Beauty Left to Its Own Devices

Laser technology expert Robert Grove Ph.D. has a peculiar, square-shaped bald spot on his arm.

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NEW YORK — Laser technology expert Robert Grove Ph.D. has a peculiar, square-shaped bald spot on his arm.

The hairless patch is a result of countless demonstrations of Tria, the at-home laser hair removal device created by Grove, co-founder, president and chief executive officer of SpectraGenics, a company that more than a decade ago developed the first diode-laser technology used for professional hair removal.

For its part, the $995 Tria is the first laser hair removal product cleared for direct-to-consumer sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to the company. It's also one of a trailblazing guard of FDA-approved, personal-use cosmetic devices marching onto the market. A handful of others include the skin-toner NuFace and the acne-fighting tool Tanda.

Maha Sherif, president and ceo of Valencia, Calif.-based Ageless Beauty Corp. — the maker of $225 Marvel-Mini designed to fight acne and fine lines — declared "the race is on" to bring devices to market.

At SpectraGenics, the Tria, which received FDA approval in February, is slated to roll out to dermatologists' offices next month and to Bergdorf Goodman, Studio at Fred Segal and a dozen Bliss Spas in late summer.

Its price may be as jaw-dropping as its use, but mention it to a group of women and you can almost hear the mental math in their heads.

"If it was safe, easy to use and guaranteed to work than, yes, I'd pay $995 for it," said Raeka DeLong, a New York beauty devotee who recently spent $900 on a professional laser hair removal treatment. "Actually, I'd pay up to $2,000 for it."

After all, as Kevin Applebaum, SpectraGenics' chief commercialization officer, noted, women spend roughly $800 to $900 on waxing services a year, according to the company's research. Professional laser hair removal, he estimated, runs from $1,000 for the underarm area to $9,000 for the legs.

"The fact that women tolerate the pain and inconvenience of waxing showed there was an opportunity," said Applebaum. "There's clearly pent-up demand for its benefits."

The firm estimated that the current global market for professional laser hair removal is $5.5 billion in size, and that waxing is a $4.5 billion business globally.
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