Many are tossing out their razors and shaving cream in favor of a quicker, more long-lasting method of hair removal—laser hair removal. While shaving, waxing, and even hair removal cream methods need to be repeated every few weeks, laser hair removal is meant to be semi-permanent, allowing your clients to enjoy clean, hairless skin for months in between visits to the salon.
Adding laser hair removal services to your esthetician toolkit is a great way to complement your current esthetician offerings and boost your revenue. But this is not a service that should be entered into lightly, as there is a host of factors to consider:
- Does laser hair removal fall under the scope of my state esthetician license?
- Do I need additional training in laser hair removal?
- Do I need to hold state licensure as a laser technician?
- Should I earn national certification in laser hair removal?
If you are considering offering this service, the first thing you need to know is that laser hair removal does not fall within the scope of practice of a conventional esthetician’s license, with the exception of a few states – Washington, Virginia, and Utah – which allow master estheticians to perform the service since laser therapy training is integrated into the advanced courses required for this level of licensure.
The second thing you will soon find is that state standards detailing the requirements necessary to perform laser hair removal are anything but consistent. This means that you must turn to your state regulatory agency to get the scoop on what steps you must take before you can begin offering laser hair removal services to your clients.
Laser Hair Removal State Licensing Laws
Laser hair removal took the beauty industry by storm in the 1990s. During these initial years, regulation was non-existent and training was limited to a few hours with a laser removal machine distributor or manufacturer. As a result, anyone with the money to purchase a laser hair removal device was performing this service. As a result, things like burns, scarring, and unhappy clients were all too commonplace.
In the years since, technology has changed and many state regulations have emerged. Although state laws, statutes, and regulations have helped improve the quality and safety of hair removal treatments while increasing consumer confidence, there remains a great deal of misinformation because federal regulations are still not in place for laser hair removal devices and the people that operate them.
In 2005, Arizona became the first state to enact laws regarding laser hair removal treatments. The Arizona Radiation Regulatory Association ruled that cosmetic laser technicians must complete a program that includes 40 classroom hours, 24 hours of clinical practice in laser hair removal, and an additional 24 hours of clinical practice in other light-based treatment modalities.
Other states soon followed. For example, Texas enacted the Laser Hair Removal Statute in 2010, which required certification as a laser hair removal technician. Certification is dependent upon the completion of at least 40 hours of training and at least 100 cosmetic laser procedures.
Some states, like Georgia, have stricter laws in place. According to the Georgia Cosmetic Laser Services Act, which was enacted in 2007, only estheticians or master cosmetologists are eligible to earn certification as either an assistant or senior laser practitioner, both of which require mandatory hours of training in laser hair removal.
To date, a smaller number of states, including California and New Jersey, prohibit estheticians or other beauty professionals from performing laser hair removal. Instead, the practice is limited to medical professionals, including doctors, physician’s assistants, and nurses.
Still other states like New York and Virginia have no formal law in place regarding the operation of lasers for hair removal services.
Even given the muddy waters of laser hair removal state laws, ignorance is never an excuse for practicing outside the scope of the law. Therefore, you are always well served by contacting your appropriate state regulatory agency (usually the state medical board).
Laser Hair Removal Training Courses and National Certification Options
Regardless of whether you live in a state that requires mandatory training to perform hair removal services, proper training and education is essential for protecting the health and welfare of your clients and producing professional results.
A formal laser hair removal program covers:
- Physics of cosmetic laser technology
- Proper eyewear and protective equipment
- Laser safety officer training
- Types of laser wavelengths and their settings based on the Fitzpatrick Scale
- Pre- and post-care procedures
- Care and maintenance of laser machines
- Client assessment to determine if skin type is appropriate for laser hair removal
Among those states that require a formal course of training, two weeks of combined classroom study and hands-on training at an accredited facility is the industry standard. Again, it is important to refer to your specific state’s requirements regarding acceptable length and type of laser hair removal program.
Keep in mind that a certificate of completion from a national laser school does not necessarily mean you are authorized through your state’s licensing board to perform laser hair removal treatments. In many states, you must apply for and receive a laser technician state license, which also involves taking and passing the NIC National Electrology written and practical examinations.
National Certification in Laser Hair Removal
Holding the appropriate credentials is important, as it indicates to your clients that you have received the training necessary to effectively and safely perform laser hair removal services and that you are practicing within the scope of state law.
