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Dermatologists warn about online deals for cosmetic procedures

Online offers for cheap laser hair removal and other cosmetic procedures could be dangerous to your health, warn Canadian dermatologists.

With online coupon websites offering more of these deals, doctors say they’re now seeing hundreds of patients who have been burned or seriously scarred by unlicenced operators offering rock bottom prices on these expensive services.

Back in 2009, Katherine Malcom took advantage of one of the offers to get rid of a little hair. The laser used, however, left her badly burned. “I probably cried every day for a couple of hours a week straight,” she tells Global National’s Jennifer Tryon in Toronto.

Malcom isn’t alone. Nearly 75 per cent of Canada’s dermatologists report that, in a year, they’re treating about 460 people who’ve been burned by lasers operated by unlicenced and unqualified operators.

Dr. Vince Bertucci, the dermatologist who is treating Malcom now, says he and his colleagues are concerned about this dangerous trend. “This is definitely something that is up there, and…you know with the Internet nowadays, everyone can go on the Internet, and choose a place where they have a discounted laser treatment.”

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“The sad thing is that they’re coming in to look better. And then they end up looking worse and sometimes, permanently,” he said.

The experience didn’t just leave consequences that ran skin deep for Malcom, however. “I was really upset and my self-esteem was really low and my self-confidence, for the longest time,” she says.

“I hated it… I wouldn’t go anywhere, I stayed in my house. I didn’t want to go anywhere.”

“I… hate when, you know a random person’s like ‘Oh what happened to your face?’ Yeah, oh, I’ve had really rude comments.”

The Canadian Dermatology Association is now taking steps to warn the public about online deals. It recommends people ask if a technician is certified and if there is someone on site who can respond to complications.

If the answers are ‘no’ – don’t do it.

“(I was) really upset with myself for, like, falling for that. And letting someone do that to me who didn’t actually wasn’t certified,” says Malcom, who is still getting treated for her scar. She’s already had surgery, and once a month, gets cortisone injections to help shrink and flatten it.

“I do think it’s helping. It’s a slow process so I have to be patient.”

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Bertucci is seeing progress as well. “My hope is that we’ll get it to a point where we can start to space out the visits even further apart. Do less frequent injections and hopefully one day stop doing them.”

It’s a reminder that if the price is too good to pass up, you may end up spending a lifetime paying for the treatment.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @GNHealth 

Watch the Canadian Dermatology Association’s public service announcement: