My first year as a laser technician: What I learned

My first year as a laser technician in a cosmetic skin clinic was a bit of a wild one! Originally, I had started working at a prominent skin clinic in Western Canada as a part time receptionist, while working part time at Saje Natural Wellness, to save up money to move out on my own as I finished up my English degree and Public Relations certificate. I joke that I became a laser technician “by accident”, as I didn’t have an intention of becoming one or even staying in the same industry after I finished my degree.

However, less than a month into this new job, one of my coworkers announced that she was opening her own hair and wig salon, and would be drastically reducing her hours at the clinic. Because I was only part time at the time, and was nearly done my degree, the doctor and owner at that time asked if I wanted more hours and wanted to start training to be a laser technician. I honestly just said “Sure, I’ll give it a try.” because I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the clinic, how kind my coworkers there were, and knew that finding a job in January as an English B.A. graduate could be difficult. I figured that I would train as a laser technician and work enough hours to quit my lovely but exhausting retail gig, and keep searching for English-related jobs in the meanwhile.

I eventually quit searching as diligently for English-related jobs because I enjoyed the work I was doing, and most of the jobs relevant to my degree either strictly wanted Business majors, or paid less than what I was presently making at that time and had no benefits. I still keep my eye out for part-time English-related jobs because it is a passion of mine, but I am also happy with the path I chose for now. I kept working reception and laser, even as most of the chain of clinics sold to brand new, new-to-the-industry owner. I lasted about eight months with this new owner, until myself and nearly ever single staff member of not only our location, but the other locations by the same name, were laid off.

Though it was terrifying, disheartening, and stressful to be laid off (I hope to do a post in the future about what it is like to be laid off and how to prepare for a lay-off!), it ended up being a relief. I was laid off at the beginning of the lay-offs and didn’t have trouble collecting my severance. I was entirely free to seek employment elsewhere, and find a workplace whose ethics and protocol matched both mine and the industry’s standards.

A brand new clinic with only one other location out of province was opening up just around the block, and the timing of the lay off perfectly allowed for me to discover this clinic, interview with them, and train at their existing location before the clinic opened. I was so lucky to have been able to find a job relatively quickly! For the past five months I have been working for this new clinic and helped it to open, and I have learned and experienced a lot.

It’s been a wild year, but here is what I learned! I hope that what I’ve learned will help out other brand new laser technicians and medical aestheticians as they break their way into the industry.

