Laser skin resurfacing is an effective and non-invasive alternative to a facelift, smoothing out areas of skin, particularly fine lines and wrinkles around the mouth and eyes. The treatment can also be used to remove blemishes, such as stretch marks, scars and liver spots. The laser light blasts the surface of the skin, destroying the outer layers and exposing the deeper (pink) dermis layer, that is then heated by the laser’s energy to stimulate the production of collagen, a protein that is necessary to create and bind together new soft tissue and skin cells.
Yes. Laser skin resurfacing requires both technical precision and accurate pre-treatment evaluation. A skin patch test will help the laser technician calculate the optimum intensity of the laser light, and the amount of time it needs to be beamed onto the skin to achieve the desired results. Small errors and miscalculations at this stage can have disastrous consequences. There are also certain contraindications that make laser procedures inadvisable for an individual, including pregnancy, diabetes and a tendency to form keloid (raised) scars. A proper medical consultation should therefore determine whether or not it is safe to proceed with a resurfacing treatment.
Initially a doctor and then a specialist solicitor in this field. Laser beams and intense pulsed light (IPL) can severely damage the skin if the machine settings are too high, or if they are directed at areas of skin for even marginally too long. Burns often cause blistering and scarring that may disfigure a person for many months or even permanently. Laser light may also change the pigmentation (colour) of the skin, with darker skin in particular being prone to lightening. There is a further risk of eye damage when laser skin resurfacing is being carried out around the eyes, and for this reason patients must be provided with protective goggles to wear during their treatment.
This is a common problem. Since the Government deregulated the cosmetic use of laser and IPL equipment in 2010, the prospective patient’s choice of clinic and practitioner has become a critical issue. No formal qualifications are currently required to perform laser skin resurfacing treatments, neither are there any guidelines or quality controls regarding the equipment that can be used. It is important to check that practitioners hold a laser/IPL BTEC qualification in laser treatments, and have a track record of safely carrying out skin resurfacing procedures. Clinics and salons must also be hygienic and properly ventilated to reduce the risk of infections.
With around 10,000 private clinics offering non-surgical cosmetic laser treatments in the UK, and the popularity of such procedures on the rise, the lack of regulation of the industry continues to provoke widespread criticism from official medical bodies. Until the Government takes action to ensure that clinics offering cosmetic laser procedures are subject to some form of official oversight, patients will continue to be at risk from what the Daily Mail terms ‘cosmetic surgery cowboys’. It is still possible, however, to take legal action when a procedure like laser skin resurfacing has gone wrong and caused injury.
Case Study 1
Mr D underwent two carbon dioxide laser (CO2 laser) skin resurfacing procedures, in an attempt to remove acne scars which had plagued him since his youth. Mr D was unhappy following his first laser treatment, as he felt it that it had not reduced his scarring as much as he had expected. During the second procedure, the laser technician decided to raise the laser’s settings, and the intensity of the beam, in an attempt to achieve better results. Immediately afterwards Mr D felt a tingling and burning sensation all over his face. The clinic where the procedure took place told him this was normal, and provided him with aloe vera gel to soothe his skin. The next day however, Mr D’s had visible burn marks across both his cheeks. He saw his GP who prescribed a stronger burn treatment cream, but Mr D was left effectively disfigured for the next 8 weeks, and experienced considerable pain and discomfort during that time.
Mr D later contacted Bartletts Solicitors having read about our experience in successfully claiming compensation for clients burnt during laser treatments. We agreed to represent him, and wrote to the laser clinic’s owners, pointing out that the operator should not have increased the intensity of the laser second time round, as the original settings (during Mr D’s first treatment) had been calculated based on the results of a skin patch test, and as such, any increase was likely to prove dangerous given Mr D’s individual skin characteristics. The second treatment had not been carried out in a reasonably competent manner, and the clinic itself was therefore to blame for Mr D’s burn injuries. Liability was accepted by the clinic’s insurers relatively quickly in this case, and our client later received £3,750 in compensation.
Case Study 2
Mrs E suffered second degree burns from a laser skin resurfacing treatment that she had booked to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks on her stomach. The salon carried out a skin patch test prior to the treatment, meaning they should have had all the information necessary to accurately determine Mrs E’s individual skin sensitivity, and the wave and pulse duration of the laser to be used during the procedure. Mrs E’s skin was red and stinging following the treatment. The next day it began to blister, and she saw her doctor, who diagnosed second degree burns caused by laser heat. Mrs E later returned to the beauty salon to complain, as well as to request information on the laser machine used during her treatment. She was offered a refund for the procedure, but was assured that the laser had been correctly set up, and was in perfect working order. They attributed Mrs E’s burns to her own failure to apply the post-treatment soothing and healing cream they had advised her to use.
