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Laser Hair Removal

History of Laser Hair Removal

During the 1960s lasers began being considered as a way to remove unwanted hair. The hair removal industry was enthusiastic about the potential generated by research. So enthusiastic, hair removal providers began utilizing laser light before effectiveness and safety factors had been fully explored by dermatologists and researchers.

The first lasers used for hair removal purposes emitted one continuous wave. It was later discovered that this was not practical. Since the beam could not be controlled, damage to skin tissue resulted. Using the same principle as the shutter in a camera, a “Q-switch” was developed to remedy the problem.

In 1969 lasers that delivered energy through a tiny fiberoptic probe to selectively target and “attack” individual hair follicles were developed. Before the device had been cleared as effective and safe, it was rushed to market. Advertising campaigns touted it a safe and painless way to permanently rid the body of unwanted hair. The claims were false, of course, since testing of the devices had not yet been completed; before long the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) intervened.

Ten years later, data verified laser energy was successful in the treatment of ingrown eyelashes. Researchers also found lasers useful in removing specific kinds of tattoos and in treatment for certain types of vascular injuries. After it was noted that hair loss sometimes resulted, the device was once again promoted as a hair remover, even though adequate testing was still lacking.

When the FDA approved use of the SoftLight™ laser for hair removal during the mid 1990s, it was once again pounced on by hair removing industries. Still without sufficient testing, the device was nevertheless marketed as “painless” and “permanent.” Once again the FDA stepped in.

After several more years of unsubstantiated assertions, with consumers “guinea pigs” for a procedure whose long-term effects had not yet been determined, a series of lawsuits resulted. Providers of laser hair removal finally changed their marketing strategy to a more modest “hair-management” theme.

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