  1. Be very aware of what your contract is saying before you sign it. Many contracts have strict conditions about contacting clients of the clinic if you are laid off, fired, or willingly choose to leave your current clinic to work elsewhere. It’s also just a good idea overall to know exactly what your expected duties are, when your benefits kick in, if you get commission and how and when you will receive it, your allotted number of vacation days, and other important policies. You can get in huge trouble for something as small as keeping notes you took at a work training seminar, if your contract specifies that those training notes cannot leave the clinic when you do. If you cannot afford to have someone who works in law look over it, at the bare minimum have a parent, sibling, spouse, and/or friend read it over, because they may notice things that you don’t notice and may understand some of the legal jargon that you don’t understand.
  2. Create a curated and professional social media presence for yourself. There are so many reasons to do this! One, it is an easily accessible place for you to create a portfolio of your knowledge and work, including before and afters, product information, tutorials, and career milestones. Two, clients/patients appreciate somewhere where they can access information about treatments and products, and it can prompt them to ask questions and book in. Three, it enables past clients/patients a way to find you if you end up working at a different location, for whatever reason that may be, as most clinics will pursue legal action if you are directly and actively contacting past clients once you no longer work there. Four, if you are on commission or only are paid for hours that you are booked with appointments, it can be a lifesaver. Some clinics advertise really well for their staff and clinic overall, some don’t advertise at all. Some clinics do advertise, but may not advertise you and your services specifically. This is a free means of bringing in foot traffic to ensure you get paid, regardless of what your employer is doing for marketing and advertising. And finally, it’s a really great way to network. I’ve met so many incredible and intelligent people in this industry just through Instagram alone, and I’ve learned a lot from their feeds. They inspire me to do things differently in my own social media and customer service, and alert me of incoming trends, new product launches, and the like.
  3. Consent forms are IMPORTANT. Consent forms are important not only because they make the client/patient aware of the risks and protocol of the treatment they are receiving, but they cover your butt legally. The client care coordinator I’ve had the privilege of working with for the past year or so has also created really thorough pre and post care sheets for treatments, so that clients/patients know exactly what they do to get the safest and most noticeable results. I like to briefly outline the risks of the treatment and what it entails first in the consultation with my clients/patients, give them a copy of the consent and pre/post care to take home with them to review, thoroughly go over the consent with them again immediately prior to treatment, get them to sign, initial, and date the consent form, and then go over post care immediately after treatment before they leave. Repetition aids memory, and I’ve found people would rather be told repeatedly and have a thorough understanding of what treatment will entail, than be told once and potentially forget what they were told. It gives patients more security and will save you from fewer complaints that the patient “didn’t know they were supposed to do such and such” or that they “didn’t know they would look like such and such post treatment”. As well, if you do post before and afters of work to Instagram, it can be a good idea to make sure that your patient fills out a brief photo release consent form, even if they give verbal consent to use their photos online. This way, the patient knows exactly how and where their photo will be used (e.g. will their identity be kept anonymous with blocked out eyes, which platforms their photo will be used on, etc.) and you have written proof that you did get their consent to post their photos. It covers your butt legally, and communicates to the client specifically how their photo will be used.
  4. Documentation is IMPORTANT. Whether your clinic or spa does paper charting or digital charting, I think it is really important to do very thorough charting whenever possible. I make note of not only the settings I used for the treatment, but what was discussed beforehand, what preferences or allergies the client may have, client reactions to treatment, the status of their skin, etc. I also like to make a few personal notes if the client and I talked about something in particular, so that I avoid asking them the same questions over and over each time I meet with them.  In Canada as well many people go on hot vacations over the winter, and come back with a tan. If a client has mentioned they will be going away somewhere warm I make note of this as well, as I can’t treat them if they have an active tan. For myself it is important to be thorough yet not biased and professional in these notes, as a client can request to have their chart given to them at any time. As well, documentation comes in handy if there is ever (God forbid!) a client complaint or treatment complication that comes up.
  5. Always seek out training and professional development opportunities. Medical aesthetics is a quickly evolving industry, and it is important to stay on top of not only aesthetics trends but the business side of things as well. Seek out training on new treatments and add each course or day-training to your linked-in immediately afterwards, keep copies of your certificates for yourself at home, and also display them in clinic or have them available in clinic if clients wish to view them. Even if the certificate is just for a day long laser training seminar, it still is reassuring for clients to see that you do have the training to you claim to have. Keep your resume and LinkedIn diverse by attending other seminars as well! I attended a free Human Rights in the Workplace conference the other day put on by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, and found it to be really interesting. Though it doesn’t pertain specifically to my position now, it is still handy information to know if I am ever in a management or human resources position within my present company, or if I change professions due to injury or interest.
  6. Seek out employers who are medical professionals. You will immediately have a safer laser practice if you are working with doctors and registered nurses, or dermatologists and plastics specialists. If you can, find medical professionals who are willing to train and mentor you, and who you can easily approach if you have questions regarding how clients’ health conditions or medications will interact with treatment, machine setting options, and skin conditions overall. Working with medical professionals rather than out of a spa or salon in which there are no medically trained individuals present will immediately elevate your practice and give you more support with what you do. Always look into their credentials and training, and feel free to ask them of their credentials, training, and areas of specialty during the interview process.
  7. Err on the side of caution. It is better to turn someone away and tell them you’ll have to consult with your medical director first, than to go ahead with a treatment you have a bad gut feeling about and end up scarring or blistering someone. Always start with your settings low, triple check your settings, and wait to see how the skin reacts. Always check in with your client and see how they are doing, and double check that safety glasses are worn at all times when lasering. Thoroughly sanitize your treatment room before and after each treatment, and do everything in your power to ensure a sanitary and safe treatment for both yourself and your client. I’ve been told by a number of technicians, doctors, and trainers, that you SHOULD be a little afraid–it is a laser, after all! If you lose that fear and respect for the intensity of the treatments you are carrying out, that enables reckless behaviour and potentially dangerous outcomes.

Though I am now only a year and a quarter into being a laser technician, I have learned so much, but still acknowledge that I have so much more to learn. I’m excited to see what this next year will bring!


EMPTIES: Glo Skin Beauty Oil Control Emulsion and Physicians’ Formula Killer Curves Mascara

Recreating the goldfish cracker meme but with empty products and this is the look I got 😂 In all honesty I’m mad because my cat’s hair is the softest thing in the world, and no matter how many bougie hair masks I use mine will simply never compare.


@physiciansformula Killer Curves Mascara: A bit clumpy when you first start using it, but what mascara isn’t? I think this made my lashes look quite nice and I have no complaints! I liked the metallic packaging because it’s easy to find on my dark dresser counter when I’m doing my makeup while visually impaired in the mornings.

@gloskinbeauty Oil Control Emulsion: A very light-weight, hydrating product perfect for excessively oily skin. It did mattify me a little in the mornings and gave me a bit of hydration. I liked to use this during the day when I wanted to be a little less shiny, and then used heavier hydrators and moisturizers at night when I don’t give a damn what I look like. 60mL lasted me quite a long time, and I would use again.

