New laser hair-removal device works at home

Oct 01, 2007, 4:00am

A diode laser designed for at-home use is safe and effective, according to a new study.

Keypoints:

A portable, battery-powered hair removal diode laser is only a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval away from at-home, consumer use. The dermatologist studying the device says for Fitzpatrick skin types I through IV, it appears safe and works. The device, by Spectrogenics, is now in the Federal approval process.

Treatment study

"At one year, there was still about one-third reduction in the number of hairs that had been treated at the treatment sites, which is really a phenomenal outcome. To think that a person with no medical background - and being trained only by video and written materials - can get that kind of result is quite amazing."

Dr. Wheeland, professor and chief of dermatologic surgery, University of Missouri-Columbia, recruited 77 subjects with lighter skin types. Subjects went into a treatment room, which was altered to simulate a home, with a comfortable chair. During the first treatment, subjects watched the instructional video, while a nurse stood in the room to answer questions. Subjects applied the laser themselves at the office for the next two treatments.

The most popular treatment site was the axilla. Subjects also treated their legs, arms, abdomen, chest, upper lip and bikini area.

Study results

According to the study, median hair reduction was about 64 percent, three weeks after the first treatment; 76 percent, three weeks after the second treatment; 61 percent, one month after the third treatment; 28 percent, two months after the third treatment; 11 percent, three months after the third treatment; 44 percent, six months after the third treatment; 30 percent, nine months after the third treatment; and 35 percent, 12 months after the third treatment.

The only side effect from treatment, according to Dr. Wheeland, was transient erythema. One subject left the study, claiming the device was too awkward to use. Otherwise, subjects had no trouble grasping how to perform the treatment, he says. The nurse noted, however, that some remarked that handedness was an issue.

"For example, if a person wanted to treat their underarm hair, and they were right-handed, they did a much better job when they treated the left armpit because of how they would hold the device," Dr. Wheeland tells Dermatology Times.

The most important concern, eye injury, seemed a moot point.

"The system is pretty much foolproof as far as eye injuries go," he says.

Dr. Wheeland says even though dermatologists might lose some business with at-home laser hair removal, the launch of the portable device could also increase business if it increases consumer awareness that the option for laser hair removal exists.

"I think the device will be a useful tool for primarily women who are shy about exposing themselves to their physicians and other providers," Dr. Wheeland says. "But this is not a treatment for everyone. Those with large areas of involvement or who cannot reach their treatment areas probably are going to be having the hair removal done in the office."

Effectiveness

The jury is out on whether the diode device works on darker-skinned patients. It also cannot remove blonde or gray hair, because the hair's brown color is what absorbs the laser's light. Theoretically, people who have darker skin might find their skin absorbs the laser light, causing hypopigmentation.