Buyer Beware - the danger of cheap laser hair removal

Posted on the 18 January 2012 at 11:39

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?

GroupOn - IPL / Laser Hair Removal Deal

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. 

Groupon Adverts for Laser and IPL Hair Removal

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Blog Comment(s) [9]

Same advice applies to the desperados using Groupon to push Botox and fillers.

Fab Equizi

I bought a laser hair removal package from Groupon and I couldn't be happier with my purchase. The clinic is very proffesional and each visit I am made very welcome. They carried out a test patch and each session they check that I am ok with the level the laser is set at. I also receive a follow-up call after each session to check I am ok. As for the removal of the hair............. it's well on it's way to me never having any hair again!!! :-))))
So, not ever deal on Groupon is a bogus one!!!

Klare Crosbie

Unfortunately most people do not carry out enough research before undergoing cosmetic procedures. Any clinic offering huge discounts should be treated with the utmost caution. Professional clinics are simply unable to pay fully qualified staff while justifying massively reduced prices. Most unfortunately do not even understand the different technologies used before undertaking such procedures.

If you are considering laser hair removal, it is very important to understand the options. Lasers, IPL - there are a lot of systems available, but results can be very different.

The Lumenis Lightsheer diode is the best system for permanent hair reduction. It has been well studied and proven over many years.
Medical research suggests that laser is more effective than intense pulsed light (IPL) in permanent hair reduction and requires fewer treatments.

Such treatments are expensive to provide and any clinic offering huge discounts, can only be making cost savings at the expense of a quality service.

Dr Quinn

The question still remains: Is there a way to save money on laser hair removal. I know that I would not want to pay GBP1,000.

Albert Smith

Well, I just used a groupon for a laser hair removal treatment. The doctor (?) who did my consultation showed me a powerpoint and talked, asked me if I had any questions and then said I was free to go schedule my appointment. The girl at the desk asked me what date was good for me, saw that I was doing small areas and was already there, and went ahead and did the first session since she had free time before the next appointment. She explained what she was doing, etc, was very nice, and yet it was very fast. I thought it was a great deal personally....and they already had good reviews on groupon too. places with no reviews might cause a bit more wariness

jessica

Friends. I am dealing with laser procedures many years. I know the costs that are involved and I also knows the ways that those cheap clinics operates. It is impossible to offer a deal price yet to keep it 100% professional by the protocol. There are many ways to "cut corners" without you, the client, will even notice. We are getting many people who did groupons and the result is shown after some time...well, you need to check after long time to determine if the procedure was successful or not.
Soprano machine is a good one but can be manipulated. My advise - Don't save on your health.

Odi

Nice article, although a tactic I've seen tried many times by companies feeling threatened by the daily deal industry. A few points you should consider...
1. The IPL industry isn't regulated, plus there is no consistent training course in the UK so "correct qualification and experience" is a moot point - hopefully this will change in the near future though.
2. Non invasive laser skin treatments have a huge mark up (usually over 1000%). The only way direct costs increase is if the machines are rented rather than purchased outright and are paying "per click" to the company leasing the equipment, otherwise the only direct cost is the therapists time and the bulbs/electric making it a very cheap service to provide (considering the staff member generally isn't that well paid either due to my first point). Businesses mainly use Groupon to plug their quieter times during the week and Groupon will not allow more vouchers to be sold than the company can service to a satisfactory standard (called a voucher cap).
3. Businesses offering IPL deals on Groupon are rigorously inspected and mystery shopped, if their customer service satisfaction score drops below 90% they are investigated and cannot be re-featured until they have made the necessary improvements to the service. This is why Groupon have a CSAT score of over 95% when it comes to non invasive treatments. Think about it, why would Groupon let poor quality companies feature on the site? A bad customer experience will turn them off purchasing a Groupon in the future.

Please don't make false claims about companies when there is clearly no understanding of the internal procedures to safeguard consumers in place, I'm sure you wouldn't like people making false claims about your business? I can't comment on other daily deal sites but I can defend Groupon as I worked for the Birmingham/West Midlands region as a Senior Marketing Consultant for over 2 years.

To prove my point "Sk:n clinics" feature fairly regularly and I'm sure you'll agree that they know what they are doing...
https://www.sknclinics.co.uk/groupon

Richard Plant

Thanks for sharing Danielle. In my experience, Groupon vouchers fail to ever deliver as promised. Its like buying discounted hotels online only to find the room is basically a shoebox and not what you imagined in the imaged. I would say just contact the clinic offering the deal and work with them directly to get to a number you are comfortable with

Dr Parapas

Avatar

Hey, thanks for taking the time to warn people on potential dangers and doing their research.

However, on your 'Hired predominantly Eastern European workers who did not have the correct qualifications or experience' - The IPL industry isn't regulated in the UK yet so there is no way for that statement to be proven.

Equally, as a Romanian-born UK resident, I am yet to experience the quality and expertise of the Romanian (I cannot speak for other East-European coutries) beauty industry anywhere else in the world, least of all here.

Of course, there is good and bad in every corner of the world, but using prejudiced statements to forward a view won't do you any favours. It's the same old argument used in construction, transport (think recent Uber scandals) and other industries that are afraid of being overthrown by cheaper and arguably better quality alternatives.

Please research properly before making generalised statements about entire countries online, it's incorrect, embarrassing and unprofessional.

Anonymous, Member Since 25 July 2018