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Scarred by the Beam: Unveiling the Alarming Surge in Laser Treatment Scarring

July 31, 2023

Both in Australia and the US several reports are confirming the rising incidence of scarring due to laser burns, particularly in hair reduction procedures. 

In our ongoing pursuit for regulations, APAN was approached by ARPANSA confirming that currently, a study is being conducted through Monash University. 

A Ph.D. qualification has been undertaken to investigate injuries that have resulted from laser or IPL technologies as well as the causes, nature, and extent of these injuries on which national regulations will be based. 

The study has been undertaken by Zoe Thomas, Ph.D. candidate, and is overseen by Monash University Accident Research Centre.

We are pleased to report that the scope of this study is very robust and is extending also to injuries in body shaping, as well as tattoo removal through laser. 

Many of the injuries that we are seeing are quite different from past cases, with the incidences of folliculitis becoming more prominent, especially since COVID.

If you review the image below you will identify that the presented injury is not a burn, but folliculitis. On the left leg, you will also identify scratches due to irritation.

On a closer look at the consultation form, the client had indicated that they regularly experience Herpes, this clearly indicates that they have a predisposition towards the virus pointing to an immune system deficiency. 

While the client has previously had hair removal treatments without incident, this was the first time that they experienced a reaction. 

While the top part of her legs did not experience burns, the lower leg, clearly showed evidence of burns. This indicates that the practitioner did not test the Fitzpatrick skin type for specific areas throughout the full leg. 

  • As we know, the Fitzpatrick reading can substantially vary from one part of the leg or body to another, depending on the level of sun exposure.
  • An upper leg that may be covered with clothing will have a different reading than the lower leg, which may have consistent sun exposure. 
  • Please also note that as the upper leg is fleshier it will carry less risk of burning, whereas the bottom leg which does not have the same level of muscle and tissue tensity, will be prone to burning more readily.

To avoid such incidents three considerations much be carefully reviewed

  • A careful examination of the client’s health and medication status.
  • Accurate Fitzpatrick skin type assessment at various locations of the area to be treated.
  • A careful determination of correct settings that take into consideration of all the risk factors.

While these complications are mainly inflicted by inexperienced providers, medical practitioners are now in a position where they must remedy these complications and educate their patients on how to avoid permanent laser-inflicted scarring – especially hypopigmented scarring.

It is important to note that especially with darker skin types, burns can leave permanent scarring, especially in incidences of a compromised immune system or in the presence of high inflammation, which is quite common with COVID long haulers.

Over 1500 studies now confirm over 100 persistent skin manifestations post-COVID have been identified, with the potential to recur. 

The studies now confirm the causative reasons are attributed to three key factors

  • High levels of inflammation
  • Unstable immune system
  • A tendency towards clots

While some of these incidences are also due to insufficient training, there is now a strong need for the consultation process to be updated, with a stronger emphasis on the investigation of underlying physiological deficiencies that can increase the risks of adverse reactions.

APAN’s COVID MANIFESTIONS AND SOLUTIONS Document can provide you with detailed information that is evidence-based to help you gain a thorough understanding of both causes, manifestations, and solutions. 

You can access this 60-page document here As the world emerges from the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses must navigate a transformed landscape.

To guide practitioners and business owners in this new era, we present this position statement, focusing on seizing opportunities and fostering resilience to thrive after COVID-19. Embracing innovation and adaptability, we seek to empower businesses to grow and flourish in a post-pandemic world.

Alternatively, join APAN as a member and access the document for FREE.

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