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Buying Aesthetic Equipment: What’s Worth the Investment?

It’s trade-show season, when many readers will have their attention drawn to the newest technology. If you are like most estheticians, at some point in your career you caught the shopping frenzy and spent money on something that excited you—only to get it back to your treatment room and realize it was outside your scope of practice, not covered by insurance, or required additional training. Esthetics equipment is usually a big investment, so it’s important to do the research before putting your hard-earned money down for a new machine.


Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. WHAT IS THE INTENDED USE? Look at the manufacturer’s description of what the device is for, and cut it down to the most basic answer. Removal of skin growths? Dermal penetration of products? Permanently reversing (rather than just improving) the signs of aging? Anything that removes live tissue or alters the structure of the skin will be considered a medical procedure by state boards and insurance companies.
  2. WHAT DOES IT DO TO THE SKIN? Once you’ve considered the end result, ask yourself what process happens within the skin to create that result. How far into the skin does the technology penetrate? If anything is happening beyond the epidermis, you can bet you are beyond your scope of practice.
  3. WHAT IS MY SCOPE OF PRACTICE? Every state has different rules, and some states will not give you an official, written answer about a specific make or model of device. In this case, it’s up to you to understand your scope in sufficient depth to get an idea of whether a particular modality is acceptable. There are two different components of scope of practice: laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) and rules (also called “regulations” or “code”). Laws are passed by legislators, with public process; rules are added by state boards and other administrative agencies to provide more detail on how to interpret the law. Check both areas to see how they might apply to your planned new modality.
  4. WHAT IS THE COST PER TREATMENT? This question is often overlooked by those in the grip of trade-show excitement. Just because a salesperson says you can charge $150 per treatment doesn’t mean clients will be willing to pay that much. Decide what you would charge and how many clients per month you can realistically expect to see at that rate (base this estimate on your knowledge of your own clientele, not what the salesperson tells you). How long will it take you to recoup the purchase price of the equipment.

Questions to Ask the Salesperson:

  1. IS THE EQUIPMENT CE, CSA, OR UL LISTED? For devices that use electricity, this is an important safety indicator. Conformité Européene (CE), Canadian Standard Association (CSA), and Underwriters Laboratory (UL) are the three main bodies providing international safety certifications for electrical equipment. UL has the most rigorous testing standards.
  2. IS IT FDA REGISTERED? Machines that impact the function of the body (beyond cosmetic purposes) must be registered by the manufacturer with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). If the salesperson says the device is FDA approved, ask for the registration number. Remember FDA approval only means the device is not harmful; it does not guarantee the device actually does what it claims.
  3. WHAT IS THE RETURN POLICY? If the manufacturer has a return policy, get it in writing. Can you return the product if it turns out it’s not within your scope of practice?
  4. WHAT IS THE WARRANTY? Even the best-made equipment can break or malfunction.
    • What does the warranty cover?
    • How long does it last?
    • Are replacement parts readily available?
    • What do they cost?
    • Can you get a loaner machine to use while yours is being repaired?
  5. WHAT TRAINING IS AVAILABLE? IS THERE A COST? You must not use a new device or modality on a paying client without adequate training. You cannot risk harming a client—for the client’s sake, obviously, but also for wider reasons. If you cause an injury, and cannot prove you were properly trained, your insurance company may deny the claim. For every untrained esthetician who harms a client, the ramifications spread across our profession. Insurance companies drop coverage, which can then lead state boards to restrict the scope of estheticians, and public perception of licensed estheticians is negatively impacted.
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