Laser/IPL Hair Removal – plume and precautions!!!

I wrote an article for Aesthetics recently regarding the plume generated by laser/IPL hair removal and other treatments. All ablative treatments will generate a plume. In addition, many other laser/IPL treatment will also generate plume.

What is a ‘plume’?

Plume consists of smoke particles and tiny, invisible particles of tissue, hair, bacteria, viruses and potentially other nasty elements such as carcinogenic compounds and noxious gasses! These were all found in a study by a Boston laser group and reported at the ASLMS Meeting in 2016. Their findings are quite unsettling!

The problem is that all laser operators are subjected to this plume routinely, and, potentially, for many hours per day. Other studies have shown that cross-infections with viruses have occurred following treatment of ano-genital warts!

So, while your patient/clients are exposed to a slight risk of infection, you, and all your laser users, will be exposed to a much greater risk.

How do you mitigate this risk?

As with all of life, there are various methods you can employ to reduce your risk of exposure. Some of these are expensive, while others are relatively cheap. It’s up to you to decide what level of protection you want to use….

  • Use a good ‘air filtration’ unit in your laser room(s) with either HEPA or ULPA filters (ULPA are ‘ultrafine’ HEPA filters);
  • If possible, use an air filtration/air conditioning unit which removes the room air to the outside via a pipe or similar;
  • Wear a mask of some sort during treatments, to minimise inhaling plume – preferably N95/FFP2 or N99/FFP3; (See my ‘Aesthetics’ article for more on the masks/respirators;)
  • Use a ‘smoke evacuator’ at the treatment site to minimise the amount of plume entering the room;
  • If using a cold air blower to reduce pain sensations, point it towards your air filtration/smoke evacuator inlets so that the plume is immediately removed;
  • Open windows whenever possible;
  • If possible, leave at least 15 minutes between laser sessions to allow the air to be circulated out of the room (via windows, filtration units etc);
  • Operate an ultraviolet lighting system for at least an hour after close of business (or longer, if you prefer). UV is useful for killing bacteria and viruses on surfaces. They don’t like those high energy photons!!

These are just some of my ideas to help reduce the risk of cross-infection with plume contents. If you have any other ideas, please let me know.

Ultimately, the ideal situation would be a ‘positive pressure’ room with ULPA filtration systems, high-suction smoke evacuators with yourself in a hazmat suit!! But, that’s going a bit far…

Ciao for now,


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