How to choose a laser clinic in our current unregulated market.

Posted on the 24 October 2014 at 14:25

Deciding you would like to have a cosmetic procedure done is the easy part. After all, most of us are quite clear and confident as to what we would change if only we had a magic wand. But how confident would you be at choosing a cosmetic clinic?

Those of us wanting cosmetic surgery have certain safeguards in place, namely that surgeons need to be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) and the clinic itself needs to be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Non-surgical procedures however, like cosmetic laser treatments and injectables (i.e. Botox and dermal fillers) are currently unregulated meaning it’s down to you to do your homework.

So how do you go about choosing a clinic?

There are many things to consider when choosing a cosmetic clinic. You only have to put this question to Google and everything and anything from location to price pops up as being one of the key things to consider. And whilst I agree there may be 7 of even 10 points to take into consideration when choosing where to have an aesthetic treatment, for me, it comes down to 2 simple things: training and equipment.

Training and qualifications:
In our current unregulated market, training is the single most important point to consider when doing your homework. As a laser trainer and laser clinic owner I never cease to be amazed at the lack of expertise and training in our field. In Bournemouth alone beauty clinics and hairdressers all seem to be taking advantage of this period of deregulation by offering cheap laser treatments when they have little or no qualifications to do so. Checking on qualifications therefore is of the utmost importance.

So, what qualifications are required in order to perform a laser treatment? Currently, none. The following however was the minimum requirement when laser clinics were regulated by the CQC.

- Core of Knowledge (COK)
- Manufacturer training

Even under CQC regulation their requirements for training were minimal. The problem with only having a COK certificate (a one day course on the principles of laser and light – nothing to do with actual laser treatments), is that the only training received then falls on that given by the equipment manufacturer. And let’s face it, with a market flooded with cheap and nasty pieces of kit, the ‘training’ they provide is inadequate to say the least. Medical grade lasers however, generally come with good manufacturer training.  To be really sure however, that your laser technician has the best possible laser qualifications, always choose a clinic which insists on staff obtaining a nationally recognised qualification in addition to manufacturer training. At my laser clinic in Bournemouth we use only medical grade lasers and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) systems and the training from Lynton Lasers happens to be fantastic. In addition, I insist on staff obtaining the BTEC Laser & Light Award which takes up to a year to complete and has both written exams and practical assessments. Beware of laser clinics stating that you will be ‘treated by a doctor or a nurse’. Medical qualifications are all very well, but they are not laser qualifications. Being a doctor or a nurse does not automatically make you a laser expert. It’s the laser qualifications and experience that counts, not the fact you went to medical school. 

Equipment:
Once you’re satisfied with the qualifications that your practitioner holds, it’s time to turn your attention to the equipment being used. There is no point having an extremely well qualified laser technician if the equipment they are using is sub-standard.

In the laser world, size matters. Bigger is generally better. Cheap IPLs like the ones being bought in from China are generally small and sit on a beauty trolley. That said, many of the cheap lasers being imported from China are being built with bigger plastic casing, generally filled with air, and not the medical grade technical equipment it would have you believe it to be.

Always ask where your laser has been manufactured. Is there a service contract in place to maintain it? If they claim it is ‘medical grade’, ask which hospitals currently use their equipment. Are they currently insured to use the equipment? How many different lasers and IPLs do they operate? Are they able to offer you a choice of equipment depending on your hair and skin type and the application it’s being used for? Can they explain why one laser type would be better for you over another? A competent and knowledgeable clinic will be able to answer questions like these on the spot. 

Lastly, make the time to have 2 or 3 consultations at different clinics. Most clinics offer a free consultation and will be only too happy to answer all your questions. Listen to your instincts. If like me you get a gut feeling about things, having 2 or 3 consultations, armed with the right questions should put your mind at ease and make choosing a clinic very easy.

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