Laser Razor that could get you burned

Oct. 16, 2015
A company called Skarp Technologies is raising money to produce a razor they claim is the “first ever razor, powered by a laser."
Allen Nogee 720 5d26502083f14

Image: Prototype Skarp laser razor on Kickstarter.

I watch the news for laser stories, as I’m sure many of you do, and recently there was one laser news item that was hard to miss. A company called Skarp Technologies (Irvine, CA) was raising money on Kickstarter to produce a razor that they claim is the “first ever razor, powered by a laser.” The Skarp Kickstarter goal was to raise $160K for the project, but at the time of drafting this blog (October 13), with six days to go, the company had raised more than $4M, or 25 times their goal. Pledges of from $89 to $189 will get you the razor, depending on how early in the pledge process you were. Skarp did not list the selling price of the laser, once it is released. The company says the laser razors will be shipping March 2016.

Let’s take a look at what the company is saying and what claims they are making.

No doubt there are other consumer level laser hair removal products on the market, like the FDA-cleared Hair Removal Laser from Tria Beauty, which was launched in the U.S. in 2008. The $449 device works by killing the hair follicle, by absorbing heat from the laser when the hair is in an active growth cycle, which prevents the hair from regrowing. While the hair removal is technically permanent, the problem is that every single hair grows in a different cycle, which is why you need to do multiple treatments, because you can't kill them all at once. Tria Beauty recommends using the device for two to three months before final results are seen. Hair growth can be greatly reduced but not completely eliminated.

The Tria Hair Removal Laser has limitations on just who can use the device. If you have dark skin or light color hair, you shouldn't even attempt to use the device, because you can incur serious injury. Dark skin pigment will absorb the laser, potentially resulting in a burn, and the Tria Hair Removal Laser has a sensor to detect this, shutting off the laser.

The Skarp Razor doesn’t kill the hair follicles like the Tria, rather it claims to “cut through hair for an incredibly close shave without irritating or damaging the skin.” This razor, powered by a single AAA battery has a laser presumably powerful enough to cut hair. Skarp claims the laser in their razor uses a wavelength that can cut any color hair, due to a “breakthrough in 2009.” Skarp credits this to the discovery of a Chromophore that they claim absorbs laser light no matter what the hair color, gender, age, or race of the user is. This is their claim, not mine. Skarp makes no mention of what wavelength their laser razor uses.

The laser light from the Skarp laser razor is contained in a optical fiber that stretches across the front of the razor where the blades would normally go, and only when a hair touches the fiber does it get cut from the laser light, this despite the fact that the fiber never seems to be damaged by the heat generated from the hair melting. It also appears that if this same fiber that melts hair comes in contact with skin, it has no effect. The Kickstarter page for Skarp made no mention of acceptable skin color of the users implying that it works with all skin colors, dark or light.

As for eye safety, Skarp claims that their laser is not powerful enough to damage eyes, but this laser can clearly burn hair, and given that you would use the product only inches from the eyes, this is another tough claim to believe.

What do you think? Do you believe tens of thousands of people will be shaving with their Skarp laser razor come April 1st, 2016? I think you may have guessed how I feel about it.

UPDATE: After this blog was written, while waiting to receive comments from the FDA and Kickstarter, it turns out Kickstarter has shutdown the Skarp project on the grounds that the company hasn’t provided them with a working prototype, so the company moved over to Indiegogo at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-skarp-laser-razor-21st-century-shaving#/. As of Friday, October 16, 2015, it had raised over $300K.

Allen Nogee is a Senior Analyst, Laser Practice, at Strategies Unlimited.

About the Author

Allen Nogee | President, Laser Markets Research

Allen Nogee has over 30 years' experience in the electronics and technology industry including almost 20 years in technology market research. He has held design-engineering positions at MCI Communications, GTE, and General Electric, and senior research positions at In-Stat, NPD Group, and Strategies Unlimited.

Nogee has become a well-known and respected analyst in the area of lasers and laser applications, with his research and forecasts appearing in publications such as Laser Focus World, Industrial Laser Solutions, Optics.org, and Laser Institute of America. He has also been invited to speak at conferences such as the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO), Laser Focus World's Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar, the European Photonics Industry Consortium Executive Laser Meeting, and SPIE Photonics West.

Nogee has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering Technology from the Rochester Institute of Technology, and a Master's of Business Administration from Arizona State University.

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