Home Aesthetic Devices: What to Consider

By Pacific Derm on January 5 2013

In the last few years, a market for consumer-grade aesthetic devices for home use has emerged. The manufacturers of these devices advertise that they will help an individual treat their own acne, grow or remove hair, or rejuvenate their skin in the comfort of their own home without the aid of a professional.

“The market is quite burgeoning. It is very novel, emerging in the last four or five years,” says Dr. Jason Rivers, practicing dermatologist at Pacific Dermaesthetics in Vancouver. “There are literally thousands of devices that you can buy for home use.”

Do They Work?

In many cases the home devices use the same fundamental technology as professional devices. Yet the efficacy of these home devices is still less than professional equipment—when it has even been tested at all.

“There is some data that some of these devices work, but they take multiple treatments because they are basically lower powered [than devices for professional use],” says Dr. Rivers. In general, “if you do a literature search looking for scientific studies, there is not a lot of data to support their efficacy. [Patients] can spend $200 to $1,000 on a device that may not be giving them what they want it to do.”

Some of the technologies have a better track record than others. “The home peels and microdermabrasion can remove dead surface skin cells,” says Dr. Martie Gidon, director of Gidon Aesthetics & Medspa in Toronto. “The rejuvenation and acne light do very little if anything.”
With sales of these devices largely unregulated, Dr. Gidon says her advice for patients is to avoid home devices altogether. “The ads are misleading,” she says. “Save your money for an effective treatment.”

Safety Issues

Safety too, should be of some concern, says Dr. Rivers, using phototherapy devices as an example. “While [home use] devices are set to only fire a certain number of pulses, or will only fire when in contact with the skin or with certain skin types, people can at times bypass that. Home hair-removal lasers or devices are not supposed to be used on the face, but people use them there. So far there have not been any serious injuries that I know of, though there have been some reports of redness and potential burns.”

When asked for some general advice he could provide to physicians regarding home use devices, Dr. Rivers says this: “I think they should be aware that it exists, number one, so that they can give some information to their patients when they’re asked about it. I think that they need to realize that the science is still relatively limited, and some of the devices are literally untested in properly controlled studies. And while most are considered low-power, there is still a potential for injury to occur if they are used improperly or if they are tampered with.”

Article adapted from “Coming Soon to Your Patient’s Home?” by John Evans, Assistant Editor for The Chronicle of Cosmetic Medicine and Surgery.