How to Choose a Laser Hair Removal Clinic / Practitioner
Laser hair removal is considered a safe form of hair removal as long as the operator of the laser is fully trained and knows what he/she is doing. As it currently stands, in both the UK and the US regulations are insufficient to fully protect you from being lasered by somebody other than a fully qualified physician...
There have been a few horror stories where people have been left with nasty blisters and scars form laser hair removal; usually when the operator has chosen a setting that's too high for the patient or when the laser type isn't right for the patient's skin or hair type...
One patient, reported in the Daily Mail (a British Broadcaster), went to see a laser hair removal clinic in the UK to have the dark hairs removed from her arms. Unfortunately the laser was set too high for her skin tone and left her with permanent scarring on both arms.
In a somewhat worse (and more worrying) story, a man received multiple second degree burns on his neck from receiving laser hair removal treatment. In this instance, the man had quite dark skin to start with and clearly the laser level was set too high for the skin tone (see picture right).
Finally, another patient was given intravenous valim and dermerol for the pain of laser removal (it's not normal to have this amount of pain relief from laser hair removal - many people are treated without any kind of pain relief) and was treated by someone who wasn't a physician. The result of this procedure left the patient with second and third degree burns on her legs and thighs. Unfortunately, because the patient had no feeling in the affected areas from the pain killers, patient self assessment was impossible so the side effects of the burns only showed up after the treatment was finished...
I should just point out that these stories are extreme and very rare indeed and doesn't mean that laser hair removal can't be considered as a viable option. When the laser is being handled by a trained physician, laser hair removal is actually considered very safe...
What I'm trying to make clear though is that before you sign up to have any laser hair removal done, it is important that you do your due dilligence on the clinic first. This will absolutely minimize the risk of anything untoward happening.
How to Choose a Laser Hair Removal Practitioner
Taking a recommendation from someone who has gone through the laser hair removal process is always a good idea. A recommendation shouldn't be your only point of reference at all, but it's a great place to start.
Failing that, you should spend some time looking for local laser hair removal salons in your local area and note down the numbers of those that you wish to contact. While you're browsing through advertisements be wary of clinics that "guarantee" results. Laser hair removal can often produce good results for people, but there is no clinical data to suggest that laser hair removal results can be guaranteed.
The Initial Consultation
Clinics will be reluctant to give you a price over the phone - mainly because the price of laser hair removal is very much in relation to the size of the area to be treated and the skin and hair type. To provide you with an accurate quote, they need to meet you in person and assess your requirements.
For this initial consultation I advise you to be firm about asking to speak to either the physician who will be carrying out the procedure or his/her medical assistant. It is really important that you don't have your consultation with somebody who isn't a qualified expert because you'll be asking plenty of questions that you need definite answers to.
Questions to Ask During your Consultation
Your consultation is your chance to really grill the physician and test their credentials. I suggest asking questions like:-
- What brand and model of laser do you use?
- What is the name and qualifications of the doctor who will carry out this treatment (and the supervisor, too)
- Ask for clinical data to back up any guarantees they make (don't accept brochues or material from the company that manufactures the laser - only accept real clinical data)
- Ask to speak to past clients (not always possible due to anonymity agreements)
- Ask how many clients the physician has treated
- Ask about the treatment schedule (ie. how many sessions are required - usually between 2 and 6)
- Understand the costs, payment terms and cancellation policies
The consultation is your chance to visit the premises and see the professionalism of the clinic (is everything clean and tidy?) so pay attention to everything around you.
Make sure you don't sign up at the consultation (it's likely you'll be asked if you want to go ahead with the paperwork then and there - always decline).
Get a Patch Test Done
At the consultatoin you should insist on getting a test patch done. This is fairly standard in the industry; the clinic will treat a small part of your body as a test phase to make sure there aren't any complications.
I'd strongly recommend that you have the practitioner test on a part of your body that's out of sight. Getting a test patch done will cost you around £25 ($40) although if you go ahead with the full treatment this amount if usually deducated from your bill.
I'd advise that you wait until 12-14 days after the test patch is done to make sure that your skin and hair reacts well to the treatment.
See More than One Clinic
It's likely that there will be more than one laser hair removal clinic in your local area. I'd suggest that you take the time to visit at least three; have a test patch done at each of them and choose the clinic that you feel most comfortable with.
As I mentioned above, I strongly advise that you don't sign up at the consultation. You should at least wait the two weeks to make sure that the test patch results are good.
When you make your decision and decide to go ahead with laser hair removal, be sure to read the contract paying close attention to any waivers, disclaimers and "informed consent" forms. If in any doubt, seek legal counsel.
Make sure that you have any guarantees on paper that you can use if your results aren't expected.
Only Sign Up for Laser Hair Removal if...
The results from laser hair removal can't be guaranteed - no matter what anyone tells you. There isn't any clinical data to suggest that any one of the 20 lasers that are currently in use in the UK and the US is guaranteed to remove your hair. So only sign up for laser hair removal if you accept that you may get little to no results and if you have enough money to pay for the treatment.