By Carla Penman
New Zealand is awash with dodgy, poorly-trained laser removal operators who import cheap machines from Asia, an industry expert warns.
Ruth Nicholson, who runs NZ Laser Training, suspects thousands of operators are falling through the cracks due to the poorly regulated industry.
Auckland is the only region in the country which has any kind of restrictions in place around laser removal, with the Health and Hygiene Bylaw 2013. But even that, Nicholson says, doesn't go far enough.
"Lasers in New Zealand are completely unregulated. At the moment, anybody can sell you a laser and any member of the public can buy a laser and either onsell it themselves via Trade Me or any other website or however they like.
"And they can also use the lasers on members of the public or on anybody... So they can start up a clinic tomorrow."
She says there are more people doing things dodgy than safely, particularly for tattoo removal.
Nicholson is particularly concerned about how easy - and cheap - it is to buy the machines on Ebay for just $3000 to $5000 - they should cost between $70,000 and $300,000.
"They bring it in through Customs. Customs don't stop them. There's no regulations to stop things coming in from overseas because they're not registered as a medical devices through Medsafe.
"They're not breaking any laws. They bring the machine in, they basically read the instruction manual which comes with the machine and they can start treating people."
A tattoo parlour, which has asked not to be named, says it's had to fix numerous botched removal jobs.
"There are total cowboys out there. Everywhere, everywhere. Just inexperienced. People not knowing what they're doing."
The parlour says the 'bad eggs' in the industry are giving safe, professional parlours like hers, a bad name and making scarring seem normal after laser treatment - when it's not at all.
An Auckland Council spokesperson told Focus there are currently 127 registered laser removal clinics in the region and it hasn't shut any down since the bylaw was brought in.
The bylaw is due to be reviewed by June 2018.