The sun powers most of the processes of life on our planet and water is the key medium for the existence of life. It is perhaps unsurprising that light has a central role in the health and wellbeing of humans. Over millennia, mankind has explored therapeutic uses of light culminating in Nobel Prize winner Niels Finsen recommending the use of red light to treat smallpox in 1893, thus establishing the practice of scientific phototherapy.
In the past five years since their US introduction, there has been a rapid proliferation of energy-based hair removal devices intended for home-use. In the last two years in Europe, sales have already run into many tens of thousands of units with well-known multi-national companies entering the market.
By definition, cosmetic use of energy-based therapy by consumers is primarily directed at the skin surface where unwanted body and facial hair, acneiform eruptions, age-related wrinkles, sun and wind damage as well as topographic changes to the skin caused by skin dimpling and excess fat deposits arise. The high demand for hair removal amongst darker skin types demands a careful evaluation of the risks associated with light therapy in skin with high levels of melanin and the uncontrolled nature of the consumer market also requires a precise assessment of ocular and dermal hazards associated with the application of home-use devices.
Cosmetic applications for energy-based home-use treatments include:
• Unwanted facial and body hair removal / management
• Hair stimulation for consumers suffering with alopecia
• Facial lines and wrinkles
• Pigmented skin dischromia
• Pimples and skin blemishes associated with acne
• Cellulite (peau d’orange skin)
• Cold sore treatment
• Scar reduction
• Fat reduction
HUD manufacturers and medical professionals are dedicated to ensuring the marketing of safe and effective at home energy-based devices.
This is a new, emerging category that has so far attracted big names like: Philips (Lumea: hair removal and ReAura: skin rejuvenation), Boots (Boots SmoothSkin: hair removal) - "the most trusted name on the high street", Remington (i-Light: hair removal), P&G (Braun Gillette Venus Naked Skin: hair removal). The world's largest FMCG companies would not have entered this category if they did not believe that the products were safe AND efficacious.
There are already more than 20 scientific and clinical research papers on home-use hair removal efficacy and safety published in recognized, international, peer-reviewed journals. Admittedly, the list is lacking large scale, blinded, controlled studies but this is only the beginning and there are already many controlled studies available supporting the efficacy and safety of similar technology professional devices.
Lasers and intense pulsed light (IPL) for cosmetic hair removal and skin treatments entered the market in the USA and Europe in 1990 and 1995 respectively. Since then, hundreds of clinical papers published in peer-reviewed journals have attested to the continuing and growing efficacy of these professional devices. Salon and medical centre cosmetic lasers and IPLs are the same professional devices.
Low Level Laser Therapy ("LLLT" or "Bio-modulation") uses near infrared wavelengths at low, milliwatt energy levels that have been shown in numerous studies to stimulate cellular activity and encourage new follicles to grow (this is also achieved pharmacologically with drugs like Minoxidil®). These specific laser wavelengths are less well absorbed by melanin in the hair shaft and at such low energy levels and even with long exposure times do not generate sufficient heat to damage the hair follicle or nearby regrowth stem cells, whereas home-use hair removal lasers and IPLs deliver comparatively high energy in short, discreet millisecond pulses. These short peaks of high energy cause rapid, selective heating of the hair follicles and it is this heat that induces the telogen or 'resting' phase in the hair cycle and disrupts the hair regrowth mechanism itself.
No, Low Level Laser Therapy (or "Bio-modulation") uses COLD laser light, it does NOT heat the tissue or hair follicle to stimulate hair growth. The laser effect is at a cellular level in up-regulating certain cell processes and down-regulating others to generate new growth of hair.
Except for people purchasing devices through internet sites from outside Europe, all light-based devices sold in Europe have to comply with basic standards and EC GPSD/MDD regulations (see slide 23 - General Compliance Standards).
Softened features or loss of male facial masculine dynamics can come with complete removal of the adult male beard, not with fat lipolysis. Fat and cellulite treatments all go hand-in-hand with diet and exercise so there should be no associated 'softening' effect.
Advantages of professionally-delivered treatments over home-use self-treatments include: faster treatments (bigger spot sizes and faster repetition rates) - particularly important when treating large areas like (inaccessible) backs and chests, the ability to treat darker skin types safely (operator skill and judgment and greater device parameter flexibility). Many salon devices are multi-functional 'platforms' with a range of laser wavelengths and delivery systems to provide different treatments in the hands of trained experts. Home-use devices have to be simple and are usually single application with limits on treating darker skin tones.
Hair removal is overall the biggest segment, with some ethnic groups with exceptionally heavy demand (Mediterranean, Hispanic, Middle East and South Asian).
Lighter skin types suffer more from facial skin wrinkling and skin ageing (e.g. crows feet) than darker skin types where the higher melanin content protects the skin better from sun damage. Darker skin types suffer more from pigmentation problems - so there are different potential growth areas according to ethnic and cultural predisposition.
Intense Light (IPL = Intense Pulsed Light) relies on diffuse, divergent white light from a flash lamp (usually a Xenon lamp) which is reflected in a single direction and FILTERED to provide a range of useful wavelengths then delivered through a transparent glass block to the skin surface. However, it can't be focused. A LASER produces a single wavelength, parallel light that is coherent (i.e. where all the peaks and troughs of the waves of light are aligned or 'synchronous') and it can be focused to a very small spot.