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Laser & IPL

The United States is no longer the melting pot that it once was. These days, it is more like an organic, herbal-infused smoothie in a blender. The mixing of various ethnicities and multiple heritages that belong to each individual make it much more difficult to classify someone into one of six Fitzpatrick Skin Type categories. It has long been said that you cannot judge a book by its cover. While that may be an overused adage, it certainly applies in the business of laser/intense pulsed light treatments.

A woman may learn about the many signs of perimenopause from her doctor, mother, and/or peers with the most talked-about topics being hot flashes, weight gain, libido, and mood swings – not the beard or moustache they are growing! Women attempt many different strategies to hide or minimize unsightly and embarrassing hair growth, with an increasing trend towards laser hair removal. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, over one million laser hair reduction procedures were performed in 2013, ranking it fourth in popularity with other minimally-invasive procedures, including chemical peels and microdermabrasion. As a professional waxer and laser technician, I am always experiencing the many facets of hormonal skin and hair changes while learning about the limitations and benefits of the technology and ingredients aestheticians use on a daily basis. The bottom line is that women and men both experience unwanted hair growth and want simple solutions that do not cost too much, but are effective at helping them achieve the results they desire.

Waxing can be an effective and lucrative means of hair removal for a spa. In fact, according to a study done by the American Laser Centers, women who wax will spend an average of $23,000 on hair removal in a lifetime. From my own experience, I have estimated my total waxing costs to be $72,000! That is a segment on which beauty businesses cannot afford to miss out. However, in the skin care industry, not all waxing services are created equal; one bad review on a spa’s social media page could jeopardize its waxing business. If you choose to offer waxing services to clients, it is imperative that you do so in the most professional manner.

Laser hair removal is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures performed in the United States. Nearly half a million procedures were performed in 2013, according to the most recent data from the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, and that figure does not include procedures performed by non-dermatologists. As there are now more options for laser hair removal than ever, it is important to select the right modality for each client.

Is it a mole or is it a shadow? No wait, it is hyperpigmentation! While most clients are thrilled with the smooth, silky results of laser hair removal, occasionally hyperpigmentation does occur post-treatment. So, what is this menacing condition and what can you do about it?

In the world of beauty, the term “laser hair removal” has come to encompass a variety of techniques that remove unwanted hair by zapping it away with the use of a light source. When cosmetic lasers were first cleared by the FDA for permanent hair reduction in the late 1990s, it sparked a new trend in the beauty industry and brought the term “laser hair removal” into popular culture. However, not every form of light-based technology used for permanent hair reduction is actually a laser. Additionally, even within the laser category, there are different types of laser beams with different wavelengths and properties. Knowing about different types of light-based hair removal technologies, and how they work, will allow you to provide your best professional service to your clients and help them achieve the best results.

I, perhaps like you, am not a physician. The information we share here is not a clinical guideline or recommendation but a compilation of experiences from manufacturers and users since lasers were introduced in May of 1961. The old maxim is not if you will see complications but how will you handle complications when they arise. If you are using light to perform procedures successfully then there will be an occasion where the result or reaction to the treatment will be more than expected. The reasons are numerous and sometimes uncontrollable. Here we will review the important things to know and remind you of those things to be avoided.

Since arriving on the scene in the late 1990s, the laser hair removal industry has gone through a metamorphosis. The technology has changed, the accessibility has changed, and in many states, the regulations have changed. While it can be tough to keep up with all of the regulatory changes, emerging laws, statutes and regulations are helping to strengthen our business and improve the overall client experience.
I know this from my own experience in the industry. I opened my first medical spa in 2003 in Scottsdale, Arizona with my business partner Matthew Gould. Immediately we noticed a problem.

Light based technologies have revolutionized aesthetic procedures and medicine. Lasers are at the pinnacle of these technologies because of their brightness and intensity, but significant improvements in a wide variety of cosmetic conditions are also afforded by other light sources such as IPL's (Intense Pulsed Light Systems), LED banks (Light Emitting Diodes), and other Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT) modalities. Anyone working in the field of aesthetics should have a good understanding of the basic principles behind laser and light based therapies whether or not you are actually treating clients with these devices because they impact so many conditions in so many people.

While in most states laser and other light-based treatments remain the prerogative of physicians, the growth of medical spas, and the greater consumer awareness about these devices mean that aestheticians, whether working with a physician or at a day spa, will encounter questions about these treatment options. Much has been published in various professional skin care publications about lasers and light-based devices. The following article looks at lasers and light-based devices from a more technical, technological angle. What exactly is a laser? How do lasers work? How do lasers destroy a specific target without injuring the surrounding tissue? These are the types of questions answered in this review.

