Buying a Laser Hair Removal Machine?

A Buyers Guide to Laser Hair Removal Technology

For many salons and aesthetic clinics laser hair removal represents the largest demand and revenue generator in their clinic. With 80% of females and an increasing percentage of males using some form of hair removal be it shaving, waxing or laser, the market potential is huge. If your clinic is looking to introduce laser hair removal or upgrade your older technology to become more competitive, it can be a daunting task figuring out which laser is the best for your business.

Each supplier claims to have the best technology and many offer deals that on the face of it look great value. So, like a car, it may look good in the showroom but until you test drive it on the road you don’t really know how good it is, or not. With lasers often you are not given this opportunity so have to rely on what the supplier tells you or from your own research.

It can be a very confusing process, so we have put together this simple guide with minimum jargon to explain what you need to look for in choosing a device that will firstly deliver outstanding results for your clients and subsequently enhance your reputation and customer satisfaction and make you highly competitive in a crowded market.

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Laser Hair Removal Principles

All lasers rely on the similar principle of removing unwanted hairs. The goal is to heat the base or root of the follicle to a high enough temperature to destroy it, at the same time without burning the skin or causing unwanted side effects. Not all lasers can do this and we explain why. This process is called Selective Photothermolysis whereby the follicle is heated to destruction without damaging the skin.

The target or heat conductor in the hair follicle is melanin and this dark pigment has a high absorption of certain wavelengths of light (dark pigment absorbs light, light pigment reflects light). Typically the best wavelengths to get maximum absorption and depth of penetration is around 750 – 810nm. The two wavelengths in this region are Alexandrite (755nm) and Diode (808 / 810nm). The other wavelength commonly used is the Nd:YAG (1064nm) as it is safer on dark skin types but has a lower absorption in melanin so not quite as effective.

755nm has a higher risk with darker skin types, 810nm technology can treat all skin types and has high melanin absorption so have become the most popular wavelength to use. Some manufacturers promote a triple wavelength handpiece with 755 / 810 / 1064nm in each.The questions to ask is if 755nm has higher risk on darker skin types why include that, if 1064nm has less melanin absorption and therefore less effect why include that. 808 or 810nm offers peak melanin absorption and those from top end manufacturers are safe to use on all skin types. The triple wavelength may be more a marketing myth than a true advantage.

To selectively deliver sufficient heat to the base of the follicle requires high power and fast delivery of each pulse (known as pulse duration). This fast delivery or short pulse duration ensures most of the heat is absorbed in the follicle and doesn’t give time to spread into the surrounding skin. The speed of delivery should be quicker than the time it takes to dissipate heat in the surrounding skin.

For effective hair removal this is in the region of 10 – 30ms. Lighter finer hair requires even faster delivery or shorter pulse duration as it does not absorb the heat energy for very long. As a test if you are looking at a 2000 Watt laser set the energy level at 30j / cm2 and see how low or short the pulse duration can go, if it is higher than 30ms it will be less effective and may indeed be a lower powered device.

To protect the skin and maximise client comfort, effective integrated skin contact cooling is recommended. To keep the surface of the skin cool whilst delivering high power is quite an engineering feat and not all laser devices are capable of maintaining this cooling control.

 
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Laser Power

Diode laser power are measured in Watts and the power of devices on the market varies widely from 400 Watts to 5000 Watts. The higher the power the more expensive the laser components and therefore overall cost of the device. The benefit of high power however is that you need high power to achieve a short pulse duration and maximise effectiveness of treatment. A low power laser of 400 – 1200 Watts cannot achieve a short pulse duration and are therefore far less effective particularly on lighter finer hairs.

These devices recommend you treat every four weeks (could this be because you are treating the same hairs and not removing them?). High powered short pulse duration lasers treat every 6 – 12 weeks as new phases of hair growth appear and clients achieve maximum results in far less number of treatments typically 85 – 95% clearance in 6 – 8 sessions for most people.

A high powered laser will also enable use of a large spot size. The spot size is the area of skin treated with each pulse, the larger the spot the more area treated and the faster the treatment time. A low powered laser cannot drive a large spot size as the energy will be so diluted over the spot area it will be ineffective. With a large spot size of high powered lasers you can treat full legs in 10 minutes compared to 45 – 60 minutes on small spot size lasers.

With such a short treatment time you can offer very competitive prices (customer will book with you) yet achieve very high revenue per hour making your clinic the most competitive in terms of price to customers (laser hair removal is price sensitive) yet achieving more revenue per hour than competitors.

 

To Summarise

In summary the four specifications you need to look at and compare are:

  • Wavelength (755 or 808 / 810nm are the most effective)
  • Power (measured in Watts)
  • Pulse duration (should be capable of speeds of 3 – 30ms for effective treatment)
  • Consistent controlled skin contact cooling

 

Diode Laser Comparison Chart

We have complied a chart of a wide range of diode lasers available on the market. These specifications are taken from publicly available data from manufacturers websites (interestingly sometimes UK distributors websites list different specifications than the manufacturer!).

Also, research where the manufacture is based and what is their website so you can check accurate specifications. Legally every laser must list the manufacturers name and address on the label at the back of the device. Most lasers are now Medical CE certified so its also a good idea to request the Medical CE Certificate.

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    The Cost

    Finally, when choosing a laser price should not be your main consideration as you get what you pay for. Choosing a device because it is the cheapest or the supplier offers an amazing one off big discount should not be your reason for choosing a laser that you will build your business and reputation on. Often you will find these are the low power long pulse duration, small spot size devices.

    Always ask for a demonstration so you can test drive the laser and speak to clinics who are using that device to get real feedback not just on the device but the reputation and after sale support they receive from the supplier. You need to now there is good backup if you have a problem as having to cancel diaries is your biggest nightmare. For example does the supplier have their own technical service team or do they outsource and how quickly will they respond and resolve an issue.

    We hope that this advice will be useful in helping what is a large investment and very important decision for your business.

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