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Hair Removal Methods:
Laser Clinical Data Overview

Andrea James

General observations

Why clinical data should be given the most weight

Consumers are better served when they follow the advice of Whitney Tope, M.D. and Maria Hordinsky, M.D.: "Look for studies incorporating rigorous design to produce believable data and conclusions." [2]

Echoing Tope and Hordinsky, laser researcher Sharyn Laughlin recently stated:

It appears that the laser industry and the clinical arena of epilation are being driven by market forces and economic factors, with a minimum of consideration given to evidence-based medicine. The majority of clinical trials and peer-reviewed reports do not address the issues of permanence or specific dose-response relationships. . . .

There are few comparative data to allow physicians and their patients to make rational choices... Patients deserve to know the precise benefits and limitations of the particular system to be used in relation to whether their expectation is for temporary or permanent epilation. [3]

Dr. Raulin adds: "Well-founded scientific studies are no longer the basis for the wide-spread use of lasers. Careful clinical assessment cannot occur under such conditions, and the absolute opposite of the Hippocratic Oath to do no damage can easily be achieved." [1]

Rox Anderson, M.D., one of the pioneers in the field of laser dermatology agrees "there is a big problem brewing":

Unfortunately, there is relatively little good, hypothesis-driven research on lasers in dermatology. These studies are expensive and slow to perform, analyze, present, and publish. The laser companies are quick to promote their new devices and procedures, even before efficacy and safety are well established, and before a specific FDA clearance is given. . . .

When poorly researched before use on patients, cosmetic lasers or anything else are no different than the infamous patent medicines of the 19th century... But the problem lies mainly with us, the professionals. We should simply refuse to believe infomercials over peer-reviewed studies... Those industry salesmen who can't support their claims well, should be tolerated only as village idiots. In short, the patients are ours, and we should make better patient care the only real bottom line. [4]

I have been pointing this out since 1995. Luckily, a few researchers have continued to publish rigorous long-term studies.

Published clinical data by type

If you are researching a specific model of laser and don't know what type it is, ask the practitioner or check the list on my website. [5]


  1. Raulin C, Greve B, Raulin S. Ethical considerations concerning laser medicine. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine 28:100-101, 2001.
  2. Tope WD, Hordinsky MK. A hair's breadth closer? Archives of Dermatology 134:867-869, 1998.
  3. Laughlin SA, Dudley DK Long-term hair removal using a 3-millesecond alexandrite laser. Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery 4:83-88, 2000.
  4. Anderson RR. Response to "Letter to the Editor.'' Lasers in Surgery and Medicine 28:102, 2001.


Ms. James is a Chicago-based writer and consumer activist who owns

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This article was posted on May 13, 2001.