs if I don't shave. I’ve been very happy with the results” – Craig.

The Bad
“The beautician was skipping shots on me and charging the full price, it made me look like a zebra and it all grew back eventually anyway”. – Cheryl

“I had about 10 sessions; it slightly reduced the hair initially, but now 12 months later it’s back as it used to be”. – Katie

“It was very expensive and while it seemed to be doing a good job, as soon as I stopped having sessions the hair grew back.” - Evelyne

The Ugly
“I had IPL at a beautician and the pain was unbelievable, it felt like a blow torch. She told me ‘It’s fine’ and encouraged me to keep going. Later I went to the doctor in agony; I was told I had severe burns. Six years later I still have terrible scars.” Deborah.

“I tried IPL at a beauty salon and I was left with blistering burns.” – Chloe

“I regularly see patients that have adverse outcomes with laser and IPL treatments. Sometimes the damage is temporary, but two of my recent patients suffered deep skin burns which has left them with permanent scarring on the face.” Dr Philip Bekhor, Dermatologist.


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