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Use of strong light sources in cosmetics associated with risks

Federal Office for Radiation Protection promotes sound education of users

Year of issue 2018
Date 2018.07.24

A tattoo is removed with a laserLasers are used professionally to remove tattoos

The use of strong light sources in cosmetics is associated with health risks. A current poll on behalf of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) has shown that just under one fifth of the treatments resulted in permanent side effects, such as scars. Another two fifth had non-permanent side effects.

Removal of pigment disorders or tattoos

In cosmetics, strong light sources up to the infrared range are used to remove pigment disorders or tattoos.

In cosmetics, intense sources of optical radiation such as laser or intense pulsed light sources (IPL) are mainly used to treat pigment disorders, remove skin imperfections or remove hair permanently. The removal of tattoos is also carried out with the help of lasers.

Sound education reasonable

Portrait Dr. Inge Paulini Dr. Inge PauliniBfS President Dr. Inge Paulini

"The poll confirms that the optical irradiation of the skin may have unpleasant consequences. Therefore, we promote a sound education of persons providing such treatments in cosmetics on a professional basis," BfS President Inge Paulini emphasised.

For the study, altogether 9,596 persons from age 18 living in Germany were interviewed. According to the representative poll, 6.6 percent of the weighted sample (ca. 630 persons) had already undergone cosmetic treatment with an intense optical source of radiation, either at professional users or at home.

Who wishes to have such a treatment carried out, mostly consults a doctor:

  • 83 percent of the interviewed users of such treatments say they had the treatment carried out at a doctor's practice, the majority at a dermatological practice.
  • About 14 percent consulted non-medical providers, such as cosmetic institutes.
  • Only three percent used home devices and, if so, almost exclusively for permanent hair removal.

Side effects

Among the remaining side effects are in particular

  • Scars or
  • Pigment disorders, i.e. lighter or darker coloration of the skin.

Asked for non-permanent side effects, the persons named especially

  • Skin reddening,
  • Crust formation or
  • Temporary pigment disorders.

Reasons for the comparatively large number of side effects do not follow from the study approach. In some treatments, side effects can hardly be avoided, even if they are carried out correctly.

BfS demands binding regulations for the education of professional users

From the radiation protection point of view, however, the sound education of the professional providers plays an important role. The BfS thus demands that it be regulated in a legally binding form.

Furthermore, the BfS recommends for persons who have the treatments not carried out in special-ist practices to have the skin examined by a specialist prior to the treatment, since otherwise laser or IPL treatments might make it harder to diagnose skin cancer. As the poll shows, so far only a minority of the interviewees use this option of prior clarification.

Satisfaction with treatment result varies

Despite of the rather high share of side effects, altogether 62 percent of the interviewed users of professional treatments with strong light sources stated that they were very satisfied with the re-sult of the professional treatments. Only 23 percent and thus not even a quarter said they were not too satisfied.

About half of the interviewed users of home devices, however, said they were not too satisfied or not satisfied at all with the result.

State of 2018.07.24

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