Since arriving on the scene in the late 1990s, the laser hair removal industry has gone through a metamorphosis. The technology has changed, the accessibility has changed, and in many states, the regulations have changed. While it can be tough to keep up with all of the regulatory changes, emerging laws, statutes and regulations are helping to strengthen our business and improve the overall client experience.
I know this from my own experience in the industry. I opened my first medical spa in 2003 in Scottsdale, Arizona with my business partner Matthew Gould. Immediately we noticed a problem.

Laser Induced Action Potentials

We have all heard the adage, "No pain no gain," but I beg to differ. When it comes to artificial beauty, BOTOX™ injections, as well as teeth whitening and laser hair removal treatments can all be a little uncomfortable at times. Thankfully we do not always have to endure the pain, due to the help of our anesthetic friends, but how do anesthetics stop the pain? Our bodies are filled with neurons that form an intricate network. These neurons need to communicate with each other in order to send a message from a peripheral body area, where pain is being induced, to the central nervous system, the brain. The brain responds by sending a message back to the peripheral area of the body, telling it to move away from the pain.

Laser hair removal procedures in 2010 totaled to 936, 121, which reflected a -26.9% decrease from 2009 – most likely as a result of a flexing economy.1 It is a procedure, however, that continues to be popular.
Lasers (including the CO2 laser) were introduced in dermatology and surgery as early as the 1960s.2 The CO2 laser became more popular during the 1990s for skin resurfacing to improve wrinkles, dischromias, scars, atrophic scars, pitted acne scars and others.3 These pioneering procedures also meant longer recovery periods.

Lasers and IPLs

"Education is the key." How many times have you heard that statement? How many times have you either thought it or, if you're like me, actually smiled and said it nicely to one of your clients? When it pertains to hair reduction with the use of light therapies such as laser and IPL, this is an unbelievably true statement.

Day after day I get the same questions – "How exactly does it work?", "What's the difference between IPL and laser?", Will I ever have to shave or wax again?", "How many times will I have to come back?", "Is it really permanent?", "Will it help prevent or work on my ingrown hair?", "I have dark skin; can I get laser hair removal?", and the best "Well, you do laser hair removal – how come you still have hair?". I love that last one, especially since I'm 40 and balding… makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.


A recent review of our liability claims for the cosmetic laser industry showed an interesting trend: Many of the claims for laser burns resulted from the operator using power settings higher than recommended by the laser manufacturer. When queried as to why this had happened, in more than one instance the operator confessed their client was eager for results and the laser professional wanted to accommodate them. Interesting…


When I go to the doctor’s office, it is important for me to see their credentials on the wall of their office or in the hallway. Credentials also set you apart from the rest; it inspires confidence in your clients and colleagues that you have taken that extra step in training.


Out of the 11.7 million medical aesthetic procedures performed in 2007, laser hair removal accounted for over 1.4 million treatments and 12 percent of the industry’s massive growth. This once unheard of treatment is now the third most sought after non-surgical procedure, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

The ability to gain self-confidence by ridding oneself of hair in embarrassing places and freedom from the monotony of shaving are just some of the benefits individuals seek through laser hair removal.

It is 8:30 a.m. You have just turned on the lights to your office and that proverbial phone call rolls in. "I think you have burnt me! I have blisters all over my legs and I could not sleep all night long. I cannot believe you did this to me."
Your stomach sinks and your mind goes into frenzy. You start thinking, "Did I really burn her? Will she have pigmentation changes… scars? Am I going to be sued? What should I do?"
This gut wrenching feeling coupled with all of its uncertainty is guaranteed at some point in the career of a laser professional. After all, if you do enough treatments, eventually someone will experience a complication. It does not mean that you did anything wrong, but what you do now certainly separates a good laser technician from a true professional.


The pursuit of “hairless happiness” has been in existence long before the earliest days of recorded history. With no real scientific understanding of the skin and body, these old-world aestheticians practiced often-disastrous methods of trial and error using untested ingredients from the toxic to the bizarre. Far removed from its humble early beginnings, the beauty industry of today now finds itself revolutionized by a cosmic array of next-generation medical and aesthetic technologies that are rewriting how we dare to go bare.

No advancement has made more of an impression on the hair removal industry than the cosmetic laser. When the FDA approved the first melanin-targeting laser in 1998, effective laser hair removal made its debut appearance and exponentially increased in popularity over the years. Laser hair removal is now the number one most requested treatment by consumers seeking services from aestheticians, beating out chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and other traditional aesthetic treatments. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, over 1.3 million laser hair removal treatments were performed in 2008, a number that is projected to greatly increase in the coming years.

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