Laser/IPL Suppliers Use De-regulation Over Patient Safety

Lorna Jackson
By Lorna Jackson

Lorna was Editor of Consulting Room (, the UK's largest aesthetic information website, from 2003 to 2021.

I recently saw an advert from an Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) manufacturer (who will remain nameless) which was targeted through an industry publication aimed at beauty professionals. It highlighted that clinics and salons can now offer “[Brand Name] IPL hair removal without the red tape of regulation”.

The advert sent to Professional Beauty’s email mailing list used the opener;

From 1st October 2010 the regulation of IPL technology by the Care Quality Commission will change.  Beauty salons and other cosmetic establishments will NOT have to be registered under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 for use of IPL technology for hair removal.”

Although this statement in relation to regulation in most parts of England is entirely true, and therefore legal; it fails to mention (and thus could be argued to be misleading) that some London boroughs are planning to trial local authority regulation* and that Wales is not affected as regulation remains the same.

In fact a statement on the Healthcare Inspectorate for Wales website says;

From October 2010, the regulation of Class 3B or 4 Lasers and IPLs for a non-surgical cosmetic purpose, will no longer be regulated under the Care Standards Act 2000 in England but the changes in England will not apply to Wales. Anyone in Wales who is thinking of providing cosmetic treatments using a Laser or IPL system, must be registered by HIW before they commence any treatments or they will be operating outside of the law.”

Therefore, is this really an ethical method of advertising?

The Independent Healthcare Advisory Services don’t think so and have raised the issue of inappropriate advertising by Laser & IPL suppliers with the Department of Health and the Welsh Assembly Government.

Surely there’s also an argument that says this sales tactic will just draw in less reputable, less patient safety conscious individuals who were put off by compliance with previous regulation, but the lure of the potential profits that they can make with regulation out of the picture is just too good an opportunity to miss. By targeting sales advertising directly towards this sector you simply encourage and condone this business model yet further.

It is true however, that companies have to adapt to the marketplace that they find themselves in so can we really blame them. Would the general public be better off if UK companies ‘did what they had to do’ to sell devices to the lower end of the market who are keen to jump on the “no-red tape, easy money” bandwagon before there is a flood of cheap, dangerous devices being imported in from China with no idea of their safety and entrepreneurs who simply don’t care.

One clinic owner we spoke to said of the advert;

This is the top-end of the beauty sector – it can go much, much lower - and I would rather see people with [this machine] than something from the ‘Beijing Winkon Laser Corporation’ for example.”

In a world where competition is everything, it is likely that all industry suppliers will be somewhat forced to come up with something similar to draw in sales and ultimately stay competitive. We spoke to another UK manufacturer of laser and IPL devices for their opinion on this advertising strategy.

Dr. Andrew Berry, Technical & HR Director at Lynton Lasers said;

It is still possible to point to the fact that registration is no longer necessary, just to get a sale, whilst at the same time continuing to advocate good practice. I don't know whether this company will be doing this (maybe not), but we will. We have no intention of stopping all the training we provide, we will still supply treatment protocols, we will still recommend all the laser/IPL safety and controlled area procedures that an LPA checks for. We will do this because we are reasonable people who don't want other people to get hurt because of us, but also because it is good for business in the longer term.”

Many within the industry have been opposed to the changes in regulation which leave the field open to non-healthcare professionals to wield laser/IPL devices and potentially harm the public without stringent controls. Until someone gets badly burnt and the law is re-evaluated, both clinics and suppliers just have to get on with meeting their bottom line, ethically or otherwise!

* A meeting held this week to discuss the deregulation of certain laser and intense light treatments from October 2010 announced that:

"The Independent Healthcare Advisory Services (IHAS), Association of Laser Protection and Healthcare Advisors (ALPHA), Local Government Regulation (LG Regulation, previously LACORS) and the Hairdressing and Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA) have formed a working group, in association with the Department of Health and Health Protection Agency to develop an industry accreditation scheme to establish essential standards for the laser and intense lights cosmetic industry.

The scheme will ensure that the capacity to provide comprehensive information about lasers and intense light treatments and accredited providers remains available to Councils and the public. IHAS/ALPHA/ LG Regulation/Habia are in discussions to establish a pilot scheme with the London Local Authorities using their regulatory framework under the Health and Safety at Work Act., 1974 and London Special Treatments Licensing in conjunction with the standards."

Rethinking Medical Aesthetics

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