If you’ve ever had a laser hair removal treatment at a doctor’s office or spa, you’ve probably gotten a whiff of the “burning hair” smell that comes with the smoke that’s released as the laser targets the hair follicles. But, you probably didn’t imagine that that plume of smoke could be a major health hazard.
According to a study by Dr. Gary Chuang of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, that was reported on by Reuters Health, the smoke that is released during a laser hair removal treatment contains chemicals that irritate the airways and are known to cause cancer.
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The researchers collected hair samples from volunteers, treated them with a laser and then tested the smoke that resulted. According to a report in JAMA Dermatology, shockingly, they found that it contained 377 chemical compounds, including 20 known environmental toxins (one being carbon monoxide) and 13 that have been said to cause cancer.
“The virus is found in the smoke plume, and I would imagine when you are using the laser to destroy hair, you will get all kinds of different chemical compounds, many of which are known carcinogens,” says Eagan, MN, dermatologist Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD. “It is also very well-known when using lasers to treat warts.”
Dr. Chuang told Reuters Health, “Laser hair removal performed by improperly trained personnel or in an inadequately equipped facility will put both the healthcare workers and patients at risk.” He also advised that the procedures should be done only in spaces with an adequate air filtration system and a smoke evacuator to avoid inhalation by both the patient and the laser technician performing the treatment. “I would certainly recommend that laser technicians wear special filtering masks, and a safety vacuum should be used at all times during the procedure,” adds Dr. Crutchfield.