Australian consumer magazine CHOICE has warned that laser hair removal treatment could prove ineffective in the hands of the untrained. In quite a few cases, it can also cause bodily harm.
In an investigation titled How safe is laser and IPL hair removal, it has sought to show that a number of untrained operators are aiming lasers at the public's body parts.
Lasers and IPL (intense pulsed light) devices can be used for hair reduction and skin treatments such as removing spider veins, improving skin tone and to remove tattoos. CHOICE,
a publication of the Australian Consumers' Association, says many experts, including dermatologists and medical professionals, agree there are dangers involved in getting laser and IPL treatments, especially in an unregulated environment.
In the hands of an experienced and trained operator the treatments can of course be very effective. Melbourne dermatologist Dr Philip Bekhor says its the best way to remove unwanted hair, as long as you're a "suitable candidate."
But none of the clinics asked Choice's undercover shopper about her medical history, current medication or recent tanning - information the watchdog says can affect hair removal results.
The CHOICE report stresses that the success of the treatment depends on your colouring, with laser generally working best on fair skin and dark hair. Fairer skin and red hair will respond to a lesser degree and those with darker skin can be treated, but only with a great deal of care.
Besides there is the problem is who actually is in charge of the treatment.
The marketing hype will tell you that with a few sessions of laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) hair reduction, and some slight discomfort, you can be hair free forever. To anyone who has battled with unwanted facial or body hair this sounds like the perfect solution.
However, CHOICE notes that with the exceptions of Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia, the laser industry is unregulated, and powerful medical lasers and IPLs are accessible to untrained and inexperienced personnel. Even in the states with some legislative controls, clinical application training isn't covered.
An investigation of six salons and clinics in Sydney found four had staff who were not trained in operating hair removal machines, while two had received training from the equipment manufacturer.
Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just told AAP, "We have heard from people who have experienced severe burns, blistering and scarring after undergoing laser or IPL.
"Medical practitioners have told us they are seeing more patients presenting with complications caused by inexperienced laser and IPL operators."
The NSW Statewide Burn Injury Service treated six patients for serious burns in the past year, while the Victorian Health Commissioner has received several complaints about inexperienced operators,
Ms Just says part of the problem stems from hair removal machines becoming cheaper to buy.
"Laser and IPL machines used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and were operated by doctors and dermatologists; now you can buy them for only a few thousand dollars," she said.
"With treatments averaging $65 per five minutes and a series of sessions required, permanent hair removal businesses are being set up in shopping centres and beauty clinics." That could be a dangerous trend, it is pointed out.