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Adverse events from home-use cosmetic devices possible without patient education

Article-Adverse events from home-use cosmetic devices possible without patient education

Key iconKey Points

  • Home-use cosmetic treatment devices helpful, but half as effective as in-office devices
  • Adverse events can include burns, blurred vision
  • Urge patients to have realistic expectations when using at-home devices

NEW YORK — Home-use cosmetic treatment devices can be useful in achieving desired cosmetic outcomes, but they can be associated with adverse events, as well. Physicians and office staff must thoroughly educate patients on how to precisely operate the devices in order to avoid adverse events.


Dr. Sadick
Though not as powerful as office-based devices, home-use cosmetic treatment products are effective and can help the cosmetic patient achieve desired aesthetic goals.

"Home-use cosmetic devices are helpful, but are approximately 50 percent as effective as the similar office-based devices we use. This is because office-based devices are much more powerful, for obvious safety reasons," says Neil S. Sadick, M.D., F.A.C.P., department of dermatology, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. "Nevertheless, patients are at risk of adverse events if they don't follow treatment protocols and use these devices inappropriately."

Compared to office-based devices, home-use devices are equipped with lower-energy light sources, and the companies that produce them provide specific guidelines for use. Cosmetic device manufacturers provide a large safety margin in suggested treatment protocols, but if the devices are used inappropriately, patients can overuse them and overheat themselves, which can result in adverse events.

"If the company suggests using the device for a certain time period per treatment session and the patient erroneously uses the device for a longer period of time per treatment — either inadvertently or in the hopes of achieving a better and quicker cosmetic result — adverse events can arise," Dr. Sadick says.

Popular at-home devices include the no!no! Thermicon (Radiancy) epilation device, the new-generation red light HairMax LaserComb (Lexington International) for the promotion of hair regrowth and slowing of hair loss, and the Tanda Regenerate (Pharos Life) device for acne and photorejuvenation.

In order to achieve similar aesthetic outcomes as those with office-based technology, Dr. Sadick says at-home devices typically require more treatments, and treatments must be performed more frequently. Most home-use devices require an average of eight to 10 sessions, whereas in the office, the same cosmetic outcome can be achieved in four to five treatments. Depending on the technology, home-use devices must be used between two and four times a week for approximately three to four minutes each time.

ADVERSE EVENTS According to Dr. Sadick, the same adverse events that can occur with office-based devices can also occur with home-use devices. These can include first- and second-degree burns and, because these devices are light sources, blurred vision if the devices are not used as directed. Many of the home-use cosmetic treatment devices are sold over the counter, and most come with a CD explaining how to operate them. Most also include the manufacturer's suggested treatment regimens.

"We encourage the merchants who sell these devices over the counter not only to educate the consumer in how to operate the device, but also for them to explain to would-be users the importance of sticking to the suggested treatment protocols for each device. Here in the office, we also have our aestheticians or nursing staff educate our patients (on) how to operate a given device safely and effectively," Dr. Sadick explains.

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS Home-use cosmetic treatment devices can be useful for patients who prefer not to visit the doctor very often and for those who would rather perform treatments in the comfort of their home. Some cosmetic patients will use these devices as maintenance programs, but, according to Dr. Sadick, the majority of patients use them to become accustomed to cosmetic treatments performed by the physician.

"When patients begin to use these cosmetic technologies at home, it is important that they have realistic expectations in terms of their aesthetic goals. If someone wants to lose all their hair, there is probably not a good home-use light source technology that can achieve that. These patients would require supplement treatments with office-based devices," Dr. Sadick says.

"Physicians should increase their awareness about home-use cosmetic technologies, because more and more patients are going to utilize them. These devices should not be feared, but instead, they should be thought about as an entrance point into your practice, or as a tool that can augment the results that you are able to achieve in the office, which will ultimately increase patient satisfaction," Dr. Sadick says.

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