Catherine McLaughlin (WARNING!)

Academy of Professional Hair Removal

Catherine McLaughlin is a practitioner of "transcutaneous" hair removal in Bloomington, Illinois. She uses a "transcutaneous electrolysis" device made by Rejuvenu (formerly known as International Hair Removal Systems).

Academy of Professional Hair Removal should be avoided for hair removal. They use an unproven "transcutaneous" method.

Treatment with the Rejuvenu or IHRS devices such as Super-Phaser Gold should be avoided by all consumers. There is no published data showing it can remove hair permanently.

Claiming these devices are permanent is a violation of federal regulations. Reputable people usually do not associate themselves with these devices.

Background

Several consumers have contacted me about this practitioner’s shady sales tactics. Cash only, doesn’t like to give receipts, and basically works on commission to recruit new sales affiliates (which is where the real money is with the device).

A reader said that when she complained, owner Lee Cole offered to pay her to travel around the country talking up the device, but first she had to hand over her medical records to him and take a class in North Carolina.

Below is my my letter to the local paper, which had written an article and not checked the facts on Ms. McLaughlin:

To: [email protected]
Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 6:29 PM
Subject: Unchecked facts and consumer fraud

Dear Ms. Dennis–

My name is Andrea James, and I am a consumer activist who is currently focusing on hair removal fraud through the website HairFacts:

http://www.hairfacts.com

This week, a Pantagraph reader (who has requested anonymity) sent me an article that appeared on the front page of your paper’s business section on August 13, 2001. This reader and her friend spent a lot of money at the hair removal business featured in this article, and they had no results.

I wanted to alert you to the very poor reporting and fact-checking by your staff.

Pantagraph staff writer Kelly Josephsen features The Academy of Professional Hair Removal and its owner Catherine McLaughlin in an article titled "A Growing Business." Ms. McLaughlin uses a device called the Super Phaser Gold, manufactured by a North Carolina company currently called Rejuvenu International Limited (they change names frequently).

Ms. Josephsen’s article characterizes the Super Phaser Gold as a "more permanent [sic] hair removal system." Ms. Josephsen reports, "The sodium hydroxide decomposes the hair follicle, making it impossible for new hairs to be produced." These manufacturer claims are not only unfounded, they are illegal.

1. Ms. Josephsen writes that "the process has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration."
A call to FDA would have shown that the Super Phaser Gold is not cleared by FDA for any indication and has been cited more than once for federal violations stemming from claims that it can achieve permanent hair removal. The latest letter from FDA was sent to the manufacturer in April 2001. You can see a copy on my website at:
http://www.hairfacts.com/makers/etweezer/ihrs/fdaviolations.html

2. Ms. Josephsen writes that Ms. McLaughlin is "a certified instructor with International Depilation Institute."
A quick check would have shown that there is no such institute, and that it’s a front set up by the manufacturer to confer legitimacy on those who sell their equipment and treatments with it. The same company has used similar fronts over the years, such as the "Carolina Institute of Dermology [sic]."
The tweezer attachment shown in one of the photos is equally suspect. In 1998 FDA reclassified electric tweezers and acknowledged that "there is no statistically significant scientific data available at this time to support promotional claims of permanent or long-term removal of hair through use of the device." For details, please see:
http://www.hairfacts.com/govregs/fda/97n0199.html
http://www.hairfacts.com/methods/etweezer.html

The bottom line is that a painless and permanent method of hair removal requiring no skill simply does not exist at this time. If it did, market forces would quickly make all other methods obsolete.

—–
There are several reasons quacks like Ms. McLaughlin are able to stay in business.

1. They sell false hope to a steady stream of consumers who are often desperate to deal with unwanted hair quickly and quietly. This can include women with medical conditions like PCOS, who could use the money lost to Ms. McLaughlin on other needed therapies.

2. There is a very high placebo effect in hair removal. Hair growth is an extremely complex process caused by many variables, and some consumers think that even bogus products are working. Clinical studies with the prescription drug Vaniqa showed that one in three patients given a placebo were assessed by physicians to have improved. This indicates how hard it can be to judge hair growth, especially individual results.

3. Practitioners require a series of treatments, which continue until the consumer runs out of patience or money (or both, in the case of your reader who wrote to me).

4. Hair removal is considered by many to be a very personal and embarrassing matter, and most consumers who feel they have lost money will not pursue recourse for this reason (as in the case of your reader who wrote to me).

5. People like Ms. McLaughlin also make money selling these devices and selling training to others as home businesses or salon add-ons. This in turn leads to even more people being ripped off in what boils down to a pyramid scheme, with the manufacturer at the top of the pyramid.

6. Poor fact checking by journalists. Unfortunately, Ms. Josephsen’s uncritical report with no fact-checking and no opposing viewpoint is not that uncommon, especially at smaller newspapers.

I suspect Ms. Josephsen’s article sent some additional business to Ms. McLaughlin, thus causing your readers to waste money on a device promoted illegally. Quacks like Ms. McLaughlin often actively seek out chances to appear in papers, since it confers legitimacy on their unproven devices. Many times, the reporters are even offered a course of treatments in exchange for an article. Some of the less ethical reporters even accept.

I grew up in a small Midwestern town, and I know the important role the local newspaper plays in community life. I’m sure Pantagraph readers consider your paper a trusted source of information, and this kind of reporting can undermine that trust.

Perhaps you’d be willing to run a follow-up article that discusses all of the facts so that consumers can make a more informed purchasing decision. I would be happy to assist you in this.
If you have any questions, you can reach me at the email address above or the phone number below.

Sincerely,
Andrea James
Owner, hairfacts.com (a quackwatch.com affiliate)

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