Medical lasers have been used for dermatology applications such as removal of port wine stains, dark spots, tattoos, acne scars and other blemishes for over a decade. Lasers are used for a growing number of cosmetic procedures including hair removal, treatment of wrinkles, and tooth whitening. For risk information on the specific laser treatment that you are considering, ask your physician or operator for the patient labeling for the laser device.
The popularity of laser hair removal has increasingly grown, prompting many laser manufacturers to conduct research and seek FDA clearance for their lasers for this indication. The market is growing so quickly that FDA cannot maintain an up-to-date list of all laser manufacturers whose devices have been cleared for hair removal, as this list continues to change. To learn if a specific manufacturer has received FDA clearance, you can check FDA’s Website at Medical Device Databases under the 510(k) database. You will need to know the manufacturer or device name of the laser. You can also call FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Consumer Staff, at 240-276-3103, fax your request to 240-276-3151 or send an e-mail to: DSMICA@cdrh.fda.gov.
Top Three Misconceptions:
There’s alot of electrolysis hair removal information floating around out there. Many times people are mislead about this hair removal method. The biggest misconceptions about electrolysis are:
It hurts. Electrolysis treatments sting, but individual tolerances vary greatly. Even the most sensitive person should be able to tolerate the treatments. The sting from treatment is quick, and then it’s over. If you find the treatments intolerable, then you might consult with another electrologist.
It’s expensive. The expense of treatments might sound like a lot when talking about the total cost, but compared to other beauty services such as hair coloring and nail services, electrology treatments are permanent. So the investment stays with you while other services require indefinite repetition.
The average electrology client will spend $20.00 to $60.00 per month in the beginning, with decreasing costs as they progress. Women who do acrylic nails routinely spend $50.00 a month and hair coloring costs $50.00 to $100.00 a month.
It doesn’t work. CAVEAT EMPTOR: There are electrolysis practitioners who have poor skills, and they are one reason that consumers believe that treatments either hurt too much, are too expensive or don’t work. Improperly performed treatments will not provide results.
In addition, many consumers who claim electrolysis did not work for them, when questioned further, did not abide by the recommended treatment schedule, or will admit that they continued to tweeze between treatments, which hampers results. There are many things that consumers need to be aware of in selecting an electrologist.
Regarding Topical Anesthetics:
Sometimes it is recommended that a topical anesthetic product be used before a laser hair removal procedure, to minimize pain. In these cases, FDA recommends that consumers discuss with a medical professional the circumstances under which the cream should be used, and whether the use is appropriate.
Those who decide to use a skin-numbing product should follow the directions of a health care provider and consider using a product that contains the lowest amount of anesthetic drugs possible. FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has received reports of serious and life-threatening side effects after use of large amounts of skin-numbing products for laser hair removal.
Side effects of laser hair removal can include blistering, discoloration after treatment, swelling, redness, and scarring. Sunlight should be avoided during healing after the procedure.
Epilators: Needle, Electrolysis, and Tweezers
Needle epilators introduce a fine wire close to the hair shaft, under the skin, and into the hair follicle. An electric current travels down the wire and destroys the hair root at the bottom of the follicle, and the loosened hair is removed with tweezers.
Medical electrolysis devices destroy hair growth with a shortwave radio frequency after a thin probe is placed in the hair follicle. Risks from these methods include infection from an unsterile needle and scarring from improper technique. Electrolysis is considered a permanent hair removal method, since it destroys the hair follicle. It requires a series of appointments over a period of time.
Tweezer epilators also use electric current to remove hair. The tweezers grasp the hair close to the skin, and energy is applied at the tip of the tweezer. There is no body of significant information establishing the effectiveness of the tweezer epilator to permanently remove hair.