In the past four years, hair removal has arguably advanced as much as it had in all previous history. High-power lasers, most commonly found in dermatologists’ and plastic surgeons’ offices, can eliminate most unwanted hair after only three to seven treatments. But just as exciting are less powerful devices called flashlamps, which are making their way into spas, delivering almost the same benefits as lasers but less expensively and more quickly. Flashlamp light, also referred to as “pulsed light,” is very similar to laser light but contains different colors of light blended together instead of just a single color. In terms of speed and price, flashlamp benefits outweigh the laser. Estheticians can learn how to use the flashlamp systems in a few hours and then treat a full pair of legs in less than 20 minutes.
Flashlamp systems also offer unique benefits for clients. The light pulses are not irritating or painful, but cause a sensation similar to that of a light snapping of a rubber band. In addition, flashlamp devices can be used even if the hair is less than 1/4-inch in length, and the treatments remove most hair for up to 12 weeks with some of the hair eliminated permanently.
“Pulsed-light devices are fairly new, but so far our experience tells us that they’re here to stay,” says David B. Vasily, MD, medical director of the Aesthetica Cosmetic and Laser Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
How it works
In a word, the principle by which flashlamp systems work is heat. The hand piece emits a beam of light, and the light is absorbed by the hair and converted to heat. As the hair follicles are heated, they become disabled, losing their ability to grow new hair for up to three months or more.
The scientific term for this heating process is selective photothermolysis. The pigment in the hair causes it to be selectively heated, and the tissue surrounding the hair follicle does not heat up significantly. Consequently, side effects, such as skin blistering or localized changes in skin color, are very rare. In fact, the main danger may well be operator error. However, flashlamp light diverges, similarly to a household light, versus going straight like a laser, making it much more difficult to burn. Think of it as a comparison to holding your hand over a hot stove burner versus touching one.
While no state board has outright regulated that the treatment must be performed by a physician, in some states there is a strong message that physicians at least must be on the premises when the treatments are performed. However, in the majority of states, other professionals can use the device as long as a physician has taken responsibility for its use and agreed to be on call while it is used.
Manufacturers should be willing to share information on various state rules and regulations with you. You also may wish to consult your attorney before purchasing a system to determine what the laws are in your area.