Laser Technology is increasingly being used for cosmetic services and treatments. Example of laser technology may be used in the following cosmetic services:
- Hair reduction
- Skin resurfacing (e.g. wrinkle reduction, acne scars, blemish and mole removal)
- Vascular lesions (e.g. spider veins and port wine stains)
- Pigment blemish removal (e.g. age spots and moles)
- Tattoo removal
Cosmetic Laser Treatments in Canada
There are several medical devices on the Canadian mark using laser technology licensed by Health Canada for use in cosmetic treatments. Various laser types include:
- Intense Pulse Light (IPL)
- Radio-Frequency Energy
Both of the above laser technologies operate on the same basic principles.
How Do Cosmetic Lasers Work?
Lasers emit an intense beam of light or energy. The light beam may be visible or invisible. Each laser has a specific wavelength that targets a specific tissue. The the laser beam reaches its target it is absorbed by the surface and converted into heat. When the procedure is performed correctly this heat inactivates or destroys cells in the target area and does not have a significant effect on the other cells around it.
For hair reduction the lasers targets the melanin (dark colouring of the follicle, also known as the “root”). This effectively destroys the hair follicle preventing the regrowth of hair.
For wrinkle reduction or for acne scars, the laser targets and damages cells near the surface of the skin. The results are similar to the same skin-tightening effects used by traditional resurfacing procedures such as chemical peels and mechanical abrasion.
In the treatment of vascular lesions such as spider veins the laser is directed at the blood vessels. When the correct wavelength is used to target the vein the vessel wall is injured and then absorbed by the body. Similar effects occur when laser is used for surface blemishes and tattoos.
What Does "Laser" Mean?
Laser is actually an acronym that stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A laser device produces single wavelength radiation at the atomic level by stimulating atoms to emit their radiation together and in phase with one another. “The term ‘in phase’, means radiation waves whose crests and troughs arrive at a place at the same time. Each laser emits photons with a specific frequency and wavelength only, which produces a uniform or coherent beam, so that their effects reinforce each other. Amplification of the photons inside the laser occurs because of mirrors located at each end which reflect the radiation back and forth over the atoms stimulating them to re-emit more photons again and again before releasing them.” Health Canada Introduction to Laser Light
The term “radiation” in this context is not meant to imply that ionizing “radiation” such as x-rays and/or gamma rays are emitted from these lasers.
The wavelength of lasers used in hair removal range from 755nm (infrared) alexandrite (long-pulsed) to 810nm diode (long-pulsed).
What Causes Cosmetic Lasers To Be An Effective Treatment?
There are several factors that determine the efficacy of laser treatment, including:
- Correct laser device and module used in the treatment
- Training, skill and experience of the person performing the treatment
- Wavelength of the beam targeting the tissue
- Power settings used, duration of each energy pulse, amount of time between each pulse and the number of pulses per treatment, as well as the total number of treatments made overall; and
- the colour of skin or hair of the client
What Are The Risks Of Cosmetic Laser Treatments?
Laser classification is based on the laser’s capability to injure personnel and falls under seven general categories. Lasers used in hair removal are primarily classified as Class 3B or Class 4 lasers.
Class 3B hair removal devices are medium-powered lasers that can emit sufficient infrared radiation to be hazardous to unprotected eyes, both by direct or reflected viewing. Skin will not be injured by unfocused or unmagnified Class3B laser beams.
Class 4 hair removal devices are high-powered lasers that emit sufficient infrared radiation to be hazardous to unprotected eyes, both by direct or reflected viewing. In some cases, diffusely reflected beams off of matt surfaces can also be hazardous to the eyes. Skin can be injured by the direct beam and fires can be started if flammable or combustible materials in the immediate area are exposed.
Studies show that 70% of laser eye accidents result because adequate protective eyewear is not worn. Simple safety goggles are insufficient to protect against laser and must NEVER be used for laser eye protection. There is no treatment for reversal of laser retinal injury. This injury is permanent.
- Other risks include:
Not being a suitable candidate for the procedure
- Lack of follow-through with provided aftercare
- Burns, fires, eye damage
- Inhalation of toxic gases and vapours
- Viral infection
Infection Risk: Laser hair removal may result in various side effects, including changes in skin pigmentation, blisters, crusts and folliculitis or infection of the hair follicle. With too much melanin in the adjacent skin, the light energy can be absorbed into the surrounding epidermis, causing epidermal damage. This is less common for intense pulsed light than for cutaneous and diode lasers.
The potential sources of infections are:
- Contaminated or improperly reprocessed equipment.
- The client’s own bacteria on the skin.
- Contaminated environment.
- Unclean hands touching the treated area.
Infections can be bacterial (e.g., Mycobacterium chelonae, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa), fungal (e.g., Candida spp., Aspergillus spp.) or viral (e.g., herpes simplex virus). Rare side effects include post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and burns with blisters. Source: Guide to Infection Prevention
and Control in Personal Service Settings, 3rd edition
How Are Cosmetic Lasers Regulated in Canada?
Health Canada regulates laser devices under the Radiating Emitting Devices Act, the Medical Devices Regulations and the Food and Drugs Act. These regulations ensure that laser systems sold and used in Canada are safe and effective when used for their licensed purposes by trained professionals and in accordance with the manufactures’ directions.
Laser Hair Removal is regulated as a Personal Service under O. Reg 136/18.