Hair-razing devices for the home

The Wall Street Journal
Published4/28/2008 12:03 AM

Coming soon to doctors' offices and retail stores: personal handheld lasers and other expensive medical devices for cosmetic treatments at home.

The first products to be pitched for consumer use are for long-lasting removal of unwanted hair, one of the most popular cosmetic services, which typically costs thousands of dollars in spas and dermatology offices. The challenge for manufacturers has been to develop small, affordable devices that are powerful enough to be effective, but safe enough to be used by consumers.


A device called Tria, which is being rolled out next month for $995, is the first personal cosmetic laser to be sold in the U.S. The device, made by closely held SpectraGenics Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., uses the same diode-laser technology that became the gold standard in professional hair removal more than a decade ago. SpectraGenics has been selling a version of the Tria, called i-Epi, in Japan since 2005.

A rival device, called Silk'n, will be launched at the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery meeting in Kissimmee, Fla., this week. Priced at $800, it incorporates a different technology, known as pulsed light, that is also found in professional systems. An Israeli company called Home Skinovations Ltd. is behind the device.

Tria and Silk'n have their limitations. They are slower than professional treatments, so they work best in small areas like lower legs, underarms and bikini lines rather than big areas like hairy men's backs.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn't cleared them for use on the face, though consumers could end up using the devices there. And African-Americans and other dark-skinned people can't use them because of a risk of burns.

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"Home laser and light devices will be the biggest cosmetic trend over the next few years," says Tina Alster, a dermatologist in Washington, who owns stock in Home Skinovations and plans to sell the Silk'n device in her office.

Other sophisticated medical devices are making their way to consumers for acne, facial rejuvenation, cellulite reduction and other cosmetic uses. Consumer-products giants, including Procter & Gamble Co., Johnson & Johnson and L'Oreal have said they are pursuing some of these technologies.

The growth of home devices comes as companies try to take advantage of rising consumer spending on medical procedures to improve appearance. Americans spent about $13.1 billion on such procedures last year, up from $7.7 billion five years ago, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

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