How to Become a Laser Hair Removal Technician
Laser hair removal technicians remove body hair safely and permanently using state-of-the-art laser equipment. Much like cosmetologists and plastic surgeons, these professionals take great satisfaction in improving each client’s self-image through the services they provide.
To prepare clients for hair removal, technicians interview them about their skin type, ancestry, medications and health habits. They assess these elements so as to determine the safest and most effective settings for the laser device (and often work under a physician’s direction to ensure the quality of their work). Technicians selectively target hair follicles by delivering a small pulse of light from the laser device at precisely the right duration and wavelength. This process destroys a hair’s root without harming the surrounding skin.
Laser hair removal (LHR) can be safely performed on almost all parts of the body, and is used most often on the legs, back, face, armpits and bikini area. Technicians help to put clients who are embarrassed at ease and also make suggestions for dealing with the mild pain and discomfort that can accompany the procedure. Through the guidance they provide, these professionals make the laser hair removal process as efficient and effective as it can be.
Laser hair technicians enjoy boosting the confidence of their clients and freeing them from the hassle of hair removal. They receive the satisfaction of improving an individual’s appearance and quality of life.
In some states, laser hair removal technicians are required by law to work in medical facilities under direct physician supervision. In other states, they work outside of clinical settings in salons, spas and even clients’ homes. Where permitted by law, experienced technicians are able to open their own practices.
Most LHR technicians work full time. Many work evening hours and weekends, especially if they are self-employed. They generally work in clean, well-lit areas. Because the job is part of the beauty industry, many employers expect LHR technicians to be well dressed and groomed. During examinations and treatments, these professionals wear protective clothing, including lab coats, rubber gloves and eye protection.
A job as a laser hair removal technician is quite physical. They often stand for an hour or more during procedures. Careful attention to safety precautions is necessary to protect both the client and the technician from injury.
LHR technicians spend much of their day interacting with people. They work hard to build a rapport with clients and to ease their discomfort or embarrassment during procedures. Many technicians also work closely with a supervising physician.
Some states only allow medical professionals such as physicians, physician’s assistants and nurses to perform laser procedures. It is crucial that aspiring LHR technicians understand the regulations of the state in which they plan to practice. A state-by-state summary (PDF) of the regulations governing laser use is available online. For the most up-to-date information, contact the state medical board or department of health.
Many community colleges, for-profit colleges and career centers offer training in laser hair removal. Instruction covers laser physics, skin and hair biology and laser-tissue interactions. Training lasts anywhere from a few days to several weeks—it depends on the program and the student’s educational background. Some programs require a high school diploma or equivalent.
When choosing a training program, begin by asking the state medical board for a list of approved programs. If no list is available, look for a program that offers a combination of classroom and hands-on learning. Instructors should be certified professionals with extensive experience in the field. Because laser technology changes rapidly, make sure the program teaches the latest procedures on up-to-date equipment. Finally, choose a program that leads to state or national certification upon completion.
A growing number of for-profit career schools offer certificate programs in laser hair removal. An investigation by the Government Accountability Office found that some of these programs engage in fraudulent and deceptive educational practices while charging very high tuition. To avoid educational scams, consult the state for a list of approved programs.
Two professional organizations, the National Council on Laser Certification (NCLC) and the International Aesthetic & Laser Association (IALA), recommend online courses by the Laser Training Institute. While these courses prepare students for the written portion of NCLC’s national certification exam, they do NOT offer hands-on training. Students must therefore arrange additional training and supervision in order to meet the experience requirements for national certification.
Laser manufacturers provide complementary product training to customers. This training is intended for practicing professionals who already have a background in laser safety; it does not qualify individuals to perform laser hair removal.
In some states, laser hair removal technicians are trained on the job under the facility’s license. This may be a good option for those with medical training (for example, physicians, nurses or physician’s assistants). Trainees must usually take industry-approved laser safety courses and obtain an apprentice credential from the state’s licensing body.
Licensing and/or Certification
Practicing LHR technicians must be state certified and registered. National certification is voluntary but is growing in importance. At present, Texas and Florida require national certification, and several other states are considering such a law.
Two options are available for national certification:
NCLC and IALA jointly administer the Certified Laser Hair Removal Specialist (CLHRS, description in linked PDF) credential. To become certified, candidates must meet the following requirements.
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Complete 16 hours of documented laser safety and hair removal coursework
- Pass a 100-question proctored exam covering laser safety and hair removal procedures
- Submit at least 20 case reports for treatments performed under the supervision of a physician or senior provider
The Society for Clinical & Medical Hair Removal, Inc. (SCMHR) offers the Certified Laser Hair Removal Professional (CLHRP) credential. Candidates should be practicing professionals who have completed industry-approved laser safety courses. To become certified, they must pass a 100-question written exam developed by experts in the field.
Necessary Skills and Qualities
Laser hair removal technicians should be friendly, customer-service oriented individuals who are able to put their clients at ease. They must have the stamina to stand for long periods of time several times a day. An attention to safety procedures is essential to prevent injury to both the client and the technician. Because new procedures are constantly emerging, technicians should be lifelong learners with a keen interest in science and technology.
Opportunities for Advancement
Experienced laser hair removal technicians may supervise the work of junior techs. Some start their own hair removal businesses or become full-time instructors in the field.
Certified technicians with demonstrated skill and experience generally have the most opportunity for advancement. Prior medical training as a physician, nurse or physician’s assistant is also desirable. Further business education will benefit technicians looking to become solo practitioners.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the annual median salary for skincare specialists (including LHR technicians) was $29,190 as of May 2011. The lowest paid 10% of skincare specialists earned less than $17,620 while the highest paid 10% earned more than $51,110. Earnings generally increase with education, certification and experience.
According to the US Department of Labor, job growth for skincare specialists (including laser hair removal technicians) is expected to increase by 25% between 2010 and 2020, which is considered faster than average for all occupations. This is due to the growing popularity of laser hair removal, which has become more affordable and less painful thanks to technological advances. Growth of the salon and spa industry is also creating job opportunities for laser hair removal technicians.
Due to liability concerns, demand will be highest for technicians with medical training (nurses and physician’s assistants). Employers strongly prefer candidates with demonstrated professional skill and national certification.
LHR technician jobs are posted on the websites of spas, salons, clinics and on online job boards. Technicians can also find jobs by networking with former employers and clients.