Posted: 23 Oct 2009 03:26 PM PDT
Want to get rid of some unsightly hair, but don't want to spend the big bucks for electrolysis or a laser clinic? Now, you can buy your own laser and do it yourself.
And people are.
The growth of the at-home cosmetic-device market, which includes personal lasers, has some professionals buzzing. At an annual conference hosted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Barry DiBernardo, a New Jersey surgeon, delivered a talk in Seattle about the pros and cons of the DIY market on the ASPS's "Hot Topics" panel.
"We have to make sure that the patients are getting good, safe treatments. If they are getting good, safe treatments, then whether they are doing it at home or not, I'm not as worried," DiBernardo told Wired.com by phone. "What I'm worried about is that they are seeing things in the Skymall on the airplane and spending hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars on something that is not going to work or is unproven."
New cosmetic medical devices including DIY lasers are expected to explode into a $1.3 billion market 2013, up from just $296 million in 2008, according to the analyst group Medical Insights. The growth in the market appears to be coming from light-based products that claim to either remove or grow hair on the human body. The Silk'n Hair was the first at-home laser device to be approved by the FDA, in 2006, although it didn't come on the market until early 2008.
The laser hair removers damage the hair follicles that are in their growth phase, generally leading to some permanent reductions of body hair. DiBernardo questioned whether the lasers used in the home devices were powerful enough to get the kind of results that clinics achieve.
"In general, these devices are low-powered versions of the doctor versions. We've been doing hair removal since 1998, so we know that they work and how well they do," he said. "I think these home devices have some effect, but they legally can't have the power of what we fire at people."
He thought, perhaps, the devices would find their places as secondary hair-removal techniques or in conjunction with traditional hair-removal treatments.
Proving one man's trash is another's treasure, the wonderfully named, HairMax LaserComb, is an FDA-cleared medical device that claims to regrow hair (on the head).
Other cosmetic procedures appear to be taking place at home, despite dubious legality. One website, discountmedspa.com purports to sell its clients Botox, which is a prescription drug, over the internet. Wired Science was able to proceed through the order form on the website up to the method-of-payment details without being asked for a prescription.
A YouTube video linked from the site shows a woman calling herself Laurie filming her own injections.
"I'm not aware of that," DiBernardo said of home-administered Botox. "You need to know where the muscles are, the depth, the dosage. That doesn't seem good."
On the website's blog, a writer called Botox Queen explained how the site is able to offer a prescription product. "Laurie belongs to the Texas Medical Council and is licensed to sell these products to the women that want to use them and understand that it is their responsibility to use them safely," she wrote.
Melanotan, a tanning drug, has been sold on similar websites, although the FDA has brought them under increasing scrutiny.
Image: Gillette Silk'n.
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