Considering laser hair removal technology for your practice? Be sure you know what you're getting into, experts advise.
Dr. PryorDermatologists considering laser hair removal technology for their laser practices should go into it knowing the level of competition, their patients’ needs and that there are plenty of options -some more effective than others, says Landon Pryor, M.D., plastic surgeon, Rockford, Ill., and clinical assistant professor of plastic surgery at University of Illinois.
“Before investing in any device, look at multiple vendors and find out… specifics, as far as what kind of clearance [to] expect. Is it 50% hair reduction, 100%, 90%? How many treatments are needed? What are the skin types [for treatment with the laser]?” Dr. Pryor says.
Hair removal nuances for the dermatologist
Dr. KeaneyTerrence Keaney, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology and urology at George Washington University Medical Center, and director of the men’s cosmetic center, W for MEN, at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, says dermatologists need to pay special attention to patient skin type when offering hair removal laser services.
“Typically, with hair removal, we prefer a little longer wavelength that is a little less specific to pigment to avoid any burning or scarring. For lighter skin types, using a more pigment-specific laser hair removal device is nice,” Dr. Keaney says. “So, having a laser platform that can treat both is definitely an advantage, instead of having to buy a different device for darker skin types and a different device for lighter skin types.”
Dr. GoldMichael H. Gold, M.D., medical director, Gold Skin Care Center and Tennessee Clinical Research Center, Nashville, Tenn., says hair removal is his laser practice’s domain and a source for referral for other procedures. Dr. Gold’s practice has more than 40 devices.
“For hair reduction, I recommend the Soprano ICE 810 nm Diode with In-Motion technology (Alma Lasers). It is a very efficacious way to treat hair for all skin types,” Dr. Gold says. “The system has a 2.0 cm spot handpiece with contact cooling for treating large areas. The patients tolerate the virtually painless treatment very well, and my staff can treat a back in less than 20 minutes. This system has no consumables and has increased the volume in my laser center.”
Other laser hair removal diode systems also work with vacuum technology to reduce pain and bring the target closer to the light source, according to Dr. Gold.
“These technologies work great in my practice, as do some of the other wavelengths for specific patients, including the Nd:YAG systems for some of my skin type VI individuals,” Dr. Gold says.
Being able to treat larger surface areas is a trend in hair removal, according to Dr. Keaney.
“In men, for example, we’re treating backs. In women we’re treating legs or bikini areas,” Dr. Keaney says. “With traditional spot sizes that we’ve had in the past, that can take a long time. I think a lot of companies are [offering] newer technologies where they’re able to deliver laser hair removal in much larger areas, dramatically decreasing the time in treatment, which is a big complaint with some hair removal cases.”
Safety, Treatment Tips
Don’t take the safety of performing hair removal laser services for granted, says Dr. Pryor, who points out that this is a medical treatment and should be treated as such. “If the physician is not doing the treatment, …it needs to be delegated to a laser technician that is appropriately trained in that device,” he says.
According to Dr. Pryor, he consults with patients before they begin hair removal treatment at his practice.
It’s also important to have clear staff rules on how they should proceed with large surface areas, says Dr. Keaney. “Sometimes when you’re treating for a long period of time, you can forget where you’ve previously treated, so [it’s important to carefully mark] certain areas where you’ve treated and have a very systematic approach,” he says.
Is Laser Hair Removal Right for Your Practice?
Hair removal is popular and highly competitive.
Vic Narurkar, M.D., chairman of dermatology at California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, who has a cosmetic-only dermatology practice featuring 16 lasers, says dermatologists should think twice about investing in hair removal technology if they’re just getting started in lasers. With spas and non-derm practices in the mix of competitors providing the service, price wars are common. So, while having hair removal lasers makes sense in a comprehensive laser practice, dermatologists might first focus on less competitive areas, such as the treatment of vascular conditions, according to Dr. Narurkar.