Am I Being Scammed? First Laser Hair Removal Treatment

I went for my first laser hair removal treatment. I have never had treatments before. The machine was a Cutera Nd:Yag. I am olive skin and have course dark hair. I was getting the "brazilian" area done. I expected the treatment to be painful. It was minimal discomfort. I am now wondering if the settings were too low. I have a high pain tolerance but I am afraid of being scammed. When I looked at the machine the screen said: 30 30 20. What does that mean and should I ask for higher settings?

Doctor Answers 8

Laser hair removal

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Choosing someone for laser hair removal is a confusing process for someone to go through.  My recommendation is always to make sure you go to a place where the board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon either performs all the procedures her/himself or allows her nurse to perform the procedure ONLY after they see you before each treatment.  This is the only way to make sure you are getting the best laser for your skin.  I also recommend choosing a doctor who does NOT ask you to pay for all treatments up front, but allows you to pay for each treatment as you go.  These are generally the most trusted people.  The Nd Yag laser is most often used for darker skinned individuals, those who are Hispanic or darker skinned.

Rockville Dermatologic Surgeon

It could be normal

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The discomfort level during the treatment depends on the type of laser used and how dark your skin is. Laser settings should be adjusted based on how coarse the hair is and how many treatments you've done in the past. With dark skin chances of side effects are higher and we need to be careful when treating sensitive areas, such as bikini for example. You cannot request a stronger treatment- the technician should use their judgment when choosing the energy. As long as you go a board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist, you won’t have to worry about the effectiveness of the laser and you should get good results.

LASER hair removal

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Laser hair removal is a procedure which requires multiple sessions, irregardless of technology.  Typically on olive skin, it is better to start with a lower setting than higher setting and work your way up.  An experienced team and technician can help deliver a safe and effective results and will work with settings tailored to you.

Anil R. Shah, MD
Chicago Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 177 reviews

Laser Hair Removal for olive tone skin

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You are lucky that the person doing the laser hair removal was cautious indeed.  I have seen many olive skinned patients who had side effects over the years from laser hair removal.  After the treatment how did your skin seem? The doctor can always go up with the next session depending on your reaction.  It is much better to be cautious than over-zealous and get burned from the laser.  Always go to a board certified dermatologist for your procedures including laser hair removal for the best and safest results.

Laser hair removal for olive skin tone

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You are fortunate that the technician is being cautious.  Too high a setting could result in pigmentation and scarring.  The technician will evaluate your treatment at your next session and will determine if the settings can be raised.  Since you have an olive complexion, you will require several treatments.  If you are not seeing any progress after 2 or 3 treatments, discuss options with the technician. 

Martie Gidon, MD, FRCPC
Toronto Dermatologist

Settings for Laser Hair Removal

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Hi Amy.  The settings for laser hair removal are not as important as the way the skin looks (tissue reaction).  The procedure should involve some discomfort (even if you have a high pain tolerance) and cause follicular edema (redness) and ant bite marks (small bumps around the hair follicles).  

The settings, assuming one of them is for fluence (joules per centimeter squared) would be low for our Yag laser.  We usually start in the 45 - 55 range with a 30 pulse width.  

But instead of looking at settings, we would be searching for a practitioner with an alexandrite or diode laser, NOT the Yag.  You will get better results.  You may not be getting scammed, but there are better options for you in terms of the technology.

Harold J. Kaplan, MD
Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Laser Hair Removal

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On darker skin, it is always better to start with lower energy and then increase slowly with subsequent sessions.   I would rather start too low than start too high and cause a laser burn.   If you have concerns, you should ask the laser operator how much experience she has in performing laser hair removal on your skin type.  How long has the laser clinic been in business?  

Richard Ort, MD
Lone Tree Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Laser hair removal with darker skin may be tricky

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You are not being scammed. The problem with laser hair removal on darker skin is that the brown pigment in the skin will absorb the laser light energy as well as the pigment in the hair follicle. To prevent too much energy being absorbed by the skin- and potential blistering , scarring and pigment changes there are a number of adjustments that need to made in order to keep the treatment safe. Using a long wavelength(1064 nm ) is one of those adjustments, using a conservative setting to begin treatment is another. It requires skill on the part of the operator to find the best setting. My advise is to cautiously increase the parameters over several treatment sessions, knowing it may take more than average number of sessions, but that the treatment is being done safely.

Richard Fitzpatrick, MD (in memoriam)
San Diego Dermatologic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.