Laser hair removal comes with risks, UAE doctors warn

If the treatment is not administered properly the consequences could include burns, blotches on the skin or bacterial infections, doctors say.

Dr Zbigniew Ruszczak, head of dermatology at Al Noor Hospital in Abu Dhabi. DELORES JOHNSON / The National
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ABU DHABI // Doctors have urged caution about laser hair removal, saying there can be harmful side effects from the treatment.

They say if it is not administered properly, the consequences could include burns, blotches on the skin or bacterial infections.

Dr Zbigniew Ruszczak, head of dermatology at Al Noor Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said he had dealt with many patients who had suffered complications from laser treatment.

“In most of the places, there is not enough time taken by the doctor to tell the patient what is the best treatment for them. The doctor has to check if the laser treatment is doable or sufficient.”

During laser hair removal, a high energy light is used, which is thought to have a similar effect on the skin to long-term exposure to the Sun.

“Darker skin is tricky as it is prone to pigmentation,” said Dr Ruszczak.

“The person might develop dark or light spots after treatment and it is difficult to predict how the skin might react.”

He also warned that some laser treatment could aggravate skin conditions such as bacterial infection.

“Many patients have acne on their face and they want to get the hair on their face removed through laser treatment,” said Dr Ruszczak.

“Sometimes, they are already on medication, but do not inform the doctor. This may increase the side effects. If they are taking specific antibiotics, they should tell the doctor.”

Kaya Skin Clinic is one of many companies in the UAE that offers laser hair removal.

Dr Marian Coutinho, a dermatologist for the company, said it was crucial that the right kind of laser was selected.

“The kind of laser is determined by the skin type,” she said. “It is mandatory that our clients sign a consent form. Sometimes people come back with problems such as discolouration of skin, or the hair that grows back is too thick, or there can be boils or inflammation of hair follicles.”

She urged people choose a centre that employed a doctor, not just a technician.

She said if a person has skin conditions such as eczema or vitiligo, or is pregnant or lactating, then they should avoid the treatment.

A woman who found out the hard way of the dangers of laser hair removal was W A, 30, from Sudan, a marketing executive in Dubai.

She said she was never asked to sign a consent form of any kind, nor was she warned of any side effects.

“The biggest problem was the burn marks that took a while to heal, and my skin peeled which was painful and not aesthetically pleasing.”

She eventually went to another clinic, which managed to remove the hairs safely.

Health Authority Abu Dhabi’s rules state that healthcare professionals must make a complete assessment before and after treatment. The patient must also sign a consent form.