Comment on lasers from a physician

I received this note in February 2002 and thought I’d share it here.
</font><blockquote><font size=“1” face=“Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif”>quote:</font><hr /><font size=“2” face=“Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif”> Andrea:

Overall I liked your website. The unbiased information is helpful to consumers who might otherwise be getting their information from advertisements.

However, I think that some of your information is outdated, and also unduly harsh. You seem to promote electrolysis over laser hair removal, which is hard to understand. We have a trained, licensed laser hair removal aesthetician who is also a trained, licensed and practicing electrolysist. She far prefers laser hair removal over electrolysis, with a few exceptions (ie light or blond hair that will not respond to the laser). The number of treatments, pain, cost, etc. are all far superior with the laser (we use the Apogee 9300 with scanner) than electrolysis. She has both treatment options available to her (ie laser vs electrolysis), and has no financial incentive to use one vs the other. She uses the one that works best for the patient, which is a large majority of the time the laser.

In your discussion of physicians performing laser treatments for hair removal, one gets the idea that you view them all as con artists trying to get your money for something that probably won’t help. I think this is grossly unfair, as a large majority of physicians are offering a service that patients desire due to some condition they are unhappy with. I think that perhaps some physicians are misled by laser company sales people that they will get rich doing laser hair removal. Most physicians who have purchased a few lasers before realize that laser company salespeople may paint a rosy picture, both clinically and financially, when discussing their product. Most physicians realize that some lasers (very few) are profitable, and most are not. However, there are some medical treatments that are far superior with lasers, in fact only available with lasers.

In fact, laser hair removal is a money losing business for physicians (as are most lasers). The cost of the laser, space, and technician are higher than the payments most practices would get from laser hair removal treatments. I would bet that nine out of ten physicians doing laser hair removal are losing money doing it. This may be why you suggest that there is some pressure to “sell” this service to patients to pay expenses and make a profit. If a clinic truly wants to make a profit, they will quit offering laser hair removal and do something else. In fact, a local plastic surgeon has recently stopped offering laser hair removal, because he was losing money offering the service. We still offer laser hair removal because it is a service that patients desire, and that has a profound impact on some patients lives (especially women with endocrine disorders with a lot of dark facial hair, etc).

We have 11 lasers in our practice, and perhaps 2 or 3 generate enough fees to cover the cost of their individual laser’s monthly payments (ie 8 or 9 lasers lose money). We make a living treating patients skin, and are paid for cancer surgery, treating warts, psoriasis, acne, etc. Fortunately we earn enough treating a large volume of satisfied patients to cover the cost of the lasers that we use to enhance care (ie removing port wine birthmarks from infants faces, removing tattoos without scarring, improving red faces from rosacea, etc).

Given the fact that most laser hair removal clinics lose money, it is somewhat difficult to read your characterization and generalization on your website of how physicians are salespeople trying to sign you up for services so that they can pay for equipment so they can make profits. In two and a half years of providing laser hair removal, we have had an overwhelming majority of satisfied (many thrilled) patients. No one to my knowledge had ever asked for their money back (I sign the office checks so I would be made aware of this) for laser hair removal.

I think a useful addition to your site (in addition to considering modifying discussion about physicians as well as electrolysis in light of what I mentioned above) would be to include any personal experience you have had with electrolysis or laser hair removal, since I saw no reference to it. I think if you have had a good or bad experience with any of the methods, your readers should know this since this would obviously influence your discussion. If you have had no experience or treatments, your readers would also want to know this.

I assume that you have no financial interest in any form of hair removal (if you do it’s only fair your readers know about it). At medical meetings it is standard to disclose such financial relationships (ie a speaker who got a free laser from a company and/or is (or was) paid any fees from a laser company to promote or do research on it discloses this). In case you are interested I have no financial interest in any laser company or electrolysis company.

Good luck with your site, and I hope my comments will provide you some perspective on someone who offers this service to patients. Sorry if this appears disjointed, as I typed it between seeing patients.

Michael J. Crowe, M.D.
Owensboro Dermatology Associates (KY)</font><hr /></blockquote><font size=“2” face=“Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Dr. Crowe makes some excellent comments!

For the record, I have no financial interest in the hair removal industry. I am often accused of being a practitioner or manufacturer, but i am neither.

Dr. Crowe brings up another point I’d like to address. Many doctors performing hair removal are doing so with their patients’ best interests in mind, and laser is often a good option for consumers, especially if you have light skin and dark hair.

Dr. Crowe points out that the real problem is that lasers are often a money-losing business. While that doesn’t affect a physician with many other forms of revenue coming in, it can certainly be a problem for the non-physician practitioner who buys a machine and sets up shop in a salon or strip mall. In order to make their payments, some of these people resort to overpromising results or giving overly aggressive treatment that ends up causing patient complications.

The real trick to laser hair removal from a consumer standpoint is to find a practitioner with the expertise and honesty to treat you properly. I recommend seeing a physician who will be on-site during your procedure, to ensure the best and safest results.

And while physicians like Dr. Crowe are obviously looking out for their patients, just because someone is a doctor doesn’t necessarily mean they are qualified. I know several physicians who oversell laser hair removal.

Most major cities have someone who is the acknowledged expert. I recommend seeing that person, and be sure to take my laser consultation form with you.

Choosing a laser practitioner

Laser consultation form

Good doctors like Dr. Crowe will be able to answer all of your questions to your full satisfaction, and they will tell you if you shouldn’t be treated. That’s not always true, so check around before committing to someone!

I am looking for feedback from anyone who has finished treatment 2-3 years ago, but am unable to find anyone on the forum.

Of course, I would like to know about post results and if, indeed, the hair did stay away, or was there regrowth, how much, etc.

I am also confused, as most people seem generally happy with treatments, however, several physicians I have spoken to stay it just does not work. How can there be such opposite comments?

Any comments, feedback much appreciated, soon hopefully, as I am due to start treatment tomorrow!