It isn’t all that common that I run across patients who have decided to invest in their own “home lasers” or devices, but whenever I do, I worry about the investment they have made and the chances of what can go wrong. In the past few weeks I spoke to a woman who invested in a home version of an intense pulse light (IPL) device to stimulate collagen and reduce redness. I spoke to a few people who have purchased the NoNo hair removal device as well. It is hard for me not to shake my head; because I know that the average person doesn’t understand the mechanisms of how actual lasers or optical energy machines work. Therefore they cannot understand the degree of complexity it takes to actually achieve the goal they purchased the device for.
Furthermore, an IPL or BBL (broad band light) device needs to be operated by a professional. I went to school to become a medical esthetician, a trained laser technician. I have had patients of Middle Eastern decent using a device at home meant for light skin. They can’t understand why they got burned, why they now have post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and potentially permanent scarring. And other patients will invest hundreds of dollars thinking their device will stimulate enough collagen to decrease or remove wrinkles, because that is what the company has touted.
Think about it. If it were mandatory at a clinic to wear safety goggles that are wavelength approved for each device, under Heath Canada or the Laser and Safety Act, then would it not make sense that something is amiss with the piddly home care units currently being sold? How can you compare the strength of a clinical laser, which cost between $70,000 – $200,000 to a $300-$400 home device that isn’t even strong enough to require safety goggles?
Due to the low wavelength, the treatment is shallow, and is therefore the reason people are getting burned, left with blisters, or worse, pigmentation on their skin or even scarring. It isn’t because the device is so strong; it is because it is too shallow. They don’t treat deep enough to treat the problem, but act with still enough light energy to destroy the surface area. For light skinned patients, the risks are a bit lower, and efficacy leaves much to be desired.
The NoNo is used for hair removal and is advertised to death on TV. It is not a laser and doesn’t pretend to be. However it does have the nerve to compare itself to one. Similar to a depilatory, it burns the hairs off. While a depilatory (think Neat or Nair) is a chemical burn, the NoNo uses thermal heat to burn the hair. In both cases, the hair is burned off just under the surface of the skin, having no effect on the root (the real target!). By all means it will last longer than shaving, but that is only because shaving slices the hair just above the surface of the skin.
The hair may eventually become mildly finer, similar to waxing done over time. However, burns, hyperpigmentation, scarring and aversion to how often it needs to be done (about 4 times a week) are definite cons for this device.
We are all human. Let’s be honest, shortcuts and bargains are in our DNA. But for me, there are some things that are above the shortcut. I wouldn’t go to a discount place to have eye surgery, and I wouldn’t put a “do- it yourself” engine in my car. With the knowledge and experience I have with lasers and other professional versions of the home devices out there, the best and safest advice I can offer is don’t attempt this at home! No bargain is worth permanent scarring, or throwing your money down the drain. Remember those smooth talkers are just actors getting paid to sell an item. You know better. Do your research and make wise choices, trust a professional with professional medical-grade equipment (not a hair salon!). If its too good to be true….
~ Sheri Roselle, Medical Esthetician at Toronto Dermatology Centre