The Ugly Side Of The Beauty Industry

Cosmetic lasers are more popular than ever. They can do anything from remove un-wanted hair to improve your skin. But a 2News investigation reveals many clients are ending up scarred or injured. It’s the ugly side of the beauty industry.

"As soon as I left the office I looked into the mirror in my car and I was horrified. I had purple line going all the way down my chest and across my face – it was horrific!" said Patrice Martin who suffered laser injuries.

Patrice says she was assured the blistering would go away, but the scars never healed. Now she may be scarred for life and must pay for corrective treatments at another facility.

"Thousands of dollars," says Patrice.

"Its serious business when you're using a high powered laser and treating the skin,” says Dr. Mark Taylor with Gateway Dermatology.

Dr. Taylor is a dermatologist who has testified as an expert witness across the country in cases where doctors, nurses and laser technicians have injured patients.

"People getting bad burns, blisters, scabs, changes in pigment and scars and keloids and so forth,” says Dr. Taylor.

He's even testified in a case where a woman was nearly blinded by a cosmetic laser. Taylor says these lasers may look like no-brainers to operate, but they require skill to use safely, and knowledge of the skin. Yet they're falling into the hands of virtually anyone willing to buy them.

"The laser companies in most cases, teach people for a half a day, show them where the buttons are, do two or three cases then they're off and running,” says Dr. Taylor.

"A lot of lasers are user friendly but different people's skin can react differently,” says Dr. Nancy Semolitis, a dermatologist at the University of Utah.

Dr. Semolitis says even in experienced hands problems can occur, so operating a laser with minimal training can lead to big trouble.

"You don't learn every complication and you have to know what to do when a complications does arise,” says Dr. Semolitis.

Doctors say they're seeing more and more cases of laser injuries that never should have occurred. Cases like Jesse Majors. She got laser hair removal on her legs, but the tech ran the laser right over her tattoo which caused her skin to burn.

"I'm going to have a scar there and I wanted a tattoo,” says Jesse.

Many cosmetic lasers are attracted to pigment. They'll pass over light skin, while destroying anything dark such as hair, tattoos, freckles or skin discolorations.

That's the very reason an African American woman was disfigured – lasers can destroy the pigment in dark skin. In this case, the technician should have known that and told her she wasn't a candidate. She eventually won a major settlement.

Doctors say serious injuries and disfigurement aren't the only problems. Many dermatologists fear untrained eyes could unknowingly pass a laser right over skin cancer.

"Some lasers target brown pigments so if you were to treat say a melanoma with a laser that targeted brown pigment, you would take the pigment away and it may look like the melanoma is gone,” says Dr, Semolitis.

If you’re considering laser treatments, here's what you need to know:

• Make sure you go to a reputable facility.

• Always ask about the qualifications of the person running your laser. Make sure they've had training and experience performing procedures and have knowledge of the skin.

• If you have dark skin you'll need special consideration so be sure to seek out clinics that have experience with darker skin types.

• Look for clinics where a doctor is present and overseeing laser treatments whenever they are performed.

• And most important, always make sure you're wearing eye protection. If you're not asked to wear it, leave.

Important things to remember the next time you put your body in front of a laser.

"That’s what the laser companies would like you to believe – (the laser) is really simple, just turn it on, put it on the skin, pull the trigger and magic happens and everything turns out happy!,” says Dr. Taylor. “But that's not totally true. There's many things that can happen that are bad.” .