Why A Patch Test Is So Important

31 May

There’s a scary trend happening in the hair removal world. It seems almost as if we have forgotten that there are potential risks in having laser hair removal done. Many clinics and technicians have gotten to a comfort level where they have actually stopped doing a patch test before a laser hair removal treatment. Now you may think to yourself “That’s great! It saves me a trip to the clinic.” You may also feel that since you have had laser hair removal done in the past that you don’t really need a patch test. Let me explain to you why a patch test is so very important.

Laser hair removal is quite safe, but nothing is without risk. Not to mention that laser hair removal is not nearly as regulated as we think it is. In Canada, any person, regardless of experience or education, can buy a laser hair removal machine, receive training from the manufacturer and go straight to work. Now yes, if they are opening their own business there are steps they need to take, but they are fully capable of working out of an existing business. In case that isn’t reason enough to get a patch test, here are two more.

The first reason you should always get a patch test is safety. Even if you have had laser hair removal in the past, all machines are different. Even the same type of machine may have a slightly different calibration or may be a different version and thus the output is different. Your skin may not have reacted to one machine, but that doesn’t mean it won’t react to another. What do I mean by reaction? I mean burn. I have had it happen to me and I have seen it first hand. It’s very unlikely that it’s going to happen, but so is a car accident and you still wear a seatbelt. It is always best to protect yourself. Burns from laser hair removal can be minor but they can also be very deep and result in PERMANENT scarring.

I can already hear someone interrupting and saying that the technician watches for burns as the treatment is being administered. When I was burned it did not show up until the next day and it certainly scabbed. Thankfully it did not scar.

When a patch test is NOT done, to limit the possibility of burning, a technician will use a lower output from the laser resulting in a less effective treatments and possibly the need for more treatments. A patch test ensures that you get a higher level of laser while still being protected; it’s almost like skipping ahead several treatments. Think of it this way: generally a patch test uses three different settings of laser, from lowest to highest to determine which levels your body can withstand. Without this patch test you are starting at a lower, safer level, but had you had the patch test you could have started your treatments at a  level as long as you demonstrated no reaction. This means that you are very likely to get results faster.

Many clinics have sold deals on daily deal sites for extreme discounts, resulting in a drastic increase in clients that often the clinic is not able to handle. Their solution can often be to cut corners. Patch tests are being forgone, as is attention to detail. What do we do to protect ourselves? Ask for a patch test, any professional technician should be happy to oblige, without charge. Make sure that the technician is writing down the results and keeping them in your file. Don’t be afraid to ask about your technician. Ask about their training and their experience. I have had some very skilled technicians who have not been to school but have the experience to compensate. When in doubt, go with your gut. If your technician makes you uncomfortable don’t let them treat you. Politely excuse yourself and explain that you have changed your mind. Always inform management of your experience, the feedback helps them improve their service.

I think that in general laser hair removal is great, but that we have forgotten that it is in fact a laser. A laser that’s only purpose is to damage tissue (your hair.) We need to make sure that we treat it as so and that we are protected and safe. With a quick patch test we can limit the possibility of injury and increase the effectiveness of the treatment. Kind of seems like a no brainer.

For information on the safety of cosmetic laser treatments you can always consult Health Canada.


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