NO BUY 2019: Trip to Toronto, and advice for those travelling on a low buy or no buy

Travelling while on a no buy can be…challenging. I recently had the privilege of travelling to Toronto for the Jack Summit 2019 national youth mental health advocacy conference. It’s an annual summit where around 200 or so applicants are selected to attend a three day long conference of panels, guest speakers, workshops, and networking events related to mental health advocacy for those under the age of 25. I decided to extend my visit by a few days to see more sights around Toronto, visit a few friends, and take a break from work stress.

For those who live in larger cities, this may not be a big deal. But coming from small-city-Saskatchewan where the shopping isn’t bad but definitely isn’t impressive; this posed quite a challenge for my no buy. In the past when I’ve gone to Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver, I have always flown home with a suitcase ready to wrench itself open at moment because it is so filled with purchases that I normally can’t get at home. Usually I’ve done a mini-clothing spree and have half a dozen Sephora purchases, alongside the usual post cards and Chapters/Indigo things I pick up at the airport or for the plane ride home.

This year I was determined to enjoy myself, but still do my best to stick to my no buy. I budgeted myself $100 per day maximum for sightseeing, eating out, transportation within the city, and shopping. Surprisingly, I did manage to stick to this budget! I think the thought of overspending, coming home to even more debt, and then letting that guilt ruin my holiday and conference, kept me in check. There were a few days where I was slightly over my budget, but this was balanced out by the few days where I was significantly under budget. By braving my public transportation anxieties (I am SUCH a country mouse in the city, as we don’t even have a subway system in my entire province) to take the subway and walk to the majority of my destinations, I spent maybe $45 total on transportation. To my recollection it was about $21 for the half a dozen subway rides I took, about $7 for the Uber my roomie and I took the last day of the conference when we were absolutely exhausted and overslept, and about $15 for the UP Express from downtown Toronto to the airport. For food, it fluctuated between cheap meals on the run and a few really nice sit down or order in meals, and I didn’t go too wild with any alcohol purchases, which is what usually hurts the food budget the most. For sightseeing I did a few free attractions like local art galleries and the Allen Gardens Conservatory, with a few paid entrance attractions like Casa Loma ($30 or so), which were worth the price because they were not only enjoyable but filled up so much of my day.

I think what was most impressive is that when it came down to shopping, I didn’t buy anything that violated my no buy. My purchases included: postcards to thank my conference sponsors from Casa Loma, an eye roller serum from Pixi by Petra (I was entirely out of any eye products for multiple weeks prior), a Laroche Posay Cicaplast hand lotion because I had forgotten mine at home and the hotel lotion was doing nothing to help my cracked hands, a 10 year goal planner from Indigo, and some bandaids and Polysporins because I absolutely destroyed my feet with the boots I was walking kilometres in.

It was really satisfying because when I flew home I didn’t have to worry about fitting everything into my carry-on bags, I knew that I hadn’t created a ton of debt to add onto my already existing debt, and I was going home with a few well-needed and well-wanted purchases that I was genuinely excited about!

My advice for anyone going on a tantalizing and tempting trip while sticking to a no buy:

  • Create a realistic (key word: REALISTIC) budget. Consider food, transportation, sightseeing, the taxes added onto those totals, and whatever shopping that fits into your rules. Make sure your estimates are realistic to the actual cost of those items in that area, and make sure to give yourself a bit of wiggle space. I like to round up my daily travel budget by about $15 to $20 to account for miscalculations or surprise expenses, like getting lost and having to take a cab, etc. Consider whether or not you will be eating in sit down restaurants or more so fast food and on the fly, whether or not you will be making your own food at where you are staying, and whether or not you’ll be consuming alcohol on your trip (that adds up quickly), but don’t deprive yourself of an enjoyable vacation. It’s a tricky balance, but I’m always reminded of my mom’s advice. She always says that you can eat inexpensive bologna sandwiches for weeks when you get home for a trip, but you should enjoy the brand new sights, scents, and tastes of your destination while you’re there.
  • Look for tourist deals or coupons before you head out on your trip. For example, Montreal has a MTL Passeport where tourists can by a two day or three day pass that gives them unlimited access to public transportation and a number of museums, galleries, and other attractions for the amount of time specified. If the attractions on that list are what you mainly plan on doing for that number of days, it can save you a fair bit of cash on admission to all of these attractions.
  • Research free attractions in the city. Toronto’s Allen Gardens is a beautiful example! I spent nearly an hour wandering around the glass conservatory checking out the plants and turtles, enjoying a break from the cold outside, and taking in the warm temperatures of the conservatory.
  • Take a breather when you are close to impulse buying. Take a lap around the mall, or take a moment to head to the bathroom and come back before purchasing something. It can be easy to get caught up in the mentality of “We don’t have that back home, I need to buy it, now or never!” with things that we don’t need or even want that badly. Taking a moment to think about how it will be a pain in the ass to haul home with you, or to remind yourself of the similar items you have back home, helps.

