The recent surge in popularity of discount voucher sites, most notably Groupon, has made laser and IPL (Intense Pulse Light) hair removal cheaper and easier than ever to get. However, consumers should beware of these sounds-too-good-to-be-true deals, they may be cutting the price of the treatment but are they also cutting corners?
Six sessions is the minimum number recommended for permanent hair reduction and regular deals offer 6 sessions that vary between £99 and £150. For about £800 for women and £1000 for men, you can also buy a pass for unlimited hair removal sessions in a number of beauty salons. Incidentally, whilst writing this a new Groupon deal (pictured) for 6 IPL treatments in Birmingham has landed in my inbox!
The best time to start treatment is after the summer to avoid problems with tanned skin and as such we are seeing a rise in the popularity of these deals and participating salons are selling large numbers of vouchers through discount websites and booking in as many appointments per day as possible. However, by accommodating as many customers as possible, clinics may often skip important procedures. (This is the warning from hair specialist website www.hairgoodbye.co.uk.) One of these procedures is the patch test, which is compulsory for people undergoing laser or IPL hair removal treatment. The idea of this test is that a small area on your body must be treated before the main hair removal treatment. It is usually carried out about at least 24hours before starting the treatment.
HairGoodbye also reported that clinics are hiring personnel who are not trained to the required standards. One client on the Hair Goodbye website complained that a clinic they visited through Groupon hired predominantly Eastern European workers who did not have the correct qualifications or experience.
IPL and Laser settings vary on the customer’s skin and hair colour so without the necessary training, therapists will underset the IPL which will not remove the hair. However, oversetting the machine and other misuse can lead to permanent skin damage, which may include:
Burns – These painful consequences can occur regardless of your practitioner’s training however, they are more commonly the results of less experienced technicians.
Skin discolouration - A permanent lightening or darkening of the skin can occur on the treated area. A laser is designed to target the darker coloured hair pigment but it can sometimes affect darker coloured skin as well.
Scarring – Over-treatment due to a lack of training can lead to skin scarring, however this may also arise when treated with a qualified practitioner.
Skin anomalies – Clinics who may be under pressure to book in a lot of clients due to a deal may restrict treatment times. This may cause inattention when it comes to skin anomalies such as spots, moles, scars, skin tags etc as areas darker than your natural skin colour should not be treated but covered due to risk of burning.
Beware of misinformation and clever advertising ploys – do your homework!
Before you undergo any treatment take the time to research solutions in our Treatment FAQs section. By doing this you can avoid some of the potential pitfalls of clever advertising. For example a recent KGB deal offered pain-free hair removal with their laser machine; however, ONLY clinics using a soprano laser can potentially guarantee this.
Below are comments from two angry Groupon users who told us how they felt ripped off by the whole process:
“I bought 6 sessions of IPL hair removal. I would never buy it from them again and wouldn't recommend it to anyone. They did not do the patch test on me, my session lasts literally 3 minutes, they just put a cold pack of Ice after the session (which make the sessions EXTREMELLY painful as there is no preparation before the session and neither a gel afterwards). I felt all the time I was treated as a GROUPON VOUCHER person. The therapist try to be as quick as she can so she can finish it quickly (probably because it is a voucher) so she can have time for the next person. I was going to a sunny holiday place and the lady said it would be ok to have a session within 2 weeks after my arrival (because the voucher was about to expire- of course, at the beginning my sessions were taken in 3 months apart from the other- it's better for the growth of the hair said the therapist). Anyway, hope I was the only one with such a bad experience and would definitely not recommend it to anyone. Ps: I believe that if you want to sell your packages on GROUPON or any other website you need to be able to cope with the flow and the patient deserves to be treated the same as the vouchers/packages were being sold and not given as a gift!”
“I bought a Groupon voucher for 4 laser removal sessions at a clinic in Hale and went to have a patch test done. The consultation wasn't very thorough (apparently people who pay full price get a more thorough consultation and a booklet etc). I don't know whether this is because we didn't pay full price and therefore aren't worth customer care?! I really cannot stand going anywhere where people are so unwelcoming and I won't be looking forward to going there again. I'm still thinking about cancelling and asking for a refund...”
Another angry Groupon customer told The Consulting Room:
“I bought a voucher from Groupon for laser hair removal last year (2010). Booking the first consultation appointment was a nightmare. After that I was told that they were still recruiting laser therapists so most of the appointments were not yet available! In terms of the laser...on their website they claim to use ND Yag laser - which is not true. They use IPL on all the skin tones!
To add to all this, there have been 5 separate occasions where their laser machine has "BROKEN" so they have had to cancel all my appointments. They still have not managed to fix it for more than 2 months on each occasion and keep ignoring my phone calls.”
Another Groupon user has also told The Consulting Room how they were taken in by the sites misleading advertising:
“I recently bought a Groupon voucher for this clinic for my sister as a birthday present. The deal was clearly for 6 IPL sessions on three areas worth 1320 for 109. When I rang up to book an appointment for her I was told that the consultation was counted as part of the six sessions. When I queried this, I was told that the consultation would include a test patch but they would do a "larger test patch" to make it into a session - surely this negates the test patch and I would say akin to negligence if anything went wrong in this "large test patch" area.
I was also told that the 6 sessions on three areas I had paid for was actually only 2 sessions on each area because "you wouldn’t get 18 sessions for 109". The point is I might have paid 109 but the value of the voucher is 1320. They completely missed the point.
I was then cheerily told that a half leg (which my sister said she wanted) would count as 2 separate sessions (front and back), so that effectively used up 4 sessions on one leg. Now she only has 1 session left (discounting the consultation and one leg). What on earth is she supposed to do with one session?
The clinic completely misled people who have bought this deal and they turned what I thought would be a nice 25th birthday present for my sister into a feeling of being ripped-off”
Consider why the clinic is using discount deals in the first place – are they a new business? If so, do they have the amount of qualified staff to deal with the demand the discount will produce or will you be waiting for an appointment for a long time? If you pay in advance for a yearlong treatment and the salon goes out of business then the whole notion of discount treatment is rendered useless.
With the majority of the Aesthetic Industry calling for regulation to cull the spread of this growing trend (read BAAPS Press Release condemning the use of discount sites for procedures) we feel it is our responsibility to try and educate the public.
Don’t get swayed by the promise of cheap hair removal; use the same caution and ask the same number of questions you would when booking any other procedure.