The light and laser devices you see listed on Plastic Surgery Hub are high quality devices with industry support. They have been tested and many have safety trials performed before release and distribution to clinics and surgeries, with doctor and practitioner training monitored and provided. Not all devices are sold and used this way.

We recently reported on the call for tighter regulations in the Cosmetic Industry as a whole. Although this has been a long time coming, there is now a highlight specifically on IPL and Laser Devices after a spate of laser burn injury reports to Radiation Queensland resulted in raids across Queensland of over 25 salons.

Currently, the situation is that there are no national regulations in place when it comes to IPL and Laser devices. Some states have some regulations but they don’t seem to be monitored or enforced as well as they should be and the lines seem to be a little blurred. For example, in Tasmania and Queensland non-medical practitioners require a licence to operate lasers for cosmetic purposes. In Tasmania you also require a licence to operate an IPL for non-medical use. In Western Australia operators of laser devices must be registered medical practitioners. The remaining States and Territories do not have a regulatory framework for the operation and use of lasers and IPL’s.

Whilst many IPL and Laser operators are qualified health professionals such as plastic surgeons, cosmetic practitioners and dermatologists trained in the use of lasers and IPLs for cosmetic purposes, many are not. These devices are popping up in beauty salons and clinics all over the country and being operated by those with little or no training. This creates more risk due to the therapist not understanding different skin conditions and possible effects of the device increasing the risk of:

  • Masking (missed or delayed diagnosis) signs of skin cancer by removing discolouration or other skin abnormalities;
  • Large amount of heat penetrating the skin, possibility of over-exposure resulting in burns, permanent scarring and radiation exposure;
  • Hazards to the eyes, permanent retinal damage.

The other concern is that because training is not monitored or regulated, some beauty therapists and practitioners claim they have “training” but they may be referring to online you tube videos or research, or their basic instruction on the use of the machine when it is delivered by distributors with no hands on experience themselves.

There was a survey done over a period of one month in 2012 that resulted in the “2012 Survey”. The survey was a voluntary and anonymous one, with only 430 participants (both registered health professionals and non-medical practitioners), which is not considered to represent even a fraction of the industry (estimated at approximately 10%), even with a staggering 726,000 procedures using IPL and laser between them each year. There were 416 injuries reported by the survey participants in the preceding year of which 268 were severe. It is estimated there are on average 7 million procedures performed in Australia each year by laser and IPL devices resulting in an estimated 4000 injuries.*

Whilst these figures are alarming (which is what is prompting the review and call for regulation of the industry) we want to remind you that there are ways to ensure you don’t become one of the statistics. Most of these injuries occur in unlicensed venues with inexperienced and untrained (or undertrained) practitioners. There are also different devices easily accessible over the internet by anybody and everybody. These are the ones to watch out for.

Any of the devices we have listed on our website, as mentioned above, are of the highest quality with proven results and offer minimal side effects when operated by qualified practitioners. Not only that, these devices are distributed by industry professionals and are only placed in clinics and surgeries with the knowledge they will be operated by experienced and trained professionals. Training is provided and additional training is usually undertaken in order to ensure the devices are producing the highest quality results.

There are three options identified for consideration in the Regulatory Impact Statement released by the Australian Government via the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. They are:

1. Educational awareness;
2. Self-regulation by industry/industry accreditation scheme;
3. Licensing (or registration of service providers based on prior qualification and training.

So, here at the Hub we applaud and support the call for national regulation to the industry – we consider patient safety a priority. The argument that it increases costs (due to training staff) and will impact on businesses not prepared for such costs needs to be considered by the individual clinics. Patient safety is and always should be paramount. There are many highly skilled and quality practitioners out there (many of them listed on our website) and each of these have taken steps to ensure they are suitably trained and experienced.

One of the few training facilities in Australia who offer a course in Clinical Aesthetics (under a Bachelor of Applied Health Science) approved by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Authority, the government body responsible for maintaining quality assurance across all higher education providers including universities is the Australasian College of Health and Wellness in Sydney. This course is the first of its kind to offer a degree specialising in Clinical Aesthetics. It also provides a major hands-on practical clinical component ensuring that participants will be ready for entry into the industry as fully qualified professionals.

*If you would like to read the Regulatory Impact Statement relating to Intense Pulsed Light sources (IPLs) and Lasers for Cosmetic or Beauty Therapy in more detail follow this link and download the Consultation Draft.

You can research quality practitioners who offer Laser and light therapies on our website.

Or, if you would like more information on the Australasian College of Health and Wellness visit their listing on our website.

Always remember, buyer beware!


Trish is a plastic surgery blogger. She is passionate about wellbeing, health and beauty, and doesn't mind a little bit of 'help' from the amazing cosmetic and beauty procedures that are available today. Trish spends her days talking to women and men who are looking for suggestions and advice on procedures that are available to them. Cutting through the sales pitch and hype, a down-to-earth response on general information is what you will get.

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