Express beauty service: Sure, it’s fast, but are the results long-lasting and cost-effective?

Blow-out salons, lash bars, hair conditioning studios and makeup lounges that offer express takes on a single beauty service are popping up all over the city. One of the latest — and arguably most novel —concepts in the pamper-and-go business is Skin Laundry, a local company that offers a five-minute, non-ablative “Signature Laser Facial” at its first two locations in Santa Monica and West Hollywood.

Performed by a registered nurse, the painless two-part session includes a laser treatment (with a Q-switched laser, typically used to treat acne and skin discoloration) and an IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light, treatment (often called a photo facial and commonly used to diminish skin pigmentation and boost collagen production).

The treatment is touted as an express service with longer-term skin-rejuvenating benefits than a regular facial and as an affordable, gentler alternative to other laser skin treatments and chemical peels. The regimen is said to remove dirt and bacteria from the skin, minimize sun spots and age spots, even out skin texture and stimulate collagen production. All with no down time.


PHOTOS: Treatments at Skin Laundry

“A lot of girls come during their office break because you don’t have that redness and down time from peeling and scabbing,” says Dr. Elson Lai, Skin Laundry’s medical director and a local ophthalmologist who has focused on laser eye surgery and cosmetic procedures. “People come in and say, ‘I have a dinner party tonight,’ and they want to look tighter, brighter, lighter. And they get a treatment, and they’re off to the party.” They don’t have to plan four weeks ahead of time.”

The owners encourage weekly sessions for the first four to six weeks, followed by routine treatments every two or four weeks, depending on skin type. Lai says that the laser is so safe that “you really can’t overdo it” and even suggests that patients with acne-prone skin return twice a week.

“You can be out for a coffee and go to the dry cleaner and stop by Skin Laundry to take care of your facial routine for the week,” says Chief Executive Chris Carey.

But multiply the $75 session price by four each month and then compare it to a facial every six weeks (they start at $135 at Kate Somerville in West Hollywood) or to a more intensive annual laser treatment (Dr. Stuart Kaplan in Beverly Hills offers laser skin resurfacing from $750), and it no longer appears to be such a bargain.

So how do the results compare with those of more high-impact dermatological laser treatments? Carey and Lai would not reveal the laser settings, for proprietary reasons, but if the laser is this safe, is the setting high enough to produce long-term improvements to the skin? Since the company has just launched, it may be too soon to tell.

“A five-minute treatment just tells me that the device is firing very quickly, and when they fire quickly, they can’t have a whole lot of energy, which means that it can’t be doing a whole lot,” says Dr. Kenneth Rothaus, the chair of emerging technology for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and a global educator on laser procedures. “This laser is great for acne, and it does give your face a glow. When you treat a patient’s face, their skin looks nicer for about a week or 10 days. But it’s temporary. This is a very superficial treatment with a temporary result. If you have a black-tie [party] this weekend, it’s great. Could you achieve the same thing with a facial and a glycolic peel? Probably.”

The company has ambitious plans for nationwide expansion. And the demand for the type of treatments that Skin Laundry offers is on the rise. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, IPL treatments performed at physicians’ offices in the United States increased by 10% in 2012 and the average cost was $472; laser skin resurfacing (both ablative and non-ablative) increased by 9% and the average cost for a non-ablative treatment was $1,113.

By early October, Skin Laundry plans to open its third location at Fashion Island in Newport Beach and launch a line of skincare products.

Skin Laundry, 1230 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 319-9400; and 8789 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 360-0791,