A Guide for the Intelligent Consumer by Dr Max Sawaf

Consumers are bombarded with special offers on laser hair removal, but few know how to evaluate these offers as the price is only one factor out of many that should be taken into consideration.

  • Who is supervising the treatments? A dermatologist or a plastic surgeon should be present on premises during the treatment to assist if the technician operating the laser needs advice or guidance. Many clinics have one doctor covering multiple centers at the same time, a practice that is more profitable for the clinics and allows them to drop their prices even more, but an unethical and illegal practice that can be hard to police.
  • Who is the laser operator? Hair-removal lasers can be operated by a nurse or a beautician provided they have undergone a short training course, attended a few days of lectures and passed a test. However, it takes much longer to become a true expert in operating these lasers. During their learning curve, inexperienced operators tend to wisely dial down the energy emitted by the laser for fear of burning the skin. However, when they do so, they do not deliver enough energy to kill the hair follicles, but instead deliver an energy that can stimulate the hair follicles and hence the patient gets more hair instead of less.
  • What kind of laser does the clinic have? Pale skin needs a different laser than darker skin does. Even after the patient starts with the appropriate laser for the skin color, after a few sessions, the hair becomes thinner and lighter in color, requiring a different and expensive laser called a Q switch laser.
  • How painful and how safe is the laser? Aside from how many different lasers a clinic has, certain lasers are much more painful than others, and some are too slow to be used for total-body hair removal. By and large, the two best companies on the market for laser hair removal are the Candela lasers (Gentel-Yag and Gentle-Max) and the Cynosure lasers. In the case of darker skin, cooling the skin is essential to prevent pigmentation (dark spots) or burns. Good lasers have a good cooling mechanism, which lessens the discomfort and minimizes the chances of burns or pigmentation. There are many cheaper lasers but they are not good.
  • What other lasers does the center have beside hair reduction? It is more convenient and safer to have all your skin imperfections covered by one center that you trust and by one operator who becomes familiar with your skin and your needs. Many lasers for skin rejuvenation, skin tightening, evening out skin color and skin tone, reducing fat without surgery, and repairing the birth canal after multiple deliveries are available today. It is a big plus to have other procedures offered alongside the laser treatments, for example, hydro-facials, Botox® and fillers, PRP for hair loss, dark circles around the eyes, stem cell injections derived from your own fat, and non-surgical facelifts using strings or the newest Thermage® and Fraxel® models. Frequently, once you are loyal customer, your clinic can extend other services at a reasonable price. Above all, the doctor or operator should give you honest advice.
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