But in some instances, you may find that going beyond the state’s minimum requirements by earning a national credential provides your clients with an added measure of assurance in your laser hair removal skills. Earning national certification is also the ideal pursuit if you reside in a state without clear laws and regulations regarding laser hair removal services.
The leading credential in laser hair removal is the Certified Professional Electrologist (CPE), offered by the American Electrology Association (AEA). Earning this designation signifies that you are committed to the profession and to continuing education. To earn the CPE designation, you must take and pass the CPE exam, administered annually at the AEA’s annual convention.
The Society for Clinical and Hair Removal also offers four national certifications, all of which are earned by passing an examination:
- Certified Clinical Electrologist
- Certified Medical Electrologist
- Certified Laser Hair Removal Professional
- Certified Pulse Light Hair Removal Professional
How Laser Hair Removal Works
Laser hair removal (LHR) uses a beam of light to damage the hair follicle during the growth phase to prevent it from growing any further. Although the removal is not permanent on the first application, over time the continued application of the laser may stop the hair’s growth completely.
One of the most important benefits of laser hair removal is that it allows your clients to avoid the time-consuming process of daily shaving, plucking, or even the weekly or bi-weekly process of waxing.
It’s important to educate clients that the hair removal process may vary among individuals. For some individuals, laser hair removal may be permanent after only a few treatments, while for others it may take a longer period of time.
You’ll usually need to conduct anywhere from five to seven treatments on the desired area in order to remove the hair. Clients may expect to walk out of the salon with smooth, hairless legs—however, because the laser stunts the growth of the follicle by heating it to an extremely high temperature, it can take up to three weeks to lose the hair after a treatment. By educating your client prior to the treatment and talking through the process, you can ensure that they know what to expect and are confident that you understand the process of laser hair removal.
Performing Laser Hair Removal
Before performing laser hair removal, it’s best to have a consultation with your client. What are they expecting out of laser hair removal? What hair removal methods do they currently use? Do they have a history of sensitive skin?
You should suggest that your clients prepare their skin by avoiding harsh hair removal procedures for the week leading up to the laser hair removal—this includes sugaring and waxing. Hair removal procedures can leave the skin sensitive, which will make the laser hair removal procedure more painful than it needs to be. Suggesting that your clients avoid prolonged sun exposure is also beneficial for the treatment, because you’ll need to select an appropriate laser based on your client’s natural skin color. However, unlike the process of sugaring or waxing, you won’t need your clients to have hair of a certain length in the area—they can shave before coming in.
To remove the hair, you’ll select the appropriate laser and prep your client’s skin with ultrasound gel. The amount of melanin in your client’s skin will help you determine which laser to use. You might use an alexandrite laser on lighter skinned patients and an aluminum garnet laser on darker skinned patients.
Then you’ll direct the laser at the desired area and move it quickly over the area. Ideally, the laser will be absorbed by the hair follicle and reflected by the skin as you move the laser over the area. This will stunt the hair follicle’s growth, provided that it is in the growth phase. By providing several treatments over the span of weeks or months, you’ll catch each follicle in the growth phase and provide the best results.
Depending on the area that you’re treating, laser hair removal procedures can take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours.
Ensuring the Safety of Your Clients
Because laser hair removal is a relatively new method, your clients may need assurance that the procedure will be completed safely and that their skin won’t suffer damage or high levels of pain.
The process requires finesse, because rather than applying the laser to individual hairs, the laser is applied over the entire area of skin where the hair needs to be removed, and if it’s not applied correctly, the laser could damage the skin. The proper wavelength of the laser will be absorbed by the hair and reflected by the skin to prevent damage to the skin.
You also may perform a “patch test” on clients if they’ve never had the procedure done before. A patch test will involve performing laser hair removal on just a small section of skin to see how the skin reacts and to ensure that it’s not too painful for your client.
Some people describe the laser hair removal process as feeling like a pinch, while others say it feels like being snapped by a rubber band. Every person’s pain tolerance is different, and some may need breaks within the process in order to relax and minimize discomfort. However, if your client is experiencing extreme discomfort, you might recommend alternate hair removal methods such as shaving, waxing, or sugaring.
Be sure that your clients know how to care for their skin after the removal process. It’s normal for the skin to appear pink and have a tingling feel for several hours after the procedure, and clients should avoid shaving or waxing for up to 48 hours after the procedure. Even avoiding hot showers can help the skin to heal.