Hair removal horror
A woman who had a laser hair removal ended up with second degree burns to her face and body. Helen Wellings investigates the procedure’s safety.
Hair removal by laser and pulsed light systems, reputed to be far less stressful and more effective long-term than waxing and electrolysis, has taken the beauty market by storm.
It is the fastest-growing area in cosmetic medicine, with more than 60 types of machines being imported to Australia and prices ranging from a mere $8,000 to $250,000.
But customers usually do not know what they are getting and how much experience the operators have.
Anna Vega paid $425 cash, a 60 per cent discount, for her first session of the Aesthetic Pulsed Light hair removal system on her face, legs, armpits and bikini line.
But she ended up in severe pain, with blistering and infected second degree burns. Her specialist said it would take six months for the injuries to heal.
“I did have a lot of blistering there, I even have it underneath my neck and I am worried about scarring,” Anna said.
“I don’t want to be a slave to hiding flaws on my face, you know.”
Anna was also left with painful cuts and deep bruising on the bikini line and armpits, along with very patchy hair areas. But the clinic claimed the treatment was “safe, fast, painless and causes no associated redness or burning”.
“I was told that it would be pink afterwards, but then in about 15 minutes it would settle,” Anna said.
“I was told given that I have olive skin and my hair is dark that I would have really good results. And given that doctors and nurses were running the clinic, I never even thought that I would experience this.”
But Anna’s reaction grew worse. From sore, blotchy and very red, it progressed to weeping sores and pus.
Five days later, Anna had not been able to work and had lost a whole week’s pay. But to make matters worse, the clinic had not given her money back.
Plastic surgeon Dr Mark Kohout said if used the correct way, laser and pulsed light systems, which deliver different types of light to do the same thing, should be safe and effective.
“First is to do a patch test to start off with,” he said. “We usually do that two weeks beforehand.”
“Once we actually have the patient on the table here, again we want to make sure the settings are right for this area for this skin, for this hair.”
Dr Kohout believe some systems are far better than others. Only six laser and IPL manufacturers, including the maker of his ELOS unit, have machines that are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. That is only one-tenth of machines in clinics.
“The industry is pretty much unregulated,” Dr Kohout said.
“The only thing you have to comply with is if you have laser machines. And these are distinctly different from IPL machines. They have to be certified for laser safety.”
Meanwhile Anna was still waiting for the redress she deserved.
“I guess I feel rather overwhelmed,” Anna said. “I just feel hard done by, I guess.”
Contact details for the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons:
Suite 503, Level 5, 69 Christie Street, St Leonards NSW 2065.
Toll Free: 1300 367446 Phone: (+612) 94379200 Fax: (+612) 94379210
Today Tonight is a current affair show in Australia.