Since 2016, Australian's annual spend on non-invasive cosmetic procedures has consistently topped the $1 billion mark, and now outpacing countries like the United States per capita.

These practices include hair reduction, vascular and pigment treatments, tattoo removal, laser procedures and low-level light therapy.

With such high prevalence of treatments, the Cosmetic Physicians College of Australia (CPCA) is lobbying for national laser regulations after growing reports of malpractice among unqualified therapists resulting in patient disfiguration.

From serious facial burns, to painful and bloodied wounds, it's important that practitioners know to how to use their tools.

Good training and an understanding of skin science in dermal therapy is crucial so that practitioners can provide the best care and service in this booming industry.

Here are three ways things can go wrong in cosmetic laser treatments, and how they can be avoided.

 Student using laser technology for skin treatment.

1. Not fully understanding tissue interactions of laser and light-based technologies

Safe and effective treatments rely on the clinician understanding how to use the laser or light-based device on people with different skin colour, skin qualities and healing abilities.

Understanding how laser and light-based technologies work and create change in the skin is vital, as is being able to recognise when the treatment has achieved the desired endpoints and how to adapt if required.

This requires holistically assessing other factors that may affect the skin and use of these technologies, such as medical conditions, medications and lifestyle factors.

2. Choosing the wrong laser or intense light source for particular skin and hair types

Laser and light based procedures use wavelengths of light that are attracted to molecules within the skin (chromophores). These chromophores absorb energy to cause the desired biological response.

In order to achieve the desired response the clinician needs to be able to assess the skin & hair as well as any competing chromophores in the area to be treated to avoid complications and side-effects. 

Choosing the incorrect wavelength (device) or mode of delivery can result in severe adverse effects like burns and bleeding.

 Students using laser technology.

Choosing the incorrect wavelength (device) or mode of delivery can result in severe adverse effects like burns and bleeding.

3. Relying on pre-set settings in device or treatment guides

A one-size-fits-all approach might seem like a safe and easy approach, but when it comes to skin treatments, that isn’t the case.

Preset parameters on laser and light-based devices are useful as a guide. But in order to achieve best treatment results clinicians need to manipulate individual parameters to suit the structure and colour of the skin, and the characteristics of the target area.

Understanding which parameters correlate with which features of the skin allows clinicians to adjust parameters to ensure the right treatment is being given.

And understanding how to really get the most out of your devices, and use it in different ways for different clients, also ensures that your investment in a laser device is working best for you as well.

 Students using laser technology.

Understanding which parameters correlate with which features of the skin allows clinicians to adjust parameters to ensure the right treatment is being given.

Get the skills to be at the top of your game

Education and training are crucial to ensure practitioners can avoid causing serious injury to a client.

At VU, you can learn the science behind skin and its treatments with the six-month Undergraduate Certificate in Laser Safety.

A laser-safety certificate is required to use laser and other light-based devices in a beauty salon or clinical setting. This course will help you upskill and stay on top of the latest industry practices, with a recognised qualification.

Industry pathway opportunities

The Undergraduate Certificate in Laser Safety is particularly suited to someone with a Diploma of Beauty Therapy (SHB50115), a Diploma of Nursing (HLT54115) or Bachelor of Nursing, or other health-sciences background working in this area.

Once you've successfully completed this certificate, you will also be able to transition into the Bachelor of Dermal Sciences and gain credits for the four units completed.