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When do you report a burn to your doctor after a less than perfect laser or IPL treatment?

August 25, 2016

When do you report a burn to your doctor after a less than perfect laser or IPL treatment?

Finding a definitive answer to this in the cosmetic context has proven to be a challenge. A burn or blister is NEVER a desired result of these treatments but from the media and limited government report data we know they occur with scandalous monotony. It is also suspected that adverse outcomes such as these are grossly under-reported too. Where the discomfort from a treatment is more than mild, speak up and ask the operator to stop.  Don't be afraid to complain and take a photo of the injury. Here's what we do know from the wound care experts about managing burns in the short term (1):


  • Cold running water, should be applied as soon as possible after the burn injury has occurred and for 20 minutes duration
  • Aloe Vera and Burnaid®/hydrogels do not appear to give beneficial wound healing effects and but may provide pain relief.


  • any burns involving the face, genitals, perineum or hands (the size of these burns is unclear but we suspect anything larger than 3-5mm might be of concern to a client)
  • burn in other areas larger than a 50c coin (3cm diameter circle)
  • burns which appear white or chalky, with decreased pain sensation, these ones are deep and serious.

With national uniformity and regulation on the horizon for laser and IPL and proposals for minimum education standards for cosmetic laser users as being a laser safety certificate that addresses light physics, regulation, safety, systems and practice adverse outcomes should be reduced as the skill and capabilities of the operators are enhanced. 

 1. Cuttle L & Kimble RM (2010). First aid treatment of burn injuries. Wound Practice and Research,Volume 18(1).

Image: Patil & Dhami (2008). Overview of lasers. Indian J Plast Surg

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