It's not a good time to be selling cosmetic lasers to doctors. Patients are tightening their wallets, and even if they weren't, credit to buy the machines isn't exactly easy to come by.

Take a look at these returns:

Company

2007 Returns

Year-to-Date Returns

Syneron Medical (NASDAQ:ELOS)

(50.7%)

(30.7%)

Palomar Medical (NASDAQ:PMTI)

(69.8%)

(26.4%)

Cutera (NASDAQ:CUTR)

(41.9%)

(46.5%)

Cynosure (NASDAQ:CYNO)

67.2%

(66.7%)

Source: Morningstar.

Except for Cynosure, which benefited from the launch of its Smartlipo in 2007, there's been an awful lot of red the last couple of years.

And the hits just keep on coming. Syneron Medical, which released earnings this morning, saw revenue drop 14% year over year, while net income fell a whopping 73%.

Syneron is starting to cut costs -- one has to wonder why it didn't start sooner. It's consolidating its North American operations and cutting costs in Europe, but that's only going to go so far. Ultimately, it'll need to increase sales to get earnings headed back in the right direction.

The subscription program it set up last quarter to lease machines to doctors in order to help lower the barrier to entry may help, although management was vague on the details of how the program was going. What should help the most is the introduction of a cheaper laser in 2009, and the home-based system it's developing with Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG).

Whether the aesthetic laser makers are a value play or a value trap at this point ultimately depends on when the economy turns around. In the meantime, Syneron remains profitable, and that's no easy feat in this economy.

Syneron is a recommendation of Rule Breakers, which is always on the hunt for high-growth cutting-edge picks. See all of this newsletter service's latest discoveries with a free 30-day trial subscription.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Syneron is also a Motley Fool Hidden Gems Pay Dirt selection. The Fool has a disclosure policy.