The Most Common Laser Treatment Errors & How to Avoid Them

A worrying new study reveals increased rate of hair removal lawsuits.  We took a deeper look at the evidence to understand where this trend has come from:

Background to Study

In recent years semi-permanent and permanent hair removal options have gained significantly in popularity. Laser treatment has gone from being performed exclusively in the conventional setting of a medical practice and has started to pop up in places such as your local hair salon, wellness center or even tattoo studio (the latter usually for tattoo removal and not usually hair removal).

Non Physician Operators are responsible for a high rate or laser hair removal injuries due to treatment errors

While you will most likely pay less for the treatment in these locations than you would at a clinic, a new clinical survey, entitled "Treatment errors resulting from use of lasers and IPL by medical laypersons: results of a nationwide survey", reports that the most common laser treatment errors are more likely to happen when performed by a non-medical professional, also called a non-physician operator (NPO).

This article will provide you with an overview of the survey in question, a review of the most common treatment errors and injuries and why they happen, and a conclusion based on the survey’s findings.

Survey - 50 Hair Removal Lawsuits Analysed 

Survey Details

  • This is the first survey of several with the intent on revealing how laser and Intense Pulse Light (IPL) treatment errors are more likely to occur when performed by an NPO.
  • The survey studied 50 individuals with laser treatment errors sustained after treatment by an NPO via the aid of a standardized questionnaire
  • Their injuries and/or skin issues were photographed for reference
  • Out of the 50 cases surveyed 7 were considered void as they either did not provide correct information for the survey or their case was no longer valid

Most Common Injuries

On average, out of the 50 cases, the survey reveals that the most common treatment errors resulted in the following issues or injuries (one or more injuries per individual)*:

  • 81.4% pigmentation changes
  • 25.6% scars
  • 14% textural changes
  • (4.6% incorrect information/invalid responses)

Sources of Error

The survey also reveals that the most common sources of error were as follows:-

  • 62.8% Excessively high energy
  • 39.6% Wrong device for the treatment area
  • 20.9% Treatment of patients with darker skin or marked tanning
  • 7% No cooling
  • (4.6% incorrect information/invalid response)

Based on the results above it is obvious that the treatment errors happened due to an incorrect handling of equipment or ignorance on how this treatment should actually be performed on a case by case basis.

Some of the patients were left with skin pigmentation changes and scars when all they were actually looking for was a way to permanently remove hair from their bodies. While you may trust your hairdresser implicitly with the hair on your head, you may want to think twice before trusting him or her with the rest of the hair on your body!

Are NPO's the Main Cause of Laser Hair Removal Injuries?

Further surveys of treatment errors by both medical practitioners and NPOs show that while NPOs only currently provide about a third of laser treatments on the market, between 2008 and 2012 85.7% of hair removal malpractice lawsuits were against NPOs, and, even more significantly, 64% of these NPOs had performed treatments outside of a medical facility.

In other words: While only a portion of laser or IPL treatments are performed by NPOs, they are responsible for most of the recorded treatment errors and skin injuries sustained by patients.

To compound matters further, these issues have steadily been increasing over the past 10 years.

Improved Training and Evaluation

Another survey, this time on the effectiveness of a new training system for new laser treatment practitioners, shows how a market-wide training program and evaluation tool could be a way to slice the percentage of treatment errors, and to ensure all practitioners, medical or NPO, provide the service in a safer manner than is being practiced today..


The survey concludes that laser and IPL treatment errors mainly come from “insufficient training, inadequate diagnostic abilities, and promising unrealistic results”.

This means, in layman’s terms, that most treatment errors reviewed in the survey happened because the practitioner had not received proper training, was not able to correctly diagnose treatment for each individual based on a number of different factors (skin tone for example), did not give the patient an accurate warning of issues or side effects that may arise and/or had promised results that they were not able to give.

Lack of Regulation

The survey points out quite clearly that governmental or legal steps should be taken to ensure that all individuals practicing laser or IPL treatment follow strict rules, such as integrating compliance guidelines, going through extensive training and only treating consumers with the supervision of a medical professional.

There are currently no federal guidelines in place in regards to who can or cannot perform laser treatment, and each state has different rules or regulations to this regard.

Advice to All Laser Hair Removal Patients

Until there are more stringent guidelines in place, consumers must make sure that they do their homework when choosing a laser hair removal clinic.  During the initial consultation with the clinic, be sure to make sure that the laser operator is a fully trained and qualified physician.

Consumers should steer away from having any laser hair removal treatment performed by non-physician operators in order to avoid sustaining any types of issues or injuries stemming from non-professional treatment.



I'm a computer science graduate, have a passion for self development and created this site as a side project due to the lack of complete, understandable, helpful and truthful information about hair removal available online.