As we treat over 1000 people a month at our Leeds clinic, we increasingly see people coming in to see us who have suffered burns as a result of inexpert practitioners or cheap equipment. Following on from our popular article advising how to choose a good laser hair removal clinic, we advise you on what to do next if you’ve just had a bad experience with your laser treatment.
This is not a subject that most people want to talk about. Unfortunately, it is a very common experience when unqualified, inexperienced operators using cheap and/or replica lasers and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) machines carry out treatments such as laser/IPL hair removal. The selection of an experienced and qualified laser technician is detailed more under “Operators” in our A-Z of Laser Hair Removal. In short, if you are offered laser or IPL hair removal treatments without having a series of test patches carried out in advance, DO NOT GO AHEAD WITH TREATMENT AND LOOK AT OTHER PROVIDERS.
For laser hair removal to be successful, the laser light needs to be absorbed by the melanin (this is the brown pigment in your hair) for it to be destroyed. All skin reacts differently and therefore it is essential at any consultation, to let the operator know if you have had any sunbeds or you are carrying a sun tan before any test patches are carried out. In a perfect world, you would have no tan, would come along, your test patch would be done on three different power settings, the laser operator would assess the tissue response on each of those test patches, then you would then be sent away for a period of five days. You would then return and if no adverse reaction had occurred, the laser therapist would be able to carry out the first treatment.
The question an experienced operator will ask you every time is: have you been on sunbeds and have you got a tan since your last treatment. This is because exposure to sun beds and the Sun itself produces an increased level of melanin in the skin and this is what the laser light targets. Increased melanin (pigment) means more laser light will be absorbed into your skin. This can cause a burn.
How do I tell if I have been burned?
It is normal for skin to feel hot during laser and IPL treatments but you should expect the skin to cool down quickly. The laser technician can give you an idea of how long you should expect the skin to feel hot. For example, if you are having a laser hair removal treatment, your skin should cool down almost immediately. You should feel something like a hot rubber band snap without any lingering pain or heat.
If it feels extremely hot and is not cooling down, you should tell your technician as they are carrying out the treatment. This will allow the technician to adjust the treatment setting. They can also take immediate action to cool the skin and possibility even prevent a burn or reduce the severity.
If you suspect that you have been burned, be sure to discuss it with your laser technician before you leave the clinic. Make sure you understand what to expect and how to treat your skin at home. Then make an appointment for a post-treatment follow-up and never hesitate to call the clinic if you have any questions or concerns.
Usually, you will know almost immediately if you have a burn. In some cases, however, the skin may not feel hot until you get home. As soon as you suspect a burn, you should telephone and speak to the laser technician that carried out the treatment.
If you are not satisfied or confident with the post-treatment care, ask to speak to the Medical Director. (Hopefully the medical facility has a Medical Director who is a doctor). You should first make every attempt to work with the staff at the clinic, where the laser treatment was provided and if you are not satisfied level of care, then seek a second opinion.
You should get professional treatment as soon as possible. The information provided here or anywhere else on the internet, cannot replace personal treatment by experienced skin professionals.
I have a burn, what do I do?
The recommended treatment for burns will depend on the degree of the burn. In most cases, the burn from an aesthetic laser or IPL is a first degree burn. A second degree burn can also occur from laser/IPL treatment but third degree burns are not likely.
If you suspect that you have been burned severely and find the pain intolerable or if the burn covers a large portion of the body, you may want to go to Accident and Emergency at your local hospital. In most cases, it is not necessary to make a trip to A&E. However, in rare cases, you may need some medical attention. Be sure to let the laser technician know as soon as possible. They should be aware so that they can review the treatment settings and assess whether there is a problem with the equipment. They should ask you to return to the clinic as soon as possible so that they can give you post-treatment instructions. You may also be scheduled to see the doctor if one is attached to the clinic, or a clinic nurse if necessary. It is up to the patient to discuss any problems with the clinic and to follow post-treatment advice.
First-Aid Tips (actual first aid treatment will depend on the type of burn):
- Cool the skin as quickly as possible (within the first few hours). This is critical!
- While driving home after the treatment, aim the air conditioner toward the treated area if possible
- When you get home, soak a washcloth in a bowl of ice water, ring out the excess water and apply the cold wash cloth to the treated area. Switch out the cold cloths every couple minutes. When you feel the wash cloth become warm, it is time to switch it out
- Do not apply ice directly onto the skin, and do not leave cold packs on the skin for an extended period of time. On for ten minutes, off for ten minutes
- Do not put on an occlusive or greasy ointment such as Aquaphor or Vaseline, unless instructed by your laser technician or doctor, as it can trap in the heat. After the skin has had time to cool, and the skin begins to heal you may then be instructed to use an ointment to protect the skin.
- Do not open or pop blisters. Opening the blisters will make the area more vulnerable to infection
- It may be recommended to loosely wrap the area in gauze
- You can apply a topical hydrocortisone cream and/or antibiotic cream to the burn
- Watch the skin for signs of infection
After the burns have healed:
Once the burns have healed, the main issue is to prevent scarring. The most important thing you can do is protect the area from further injury, this includes avoiding sun exposure. Be sure to use a Physical SPF 35 or higher with Zinc Oxide. You can also prevent and treat hyperpigmentation (dark skin discoloration) by using a 4% Hydroquinone cream and Tretinoin (Retin-A). Topical Serums that contain Vitamin C, and products with growth factors (TNS Recovery Complex) can aid in collagen production, improve skin healing and reduce inflammation. If the burn marks are old you may need something like a medium depth chemical peel, to treat the scars.
If you’d like more information…
…or would like some advice from a fully trained laser practitioner, you can always call our Leeds clinic on 01943 882010, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the Call Me Back box above.
We provide advanced laser hair removal treatments using industry-leading Class 4 medical grade lasers to get fantastic results that our patients are delighted with.