Canada needs training standards for people who work in the laser hair removal business, argues an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The editorial, written by CMAJ deputy editor Dr. Diane Kelsall, argues that although laser devices used to get rid of unwanted hair must be licensed, but anyone is allowed to operate the equipment.

"Only the machine itself is licensed by Health Canada. Therefore, anyone, trained or not, can legally operate a laser machine for hair removal in Canada," she writes.

Kelsall notes that laser hair removal has become popular in recent years, even though it is expensive, does not work on all types of hair or skin, and may require several visits for treatment.

"Because of the popularity of laser hair removal, owning a laser machine is akin to having a licence to print money," she writes.

Kelsall notes that although serious problems from laser hair removal are rare, there have been reports of burns, changes to pigment, scarring, the reactivation of herpes viruses and even the growth of unwanted hair. Other problems can occur if the eyes aren't properly shielded.

Her editorial calls on Health Canada to set training standards for technicians who provide laser hair removal.

"To allow untrained staff to operate laser devices with such potential for harm is unreasonable," she writes, noting that other health-related uses of laser machines, such as for eye surgery, are regulated by provincial or territorial governments or colleges of physicians and surgeons.

As it stands now, Health Canada puts the onus on the customer to be sure that the person who operates the laser for laser hair removal has the training and experience needed. But she says it's unreasonable to ask the client to judge the fitness of the operator and laser machine.

"To protect the public, provinces and territories should license both clinics and operators and establish standardized training programs for both novice and experienced operators of laser hair removal devices," the editorial states.