This week I had a patient in for a consult. She was a young girl, mid-twenties, with darker skin. She had decided to purchase one of those hand held devices that apparently is a laser for permanent hair reduction. Well the first thing I thought was, “poor girl just wasted a few hundred dollars on a useless machine.”
When one understands what it takes to make a laser powerful enough to destroy a hair root without destroying the skin, the complexities involved in absorbing a specific target without collateral damage, do you really think you are going to be able to purchase such a device online?
A medical esthetician goes to school to learn how to remove hair with lasers, just like a doctor, dentist or lawyer has to learn how to do their job. To assume you can just purchase a machine that can destroy a target found in the dermis of the skin without any training or background knowledge is kind of, well, uneducated (to put it nicely). Each laser has a different wavelength, which means what it is attracted to is different at each wavelength. Not only that, but certain more shallow wavelengths can only be used safely on light skin, and absolutely without a tan.
So, this patient showed me her legs. What surprised me the most were the red bar lines going up her shin from the knee to the base of the foot. Of course the device wasn’t appropriate for her skin type, but how was she to know? I was surprised that it was strong enough to cause burns all the way up her legs, but then I realized that it wasn’t about how strong the device was, it was about how shallow the wavelength was. Her hair won’t be destroyed, it didn’t penetrate deep enough. But, there is a definite possibility she will be scarred, if not permanently, then at least for a long time.
I have seen these devices or other ones saying they treat acne, brown spots or redness, stimulate collagen and tone the skin. They are popping up on sites like Beyond The Rack, Gilt, and EBay amongst others. I have known patients to purchase chemical peels online and come in scarred. And I have had patients buy their Skin Medica or SkinCeuticals products via some “beauty discount” sites. In every case so far, the product they purchased was not only fake but wasn’t even similar, with exception to the packaging. One of my patients purchased Skin Medica Redness Relief and was so proud to tell me she bought it online for a great discount. When she brought it in to show me, it was a cream (of what, who knows?). The real product is consistent with an ointment, nothing like what she got. Big disappointment!
Buyer beware! Medical Grade Lasers are hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase. You will not get the same results with a $300 home device, ever. Doing your own chemical peels is an invitation to burn yourself, and buying medical grade products online is rolling the dice. Find a clinic that you trust, a medical esthetician who has your best interests in mind, and don’t take stupid chances.
If you want a bargain, go to an outlet mall for clothing or shoes. Don’t discount shop when it comes to your health and beauty. You may just get what you paid for.
~ Sheri Roselle, Medical Esthetician at Toronto Dermatology Centre