Are Lasers Safe?

Posted on January 2nd, by staff in Dermatological Advice, Treatments. 6 comments

Are Lasers Safe?

Although Health Canada monitors their sale and labeling, there are no regulations governing actual use. This means that untrained individuals can legally offer laser services.

How lasers work Laser skin rejuvenation (also known as laser skin resurfacing) is a type of treatment that reduces acne scars, dark spots, facial wrinkles and other irregularities (there is even a laser treatment for toe fungus). In order to work, a laser sends concentrated beams of light at the damaged skin. As the pulsating beam of light hits the surface, the irregular skin is removed one layer at a time to reveal fresh new clear skin over time. Laser hair removal works similarly, but targets the hair follicle and destroys it. Laser therapies may sound like an easy, non-surgical solution to many beauty woes, but in the wrong hands, they can be extremely dangerous.

The craziest cases we’ve heard of, yet.

  • Last June an Edmonton laser practitioner made headlines when the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta discovered he was illegally calling himself a doctor and left at least one client severely burned. Read the full story from Global News Edmonton here.
  • The SkinY editor, Helen Vong, recently saw first-hand the damage lasers can do when performed by an inexperienced individual: “I was shocked when a hair stylist friend pulled up her sleeve to reveal second degree burn marks; they looked like zebra stripes against her medium-dark skin. She said her boss brought in a laser hair removal machine into the salon and spa she works at. He wanted to use the staff as guinea pigs, so the untrained aestheticians got laser happy on a few poor souls.”
  • We recently got a press release from a skin care specialist calling herself a “laserologist.” According to this Laserologist training site, it takes two weeks to be a certified “laserologist.”

How to protect yourself

  • Go to a place with a supervising doctor on staff. Ideally it should be a dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon or family physician. Avoid places staffed only by aestheticians!
  • Ask the doctor how many people he or she has treated with your particular skin type and issue. People with darker skin tones are particularly vulnerable.
  • Group buying coupon sites are always offering hot deals like this one, but be very wary. If it’s from a medical clinic that has a doctor with skin expertise on site, you may be fine, but some practitioners use incorrect or out-of-date devices – or the correct device in the wrong manner.
  • Ask specific questions. Our consulting dermatologist, Dr. Lisa Kellett, offers a comprehensive list of q’s in this article here.

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