Are clinical laser beauty treatments like IPL safe?

Laser beauty treatments can include procedures for laser hair removal, laser tattoo removal or carbon dioxide and erbium lasers, and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments to ‘rejuvenate’ skin and reduce wrinkles.

But are these treatments safe? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and collect a BS Buster badge for helpful answers.

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The cosmetic beauty industry is inconsistently regulated in Australia.

This although it might be dated 2017 seems to include the current state positions and lack thereof.

https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2017/september/navigating-the-disparate-australian-regulatory-minefield-of-cosmetic-therapy/

It is frightening that in some states most anyone can legally use an IPL or even cosmetic laser. We first ‘met with’ cosmetic lasers in their very early days - in fact the third existent operational machine almost 30 years ago - when they were just approved to treat port wine stains and similar birth marks; there was not much ‘field knowledge’ nor experience.

edit: this machine was at the Texas Children’s Hospital and operated by select few surgeons. Its genre is referenced in the final paragraph of this paper.

It is not just a point and shoot technology or treatment, depending what it is being used for, although IPL machines are less onerous than lasers.

The reference sites I posted above suggest this is another case of government seeming to promote industry self regulation where there is usually all care and no responsibility excepting the dollars that flow.

I encourage anyone considering IPL and especially cosmetic lasers to question the training, experience, and results regardless whether the practitioner is a surgeon, GP, cosmetic operator, or person on the street with a machine enticing clients with low prices. The worse case outcomes can be irreversible harm.

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I expect the treatment is safe if undertaken by a suitably experienced and qualified medical practitioner, however, unlikely to be safe by the local salon expending their repertoire of services provided. Anyone can purchase a laser and claim that they can perform miracles with it, without understanding that laser can be very dangerous tool used for many other purposes.

If a laser is powerful enough to destroy hair follicles, volatilise tattoo ink or alter the composition of the skin and underlying tissue to change its surface characteristics, then it easily has the ability to cause unintended damage to skin and flesh.

In some respects it could be compared to Botox, in minute professionally administered amounts one can perceive a beneficial change in the behaviour and characteristics of ones skin. Used inappropriately by a poorly trained technician can lead to death.

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What about “do they work?” Certainly laser hair removal and tattoo removal are able to remove hair/tattoos (with variable success), but ‘rejuvenation’ and ‘wrinkle reduction’ are not medical or clearly defined terms. What exactly do they promise, and what do they deliver? How? For instance, a lot of skin treatments claim to ‘lift’ and ‘rejuvenate’ by effectively removing all the bacteria, dust etc. that is currently protecting your skin. Is that a good idea?

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Thanks for the answers all. @postulative we’ve looked at the safety, not the effectiveness but you have raised some good questions about the varying applications of treatments.

Here’s our article on laser beauty treatemnt safety:

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Serendipitously some evidential photos.

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An article regarding the dangers of dodgy cosmetic laser treatments.

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