Laser Hair Removal Showing No Signs of Slowing Down
If you are a physician dealing in any way, shape or form with aesthetic medicine, you are probably already aware of the patient demand for laser hair removal. According to statistics published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were roughly 1.1 million laser hair removal procedures performed in 2011. This made laser hair removal the 3rd most popular treatment amongst minimally non-invasive procedures, behind only botulinum toxin-A (Botox™) and soft tissue dermal fillers. However, of the top 5 procedures in this category, laser hair removal showed the greatest growth from 2010, up a whopping 15% from the previous year. So if you thought perhaps patients were losing interest in laser hair removal, well, think again.
What Do Patients Want?
If you are treating patients using a laser for hair removal it is important that you determine how your device stacks up in areas that are most importance from a patient’s perspective. Here are some of the things that rank at the top of a patient’s need list when considering laser hair removal:
Safety: Without safety nothing else matters and patients demand this. The old rule of dark hair and light skin may still apply when determining the safest profile for most lasers, but how many people fit this criterion? The fact is if your laser is not safe for all skin types, you are seriously limiting the potential patient pool you could be drawing from. Worse yet, if you push the envelope on what skin types your laser can treat, sooner or later you run the risk of burning a patient. And that risk is simply not worth it.
Effectiveness: Patients want permanent removal! Can your laser deliver the results? There was a time when vague suggestions of permanent reduction was the safety net that allowed physicians to generalize on the results a patient could achieve from laser treatments. That may not be good enough for many sophisticated buyers anymore. The fact is there are devices now able to permanently eliminate the vast majority of terminal hair. If your laser can’t do this, rest assured the patient will find someone whose laser does.
Comfort: Only slightly less important to patients than the effectiveness of laser treatments is the actual laser experience itself. By now, pretty much everyone knows that laser hair removal is a multiple visit procedure and as such it is important that as a Provider you recognize how important the consideration of treatment comfort is to patients. Comfort without results, however, isn’t much good either. If your laser treatment is comfortable yet not effective at producing superior results, you still aren’t going to have a happy patient.
Notice the above list did NOT include the issue of price. Though price is a consideration to patients, it’s just not the MOST important consideration. If you have a laser that fulfills the three criteria listed above, you are going to have a very successful service on your hands.
Buyer Beware: Lasers for Hair Removal Not All Created Equal
While all lasers for hair removal purposes use light energy to damage or destroy hair follicles, the fundamental difference separating all lasers is their “wavelength”. Wavelength determines the distance of penetration the laser energy travels and each successive generation of laser has adopted a longer wavelength than the technology before it:
• Ruby – 694 nm
• Alexandrite – 755 nm
• Diode – 800 nm
• Nd:YAG – 1064 nm
The general thinking regarding lasers is that the longer the wavelength, the safer the treatment for all skin types. The short wavelength Ruby laser pioneered the principle of hair removal in this domain and it was understood that without exception only dark hair and light skin patients could be treated using this technology. At the other end of the spectrum, the longer wavelength 1064 Nd:YAG is considered safe on all skin types but the amount of energy it delivers to the base of the hair follicle – the target to achieve permanent removal – is diminished. Therefore, the question really becomes, is there ONE wavelength that can satisfy ALL needs of both patients and physicians? Is there a wavelength that can not only treat all skin types, but ALSO produce effective, permanent results? The answer is “YES” and even for experienced practitioners the wavelength may surprise you: the 755 nm Alexandrite laser is the single best solution for safe, effective and permanent hair removal provided it is accompanied by the appropriate variable pulse duration. This fact will contradict the widely held belief that the 755 nm Alexandrite wavelength is NOT suitable on darker skin types due to its high absorption of energy into melanin which is located in the hair and the skin. This is only true if the pulse duration is insufficient. However, combine this wavelength with the appropriately extended variable pulse duration which delays the delivery of energy away from the skin and towards the base of the hair follicle and you can look forward to the best results in the safest manner for the widest array of patients.