Laser treatments can be used for a range of issues: from hair removal and ageing skin to acne scars and unsightly veins. Because of the wide-ranging benefits, laser is becoming increasingly popular, but there are risks involved and you need to be informed.Here's our guide on everything you need to know about laser treatments:
Types of laser treatment
1) Laser hair removal - this works by a short burst of light being used to zap the skin's surface, which is then absorbed by the pigment in the hair, which heats up and damages the hair follicle and prevents hair from re-growing.
This works best for those people with pale skin and dark hair. White, ginger and grey hair is almost impossible to treat because the laser works by targeting the pigment in the hair.
Many sessions could be needed for all hair to be permanently removed and, although some practitioners may advertise it, permanent hair removal is not guaranteed.
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2) Anti-ageing - lasers have come to the forefront of anti-ageing beauty treatments in the last few years, and, with stars like Jennifer Aniston having praised the method (she calls is 'laser porn'), we can see the appeal. One of the options is a resurfacing treatment. This works by the laser removing a layer of skin from the face and causing softer, tighter skin to grow back with less visible blemishes and wrinkles. Several treatments are needed for the desired effect.
The other option is photorejuvenation, which works when the laser stimulates the production of collagen in the skin, which ‘plumps out’ fine lines and wrinkles.
3) Correction treatments - age spots, acne scars, rosacea and other brown skin blemishes can be broken down using laser. It can also be used to damage and destroy thread veins on the face and legs so that they gradually dissolve. And, you know that tattoo saying 'I love Ayia Napa' you got in 1999? That can also be removed using laser.
Questions to ask at your consultation
How many sessions will you need?
What results can you realistically expect?
What are the possible side effects?
Exactly how much will it cost? Will any additional follow-up treatments be needed?
Can you pay in installments?
What if you change your mind in between sessions?
Will it hurt?
How will the treatment affect your lifestyle? i.e. strong sunshine should be avoided with laser so you may not want to book a session in the run up to a holiday.
How long should you wait in between treatments?
How experienced is your practitioner?
What do you do if you're not happy with the results?
Also, make sure you are given a patch test and the practioner has gone through you medical history in detail. These are a must.
A pre-laser treatment checklist
1) Check your chosen clinic is registered with healthcare regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
2) Make sure the practitioner has indemnity insurance.
3) Consult your GP if you have skin conditions, are pregnant or are regularly taking medication as some drugs can cause complications for laser treatments.
4) Make sure you don't have a tan - real or fake.
5) Make sure your skin is clean and free of all products including deodrant and make-up. If getting laser hair removal, make sure the area has been shaved to avoid irritation.
Despite following all the above guidelines the cosmetic treatment industry remains largely unregulated, meaning that serious problems can arise for even the most sensible of women. Anyone can buy a laser machine and set up a laser treatment business, and if something goes wrong it can be very difficult to know where to turn for help.
As a result Marie Claire has launched the Take A Good Look Campaign, which aims to empower and inform women.
As part of our campaign, we want better training for practitioners, a body to be set up that women can turn to if things go wrong as well as a ban on manipulative advertising that preys on vulnerable women.
The #TakeAGoodLook Campaign demands:
• a register for practitioners and procedures
• standardised information for patients
• a ban on special offers and procedures as prizes
• a code of practice for advertising
• training courses for non-surgical procedures
• fillers to be made prescription-only
• a national breast implant registry
• an impartial organisation to turn to when things go wrong
So, please sign our petition if you think women should be empowered, informed and safe about cosmetic procedures.
Sign our #TakeAGoodLook petition here.