LAWSUITS OVER LASERS: MEDICAL SPAS "PLAYING WITH FIRE"

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Medical spas took another hit last week, when NBC news reported that Nuvo International is being sued for severely burning two clients while performing laser hair removal. 'I started smelling my skin burn and I'm like, 'Oh my god,'' said victim Elealah Ruff. 'The whole bottom half of my face and my neck was big black...scabs,' said Karin Gilliam.

Both African American women received laser hair removal treatments from Nuvo Laser Skin Centers in Northern California. Early hair lasers only treated dark hair on light-skinned patients, however newer lasers can treat dark skin safely and effectively, if used properly. Evidence suggests that the nurses who treated Ruff and Gilliam were not properly trained on the contraindications of African American skin. Gilliam said the nurse who treated her passed the laser over the same areas twice, saying she would get more "bang for her buck."

According to Nuvo International's website, the centers are "full-service clinical skin care spas and treatment facilities specializing in anti-aging services offering advanced medical cosmetic procedures include laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, facials, injectibles, and sclerotherapy." The three-year-old company has 35 laser centers located in upscale malls in California, Oregon, and Washington—many located in high-income areas such as Marin County and Beverly Hills.

Kevin Taguchi, attorney for both Gilliam and Ruff, alleges that neither spa had doctors onsite. Also at issue is whether the nurses the nurses had adequate training to perform the procedures or treat the burns, and whether they were given adequate supervision. No state regulations clearly define what's appropriate supervision, however NBC reported that Nuvo's medical directors visit each spa just a few hours a week to perform procedures like Botox® injections that are beyond the scope of a nurses license. The suit also alleged that the spas were ill-equipped to handle the medical emergency. 'They didn't even have ice packs for me,' said one victim.

Alarm over medical spa practices has hit the California Medical Board. Los Angeles dermatologist and board member Ronald Moy told NBC that the board is "concerned about the medispa explosion -- especially ones with limited doctor supervision. That's our main concern, if somebody's harmed." Experts told NBC that using a laser without proper training is "literally playing with fire." Jeff Schmidt, CEO of Nuvo International, did not respond to NBC's inquiries about doctor supervision and other specifics of the incidents.