Proposed law could lead to massive esthetician layoffs statewide

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If proposed changes to regulations pass through the Pennsylvania government, estheticians who operate lasers may be out of a job.

As the law stands, people without medical degrees can operate lasers in medical spas for hair removal and other cosmetic procedures. Estheticians operate freely, but are under the supervision of a facility’s medical director who is a physician who may or may not be on-site.

“The new regulation will stipulate that only physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants will be permitted to operate an aesthetic laser, and if the operator is not a physician, the physician must be on-site during the use of the laser and must perform an assessment on the patient prior to treatment,” said Paula Young, a registered nurse who runs Dr. Tattaway, a laser tattoo removal facility in Bethlehem. Young and her husband, Dr. Thomas Young, also run Young Medical Spa with locations in Center Valley, Lansdale and King of Prussia.

Designed to protect consumers from painful burns and other scarring, the measure was introduced in June.

“They feel like it’s the Wild, Wild West. Anybody can fire a laser, but you have to have a medical director that oversees what you do, [and] takes responsibility for your actions. It’s a pretty big job,” Paula Young said.

The proposed regulation is in the early stages of potential approval, however, and a series of actions must be taken before it can be made into law.

“After [proposal], there is a public commenting period. After the publication of the proposal, it goes through many hoops here, including an economic impact study, which takes time,” Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh, Northampton and Monroe) said from Harrisburg. “If, after going through the investigation and multiple committees, it is passed, it then goes to the House and Senate Licensure Committees if they choose to take it up.

“It will then undergo a 30-day review period, taking all aspects into consideration. The regulation has to pass here, and it is a slim chance due to all of the conflict involved.”

Other legislators agree it’s likely that the regulation change will not be adopted, at least not anytime soon.

According to a letter Young received from the office of Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton): “After a call to the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine, we found out that there is a proposed change to the regulation for the use of lasers. This potential change is in its infancy stages and has a long way to go before it could possibly affect your businesses.”

If no public comments are received by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, the earliest the bill could be passed is this fall, according to the Department of State.

However, Young doesn’t want to take chances.

“I just can’t sit and let that happen. I have to make as much noise as possible,” she said.

Young would have to lay off six of her 21-member staff if the regulation passes, and she would be forced to close the laser tattoo removal facility. Additionally, the spa most likely would stop offering laser hair removal.

“Prices of laser hair removal will go through the roof if only doctors can perform the procedure,” Young said. “It’s a big mess, an unnecessary mess.”

While she agrees regulation is important to protect clients, getting an esthetician certified to work with a laser can ensure mishaps are at a minimum.

“We are constantly working on our employees’ education. This is what we do; we literally work on our craft. We’re an exception to many,” explained Young.

To garner support, Young created a Facebook page entitled “PA Laser Law Coalition.”

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