Can You Trust Med Spa Laser Hair Removal? | Happel Laser

Can You Trust Med Spa Laser Hair Removal? | Happel Laser

Why Med Spas Are Crappy Places to Have Laser Hair Removal

Do you know what med spas and laser hair removal have in common?

They don’t go together.

Sort of like bologna and whipped cream.

Like Krazy glue is not supposed to go between your fingers.

Or oil and water.

Or medically speaking, like having brain surgery done by your dermatologist.

Med spas are opening in strip malls and upscale hair salons.

Med spa laser hair removal is as popular as pizza and Starbucks coffee.

Med spas are a booming business.

National laser hair removal chains are expanding their services into more traditional medical treatments like injectables, Botox and fat sculpting.

Who draws the line on what is a medical procedure and what is a spa treatment?


  • Not the government.
  • Not the state medical boards.
  • Not a consumer protection agency.
  • Not a regulatory body.
  • Not an accreditation commission.

When you go to a med spa, often women start with massage, a facial, or microdermabrassion.  

Botox or injectable fillers for wrinkles and cool sculpting of unwanted fat are the next level.

If someone is injecting something into you, that is a medical service and not a spa service.

After you become comfortable with these types of services, the staff or manager may make casual mention of laser treatments.

At this point, you go from being a customer to becoming a patient.

How a Client Becomes a Med Spa Laser Hair Removal Patient

People say that they were casually “talked into” a more invasive procedure and they let down their guard from the ease of the conversation. They say it didn’t seem like such a big deal.

They didn’t feel like a patient in this chic, comfy, lavender-smelling, richly decorated and luxurious environment.

These clients who were unknowingly transformed into patients were shown diplomas from the laser operators.

Little did they know that the laser company, whose laser was purchased by the med spa, handed out the diplomas.

A two-day wham-bam laser course and the resulting diploma gives clients a false sense of security.

Lately, med spas are branching into the more stylish hair salons. They are renting space in these posh salons and pushing or upselling their laser procedures.

The most common laser procedure is laser hair removal. Intense pulsed light treatments for rosacea, brown spots and spider veins are additional medical procedures that are presently done in hair salons backed by these med spas.

If you even think to ask if there is a qualified doctor involved, the answer will be a resounding …”Yes”. Dig a little deeper. Even though there may be a doctor’s name on the door, they are often just a “ghost doctor”.

If you question further, the staff will usually say that they never saw a doctor.

That is especially true if you go to a fashionable hair salon where no doctor has ever set foot.

Attitudes towards med spa laser hair removal are lax. Many states require that a hair stylist train for hundreds of hours to cut hair to obtain their license. Most states do not require any laser training at all to operate a laser.

Just for fun, ask to see the doctor.

These treatments are being done without any physician supervision at all. It is not illegal. There are no recognized oversight organizations in the medical field or governmental agencies to regulate these practices.

There isn’t even a regulatory agency that defines what a med spa can or cannot do. There are no national standards for safety and quality for med spas.

When Going to a Med Spa You Must Ask Yourself, “Am I Taking This Seriously?”

Laser hair removal parties are advertised as a fun thing to do with your friends.


Lasers Gone Wild!

Getting a facial or a pedicure is not the same as Botox, injectables or deep surgical peels. Lasers are one-step farther into the actual practice of medicine. Med spa laser hair removal is pushing the boundaries.

If you are crossing that line, you ask yourself “Is there a doctor around?”

What happens if something goes wrong?  

What if there is a medical emergency like a life threatening allergic reaction?

Are you dying to have laser hair removal?

Multiple deaths occurred when young women used too much numbing cream before laser hair removal. They overdosed on the numbing cream, lidocaine. Two of these young women were only 22 and 25 years old. We don’t use numbing cream. A cool spray of cryogen just before the laser pulse works very well.

Do I have your attention?

As a surgeon, I am surprised when people seem puzzled when I mention the risks and possible complications of a proposed procedure. Many people assume that only the best outcome will occur. It doesn’t even cross their mind that there are risks with every procedure.

Dr. Oz discussed the dangers of having medical treatments in med spas. He investigated six med spas with hidden cameras. There was absolutely no physician supervision in sight. Some women go to these med spa laser hair removal chains because there may be a cost savings when internet coupons are used.

Do you really want to get medical procedures done using coupons?

One of the First Infamous Cases of Laser Hair Removal Burns that Received National Attention

In our city and down the road from our office, a dentist was fined $1000 for practicing medicine after a patient of his was burned severely from laser hair removal. It was reported in the New York Times in 2001.

The dentist bought the laser. He had his wife perform the laser hair removal treatments in their “dental-med” spa.  

Thirteen years later people have forgotten the Terri Bowling laser hair removal burn case. If you search med spas in the area that this occurred, there are presently over a half dozen similar med spas actively advertising and competing for laser hair removal business.

 How soon we forget.

Why are Med Spas Becoming So Popular?

The best and shortest way to answer that question is that traditional medicine is becoming more and more unpopular for doctors.  Most doctors are becoming more discouraged every day.

Doctor dissatisfaction is rampant because of the changes by the government with Obamacare and health insurance companies.

When doctors graduate from medical school, they believe that they will spend most of their time healing the sick. Loss of autonomy, administrative burdens, overwhelming insurance company and governmental control in all their decisions for patient care have become a crushing load.

The financial costs of a four-year medical education are rising rapidly. The total cost and its resultant crushing debt surpasses $300,000. Add to that the cost of four years of college. 

Average salaries are declining rapidly. Last year, one third of doctors received an average pay cut of 28% per doctor.

To overcome these financial costs, doctors are looking for outside income sources, which are not controlled by the government or insurance companies. The easy answer seems to be opening a med spa.

Why Doctors Are Opening Med Spas

  1. Electronic medical record systems that keep a doctors staring into a lap top instead of looking at you
  2. Obamacare
  3. More burdensome regulations
  4. Insurance companies continuously cutting reimbursements for insurance covered medical procedures
  5. Ever increasing office and staff expenses
  6. Eight years of higher education debt

Add to that the fact that to become a doctor, you must sacrifice your youth to achieve your medical degree.  If you have not undergone this arduous ordeal yourself, that may seem like a casual remark.  It is not. Most people do not understand what is involved in terms of self-sacrifice to become a physician.


Can you trust the med spa where the practice of medicine and medical procedures are being performed outside of a doctor’s office? 

Be especially careful if your laser service is being offered in a hair salon, a strip mall, or a random spa.

Be careful of terms like: 

  • Guarantee
  • Free
  • Permanent Hair removal
  • Groupon and Living Social coupons

Watch out when crazy low prices are advertised for laser services.

Our medical practice ensures that Dr. Happel will supervise your laser procedure for your safety and to ensure effectiveness.

Give us a call at 724-969-0600 or contact us here if you want to have your laser hair removal done in the safety of a physician’s office.

About The Author

Dr. John Happel

Dr. John Happel has been in practice as a surgeon since 1986 in the Pittsburgh region. He specializes in vascular surgery and has subspecialized in the treatment of varicose and spider veins since 1999. Dr. Happel is board certified in vascular surgery and recertified in vascular surgery in 2012. He was chosen in 1985 to fulfill the position for the vascular surgical fellowship at the world renowned Mayo Clinic.

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