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Dr. Zachary Is Feature of Article: Lies, Illusions, and Mass Hysteria…

Lies, Illusions, and Mass Hysteria…

That’s how Dr. Christopher Zachary describes the marketing of modern skin-care lasers and similar devices.

“We run the risk of losing all credibility,” Zachary warned his colleagues during a recent panel on dermatology organized by the business-boosting group Octane.

As chairman of the Department of Dermatology at the University of California, Irvine, Zachary cautioned doctors to be wary about purchasing devices that are popular but unproven.

In buying a new laser, doctors “can spend $200,000 to make patients look better. Some of them work; most of them don’t,” he told the panel, held at UCI.

Despite his skepticism, Zachary works with many laser companies to test and try to improve their products. He said he’s particularly encouraged by work at UCI on a computerized Reliant laser called the Re:pair system, which directs the laser beam in a grid-like pattern, exposing only a fraction of the skin, which lets it recover quickly.

The fractional laser treatment produces “significant dramatic improvement” in the skin, he said. “This will be big news in the next six months.”

Many dermatologists are much more upbeat about a variety of new technologies that use light, ultrasound or infrared radiation to treat skin, but Zachary isn’t alone in his skepticism.

Dr. Dore Gilbert of Newport Beach, for example, has a warning for patients that he treats with the Thermage system, which bathes the skin in radio waves. It can produce positive results, but some patients see no improvement, he says.

Zachary told the panel that, although many lasers and similar devices produce little, if any, actual change in patients, doctors still make presentations at medical conferences about the new technology.

“There’s a problem here. I go to lecture after lecture, and I think that if someone went to the podium with a carousel and the slides slipped out, they wouldn’t know which was the ‘pre’ picture and which was ‘post,’ he said.

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