CA State Medical Board Tips On Laser Hair Removal

CBS ConsumerWatch

Mar 29, 2006 4:32 pm US/Pacific
State Medical Board Tips On Laser Hair Removal

To report complaints about medical procedures being performed by unlicensed individuals, or to check a practitioner’s credentials, call the Medical Board of California’s toll-free hotline: 1-800-633-2322.

We asked the Medical Board of California about how laser treatments are regulated in the state. Here is their response:

  1. Who regulates the clinics and day spas that perform laser treatments?
    Unless they provide medical services to an extent that puts them under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health Services, they would only require a business license which is required by the city or county where the business is located. If the business is owned by a physician and he/she is using a name other than his/her own, a Fictitious Name Permit is also required (from the Medical Board of California).

  2. In California is a doctor required to be at the location where the treatments are performed?
    Mid-level practitioners (physician assistants and registered nurses) practicing under the general supervision of a physician may do so without the physician being on sight. However, the physician must be immediately reachable, e.g. by telephone.

  3. Who is able to perform laser treatments?
    Physicians and physician assistants and registered nurses under the supervision of a physician may perform these treatments. “Under the supervision” means that the mid-level practitioner must work with the physician under specific protocols and cannot exceed their scope of practice.

  4. What training is required?
    There is no specific training beyond what is required to obtain licensure. However, the Medical Board strongly encourages all practitioners to obtain specific training.

Women Burned By Laser Hair Removal

Jeanette Pavini

(CBS 5) This is what laser hair removal looks like when it goes wrong.

“After the third degree burns and scabs went away, she was left with white spots up and down her legs.”

The woman shown here didn’t want to appear on-camera, so we talked to her lawyer.

“I think that this is fraud.”

State Medical Board Tips On Laser Hair Removal

Greg Winslow represents several California women who say they were burned when they went to mini-spas and salons, for laser treatments on their legs. “…they will tell the patients…that it’s basically it’s a risk free procedure.”

But dermatologist Dr Vic Narurkar says those lasers are powerful. This is what a short exposure does to a piece of paper. “It’s created these little micro holes in the dermis, and that’s what it does in your skin.”

Since 2002, he’s seen a four-fold increase in the number patients coming to his office, with problems from laser treatments done elsewhere. “The worst things that I’ve seen,” said Dr. Narukar, “are permanent disfiguring scars that are very difficult to fix.”

So Dr. Narukar did a study, and found that technicians with little or no medical training are causing most of the problems. “66% of all complications that we reviewed occurred in facilities without a physician on site.”

Some spas and salons advertise themselves as “physician-owned.” But Winslow says that’s no guarantee of safety either. “One of my cases, the overseeing physician was in Utah,” said Winslow, "and he’s overseeing various procedures in Arizona and California.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Medical experts say you should always make sure a doctor is right there, on-site. And if they won’t let you speak to the doctor, you should walk away.