Plastic Surgery & Cosmetic Center

At Home Lasers: Do They Work? Are They Worth the Cost?

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At Home Lasers: Do They Work? Are They Worth the Cost?

There are now over the counter personal lasers designed for the treatment of acne, for hair removal or to stimulate hair growth, and to eliminate wrinkles and other signs of aging such as age spots. These at home lasers are miniaturized versions of those used in dermatology offices and provide the benefits of being able to use it in the privacy of your home, and that the treatments are potentially less costly.

The questions posed are not only whether these devices are safe and effective but also whether they are worth the cost compared to having the procedures done by a dermatology medical practitioner?

Before I answer these questions from my point of view as a physician’s assistant here at Janiga MDs, It is important to first of all understand the science behind lasers, beginning with the fact that LASER is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. As the name implies lasers work on a light amplification theory and depending on the power will emit weaker or stronger wavelengths of light designed to reach specific targeted layers of the skin in order to treat specific conditions without damaging the surrounding tissue.

In order to qualify as a “laser” the device must emit a beam of light that has a single uniform color and the many products commonly called lasers which do not meet this criteria should more properly be described as simply “light devices”.

By virtue of their training and licensing dermatologists have access to a wide variety of extremely  powerful and specialized lasers and light devices which are much more effective in the treatment of skin concerns than the over the counter versions.  Laser trained dermatologists use these professional quality lasers to remove tattoos, scars, sunspots, unsightly veins, and also to stimulate collagen production to tighten the skin. After years of experience these professional lasers have been definitively proven to both improve skin texture and the appearance of scars and stretch marks.

There are a variety of home devices being advertised for the treatment of different dermatological problems.

The at home hair growth lasers promise to induce proliferative activity in hair follicles and two small studies have in fact shown a slight increase in hair density as well as improvement of hair quantity, at least based on consumer self-assessment.

Likewise, the at home hair removal lasers have also been tested and while there are proven beneficial results with their use; it is minimal in comparison to the treatments resulting from the more powerful devices available only at a dermatology office. A further limitation to the use of the over the counter hair removal device is that they can only be used on white skinned or very light brown skinned people.

Another self – administered at home device is the photo-rejuvenation laser or at home anti aging laser for the improvement of crow’s feet and for overall appearance of the skin. In studies of small groups of people there was again an overall self-assessment of improvement, though minimal.

Finally, the home acne – treatment devices which use the blue light wavelength, can kill the bacteria “p. acnes” and can decrease the inflammation associated with acne. These lasers are typically used by patients at the onset of a lesion, whereas in the practice of dermatology the goal is to have patients on a treatment plan aimed at preventing lesions from ever developing.

The cost of these various devices varies from two-hundred to one thousand dollars. It is important to note that these products are designed for a limited amount of use and over time one can expect that in a relatively short period of time component parts may need to be replaced.

Based on my own research, experience and anecdotal evidence, it is my considered opinion that patients desiring hair growth, hair removal, and photo-rejuvenation would be better served spending the money for professional treatments rather than for the home use devices. Without question dermatologist lasers are simply much more effective.

Sun spots, unsightly visible blood vessels and skin texture and tone can be far more effectively treated with the powerful, treatment specific lasers available only to dermatologists. I do believe however, that the home use acne devices may be a good investment for the spot treatment of acne lesions, but only as an adjunct to an acne treatment plan consisting of daily topical medications and the occasional use of systemic medications.

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