Is home laser hair removal safe?

"I had hair, a full beard, real coarse hair. I had hair on my lips and on my cheeks," said Leticia Martinez.

Late last summer, Leticia Martinez began the first of six laser hair removal treatments by San Francisco dermatologist Vic Narurkar. The results were just what she hoped for.

"Before I used to get a full chin of hair, and now it's only in sporadic little spots," said Leticia.

Dr. Narurkar believes Leticia might be the perfect candidate for the TRIA, a home laser device that in her case could be used to go after those stragglers.

"You'll do a series of hair removal treatments, they might have 20 percent or 10 percent left, this is ideal so we'll send them home after their in office hair removal for maintenance with this treatment," said Dr. Narurkar.

The TRIA is backed by clinical research that found users had hair reduction of 70 percent after the second treatment. A year later, overall hair reduction was about a third of what it was to start. That compares to a reduction of about 80 percent with the professional grade lasers used in a doctor's office.

Those professional treatments are pricey. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates the average cost nationwide of a single laser hair removal treatment, runs more than $400. And anywhere from three to nine treatments are needed to cover the hair growth cycle.

"So you may want to invest in the doctor's office laser hair removal where really 80 percent plus hair removal is wonderful, like facial hair or bikini line, but other areas like legs or underarms or other areas below the neck where if you can stay hair free for three months or longer, that would be the ideal patient," said Dr. Narurkar.

The TRIA comes with a safety sensor on people with darker or tanned skin. The sensor will flash red and the device won't activate because of the risk of burns.

Its lower energy, requires no special eye protection and is pain free, but it's only approved for use below the neck. The price tag for the TRIA is $995, but that's not a deterrent to Leticia.

"Yeah, at a $1,000, if it's something I can have at my house and keep me from having the hair grow back, I would think about buying it," said Leticia.

The research shows its effectiveness, but the true test will come when people like Leticia use it and decide for themselves.

"Ultimately it has to work for the consumer, it's a whole different ballgame," said Dr. Narurkar.

And expectations need to be clear. Results won't mirror those obtained by a professional.

Right now the TRIA is only available in doctor's offices. By the fall, it will be sold on line and in select stores and spas.

Doctor information:
Vic Narurkar, M.D.
2100 Webster Street, Suite 505
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 923-3377

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