That’s about it from me today. How is everyone else doing on their 2019 no buys? The majority of folks seem to be on month three (except for those who started earlier, like me!). Has it gotten more difficult as time has gone on? Easier? I’d love to hear how you all are doing!

NO BUY 2019: Modern Renaissance Declutter

Rest in peace, Modern Renaissance. It’s been real(gar), but you are long past expired, you are patchy, you don’t blend well anymore, and it’s time for me to move on to newer, silkier palettes. ♥️

NO BUY 2019: What I spent in February, a check-in

If you are going to do a no buy at any point in time, I highly recommend incorporating a budget into your rules. I did NOT incorporate a budget into my rules at the beginning, and I find that I am still spending a lot of money on beauty products. Instead of replacing products with cheaper products when they’re finished, it seems that I’ve been replacing them with equally expensive, if not more expensive products, which is something I aim to change in future months. I seriously cannot stress how helpful it is to create very specific and detailed rules for your no buy, as you will constantly seek out loopholes to feel okay about spending if you truly are addicted to shopping. It’s hard because I work in a clinic that sells expensive skincare, skincare that I know is really good and has been effective for my skin in the past. However, even with my staff discount, I cannot afford this skincare and I think I need to accept that. I can’t afford to keep buying luxury line replacements from work or from Sephora and I need to stop pretending that I can, because the interest rates on my credit card will slowly eat me alive. From here on out I am going to try and replace items with drugstore products, or from affordable lines like The Ordinary and Mario Badescu.

I think a big challenge in my no buy will be my upcoming trip to Toronto. Whenever I go to Toronto I tend to overspend because there are so many stores there that we don’t have anywhere in Saskatchewan, and I prefer to try on clothes or try out products in person. However, I plan on arriving with a set list of items that I can purchase and a budget for each day that I spend in Toronto to keep me on track. I need a pair of jeans as I only have two pairs that fit me, and the one pair is several years old and literally ripping apart on me. I also need a good bra that fits me, as well as an inexpensive eye cream. I’m hoping to visit the actual Deciem store, so I am hoping to pick up my Caffeine Eye Serum there and see what the store itself is like. I won’t be purchasing any makeup or books on this trip, as I have in the past.

As I won’t be purchasing or using up anything else in February, here is what I spent and what I used up this month:

What I spent on replacement beauty products in February 2019:

  • Mario Badescu Glycolic Toner ($22): I purchased this as I was entirely out of toners, including samples.
  • Laroche Posay Micellar Foaming Cleanser ($22): I purchased this because I had a bad bout of fungal acne earlier on in the month, and the ingredients in a number of my other skincare products aggravated and fed my fungal acne. I purchased this and a few other products to use until the fungal acne cleared up.
  • Laroche Posay Toleriane Ultra Fluide ($34): Purchased for fungal acne.
  • Milk Luminous Blur Stick ($0): This was a Sephora reward that came with my Mario Badescu Toner order.
  • Aczone Gel ($80): Prescribed by the dermatologist I work with for my fungal acne outbreak.
  • Nude by Nature Foundation ($36): Purchased because I have no matte liquid foundations. I do presently have a Covergirl foundation, and though it claims to be matte it is a luminous finish. This is fine when I go out or to wear on weekends, but at work I prefer something more heavy duty. The shade itself turned out to be lighter than expected, but I have been mixing it with a summer shade of Glo foundation and it seems to be working a bit better for my skin tone.
  • Nude by Nature Powder Foundation ($32): I purchased this as I had entirely finished my Giorgio Armany Powder. I did actually try to go a few weeks without using any powder foundation to see if it was actually a necessity, but I did direly miss it. I frequently use powder foundation both on its own and to set my greasy t-zone when wearing liquid foundation, and have come to the conclusion that it is something worth keeping in my routine.

Total Canadian dollar value of product replacements purchased in February: $226

Products that I entirely finished in February 2019 and their value in Canadian dollars:

  • ZO Skin Health Sulphur Masque ($65)
  • Skin Medica 0.25 Retinol ($85)
  • LaRoche Posay Cicaplast B5 Gel ($20)
  • Celazome Penetrating Body Lotion  x 2 ($68)

Total Canadian dollar value of products I used up in February: $238

Another thing I am discovering during this no buy is what I can and cannot live without in my routine. For the most part I haven’t missed eye cream sort of products too much, but doing my makeup without using powder foundation was driving me insane. I’ve been trying to pause for a few days or weeks before purchasing replacements to see if in fact I do need to replace that item category, or if I can live without it.

Are there any makeup or skincare categories you think you could easily eliminate entirely from your regime? Off the top off my head I feel like I could probably go without primers of any kind without being too heartbroken, and maybe lip liner and translucent setting powder. Are there any categories you know for sure you could never give up?