Mrs E was upset and angry by the salon’s response to her situation, and decided to seek legal advice. We later handled her claim against the salon’s owners, informing them that, on the day of our client’s appointment, either the laser machine had not been in perfect working order, or else the technician had set it up incorrectly, meaning the beam was too strong for Mrs E’s skin type. In whichever case, the negligence of staff at the salon directly caused our client’s burns, the severity of which mean that she is likely to have long-term or permanent visible scars on her stomach. The salon owner’s were responsible for failing to handle Mrs E as a customer with reasonable care, as well as for the errors made by their employees in assessing our client, and in carrying out the laser treatment. On admission of liability, Mrs E received £6,500 in compensation from the salon’s insurers.
Case Study 3
Mrs T booked an appointment at a beauty salon for a laser skin resurfacing treatment, aimed at smoothing out wrinkles around around her mouth and eyes. Being dark-skinned, Mrs T asked the salon if they needed to carry out a skin patch test, as she was aware that lasers can affect the skin’s pigmentation. The salon reassured her that this was not necessary, as they had never had a problem with laser treatments previously. Mrs T went for her appointment, and was initially pleased with the results, despite her face stinging, which the salon assured her was normal. The following day her skin was red and inflamed. A week later Mrs T noticed that patches of skin on her face appeared lighter. In fact she had developed hypopigmentation, a lightening of the skin condition, due to over-exposure to laser beams.
After doctors informed Mrs T that her condition was likely to be long-term, and was difficult to treat, Mrs T decided to bring a compensation claim against the beauty salon in question. We wrote to the salon on her behalf, stating that a skin patch test, had it been carried out, would have determined that the normal laser settings were too high for Mrs T’s skin type. The adverse reaction that she had suffered was entirely foreseeable, and the salon had been negligent in failing to properly assess Mrs T’s suitability for the treatment. The salon and its insurers eventually admitted liability for Mrs T’s condition, and she received £4,500 in compensation.
Case Study 4
Ms D made an appointment at a beauty and cosmetic clinic for a laser resurfacing treatment to deal with wrinkles and bags under her lower eyelids. Following the procedure the bags under her eyes ended up more pronounced, as the skin had been tightened to iron out the wrinkles. On the clinic’s advice, Ms D agreed to a follow-up blepharoplasty surgical operation to remove fat from under her lower eyes, followed by another laser resurfacing session to smooth out the skin. After the second laser treatment however, the skin under Ms D’s lower eyes was red and swollen, and later began to crack, blister and form scabs. She was prescribed anti-burn ointment and painkilling medication by her GP, and was forced to take 4 weeks off work. Her disfigured facial appearance also caused deep distress and embarrassment for a long time afterwards.
Ms D contacted our firm having read about our experience in handling claims against cosmetic and laser clinics, and we agreed to take on her claim on a no win no fee basis. We were able to obtain a specialist medical opinion confirming our main argument, that the first ablative laser resurfacing procedure had removed too many layers of skin from under Ms D’s eyes, to make a second laser treatment inadvisable so soon afterwards. The laser clinic did not take into account the fragile state of Ms D’s skin under her eyes, and the laser technician therefore failed to adjust the settings on the laser machine accordingly. The strong beam had burned Ms D’s skin as a direct consequence, and this represented negligence on the part of the cosmetic clinic and its parent company. Following an admission of liability, Ms D received £4,500 in compensation from the clinic’s insurers.
Case Study 5
A recent client of Bartletts Solicitors booked a series of three skin rejuvenation treatments with a laser clinic to reduce the appearance of freckles on her face. The procedure utilised a Co2 fractional ablative laser, and Ms T was examined by a certified dermatologist beforehand to check her individual skin suitability for invasive laser surgery of this kind. Close to the end of her second treatment, Ms T complained to the laser technician that her skin was stinging more than usual. She ultimately sustained a full thickness burn on her chin, because over-aggressive use of the laser had burned the epidermis layer of her skin, which should have been adequately protected by an effective skin cooling system. Ms T was left with what is likely to be a permanent scar on her chin, and suffered emotional repercussions from her facial injury including agoraphobia and depression. As a result, a few months later she decided to seek legal advice.
Ms T got in touch with Bartletts. She initially wanted to know who to complain to about laser burns from a freckle removal treatment. After talking through her case we advised her that she had a personal injury claim against the clinic for laser burns to the face. Subsequently she decided to proceed with a claim against the laser clinic that has botched her skin rejuvenation treatment. In correspondence with the clinic, and backed up by a specialist medical report, we stated that Ms T’s skin was burnt due to the Co2 fractional laser penetrating too far into her skin, and the epidermal layer not being sufficiently cooled, resulting in a thermal injury. The clinic had failed to use the necessary care and skill that one would expect from a company performing invasive laser treatments on clients, and their errors in this area had directly caused Ms T’s full thickness burn. We maintained that this represented negligence, and that Ms T was therefore entitled to compensation for the burn injury she suffered through no fault of her own. Following an admission of partial liability by the laser clinic’s parent company, Ms T received a total of £4,250 in compensation.
If you have been burned or otherwise injured by a laser skin resurfacing treatment at a cosmetic clinic or beauty salon, contact our expert female solicitors today for free, confidential legal advice. Our experience in this relatively new area of law means that our lawyers will be able to negotiate the best possible compensation settlement on your behalf.