Are you a woman who has been genetically “blessed” with troublesome hair on her upper lip or chin? Or maybe you’re a man with an embarrassing forest of hair on your back that you have always wanted to get rid of? Or possibly you’ve taken a drug to treat a medical condition which resulted in excessive, and undesirable, hair growth. You’ve spent an untold number of hours bleaching, tweezing, shaving, sugaring and waxing to get rid of this unwanted hair.
Electrolysis hair removal may be your salvation! Electrolysis works on any hair color but is the only successful method if your undesirable hairs are blonde, red, grey or white.
What is electrolysis?
Electrolysis has been regularly used to permanently remove undesirable hair from the body since 1875. First, a tiny probe (or needle) is inserted into the skin to penetrate each hair follicle. Once it reaches its destination, a very low level of electric current is passed through the probe into the base or root of the follicle to destroy it. Once a follicle has been successfully destroyed, the hair(s) inside it cannot grow back.
There are three variations of electrolysis used today:
- Galvanic – This is the original method of electrolysis that uses direct electrical current (DC). The current combines with the body’s natural salt and water to create a chemical reaction within the hair follicle. The chemical weakens, and ultimately destroys, the hair growth cells within the follicle.
- Thermolysis – This method, popularized in the 1940s, uses shortwave radio-frequency to create heat. The resulting heat is what destroys the hair growth cells within the follicle. Thermolysis (sometimes called shortwave diathermy) is faster than the galvanic method, but may not completely destroy the follicular cells.
- Blend Method – As the name implies, this method uses both the galvanic current and the heat of thermolysis to destroy the follicle’s hair growth cells. In other words, the “blend” method gives you the benefits of both other methods.
There are several other hair removal methods, but electrolysis hair removal is the only method approved by the US FDA for permanent hair removal.
Can electrolysis be used anywhere on the body?
It is possible for electrolysis to remove hair from most parts of the body:
- Face and head (hairline, eyebrows, between eyebrows, upper and lower lips, cheeks, sideburns, chin, neck)
- Arms and underarms
- Chest and breasts
- Bikini line
Electrolysis should not be used to remove hair from a mole or from inside the nose and ears.
How long does electrolysis hair removal take?
Each electrolysis treatment generally lasts between 15 minutes and one hour.
The total number of treatments needed to remove hair from an area will depend on the individual patient, but it’s likely you will have to return for treatments once a week or every two weeks for a total of 15 to 30 sessions. So the entire process may take from one year to 18 months.
Here are some factors that will influence the length of your treatment program:
- Your individual hair growth cycles
- Your body’s hormonal functions
- How much hair needs to be removed
- What type of hair you have (e.g., straight, curly)
- The medications you take
- Whether you have tried alternative hair removal methods in the past
If you have coarse hair, it will often take more treatments to break down the hair growth cells. Also, all of your hair follicles are not actively growing hair at the same time. You may occasionally find new hair growth coming from previously dormant follicles and these will need treatment.
You will probably begin to see results within a few months but, if you stick to your recommended treatment program, your unwanted hair should be gone forever when you are finished.
Is electrolysis painful?
Most patients say that electrolysis causes little discomfort and they compare it to a stinging or tingling sensation as the probe penetrates each hair follicle. Keep in mind that each hair follicle is surrounded by nerve endings, so there will be some sensation felt. Some describe it as similar to hairs being plucked out. Of course, this will depend on your individual sensitivity, and some areas of the body will be more sensitive than others. If you have a very low tolerance for pain, ask your electrolysis provider to apply a topical anesthetic.
Are there any side effects with electrolysis?
Electrolysis is very safe and there are no permanent side effects. You may experience some redness of your skin or mild swelling, but this usually disappears quickly. Now and then, tiny scabs will occur. These are a normal part of healing. Provided you don’t pick at them, they should not become infected and will fall off naturally without leaving permanent scars.
Darker skinned individuals may experience some light or dark spots around the area being treated. These discolorations may or may not be permanent so, if you have darker pigmented skin, be sure to find a highly qualified electrolysis provider who is accustomed to treating darker skinned individuals.
Blistering, severe scabbing or pigment discolorations are most common when the person doing the electrolysis is not performing it properly.
Can anyone undergo electrolysis?
Electrolysis is usually successful for most skin types and hair colors. However, if you have darker skin tones, you may find that hair removal by electrolysis is the only successful method. Lasers, in contrast to electrolysis, still work best on dark hair and light skin. This is because the laser light often mistakes the skin’s melanin pigment for the hair it’s trying to target and may actually end up damaging the skin.
Electrolysis hair removal is not appropriate for patients with pacemakers because the treatment with electric current could interfere with the function of the pacemaker. Also, women with intrauterine devices or who are pregnant should consider electrolysis carefully and consult with their physicians before starting treatment.
What does electrolysis hair removal cost?
It can be difficult to estimate the cost of electrolysis hair removal because each patient is unique. Some patients have more dense hair than others, so the treatment may require more sessions. Also, a large area such as the back will take far longer to treat than, for example, the chin. The electrolysis technician may be able to completely treat your upper lip in one hour but successfully removing a man’s back hair may take more than 150 hours.
Electrologists usually charge from $45 to $125 per hour. An upper lip, which may take 20 to 45 15-minute treatments, would range in price from $450 to $1,035. Bikini line treatment, which may take 20 to 45 30-minute sessions, would range between $900 and $2,025. And the cost to remove a man’s full back hair, which could take between 100 and 225 treatments, would range from $8,500 to $19,125.
For very large areas such as the back or legs, some providers may recommend that you begin with laser hair removal to save some time and money, and finish with electrolysis to permanently remove the remaining hair.
It’s also important to compare prices in different regions. Large cities where overhead and expenses are high will often have higher rates than providers in smaller cities and towns.
Who performs electrolysis?
Professional hair removal in the U.S. is regulated by state and local authorities and the success of your electrolysis hair removal is directly related to the skill of the technician (or electrologist) who performs the treatment. You must do some diligent research to find the right provider or you could subject yourself to more sessions, more cost, and possible more side effects. Don’t just visit your neighborhood day spa and assume the person offering electrolysis hair removal is properly trained. Do your homework!
The electrologist must be able to accurately insert the needles or probes into the hair follicle and must know how to properly control the intensity of the electric current. Here are some tips for finding the right practitioner to make sure you get great results:
- Qualifications – Do you live in a state that requires certification or licensing? If so, verify that the provider’s license or certificate is valid and current. In other areas, you can check to see if the electrologist received certification from an accredited school.
- Ask for recommendations – If you know anyone who has had electrolysis hair removal, ask for advice. Also, ask the practitioner to allow you to speak to former patients.
- Verify what technique will be used – Make sure the technician is performing needle electrolysis, the only permanent method. Non-permanent methods would include electronic tweezers or photo-epilators.
- Ask a lot of questions – Many practitioners will give you a free consultation. Ask how many treatments you may need, verify the cost and length of each session, and check their credentials. Then compare, compare, compare! Prices can vary dramatically from one practitioner to another.
- Inspect the facilities – Make sure the facilities are clean and professionally equipped with up-to-date equipment. Technological advancements have resulted in vast improvements to electrolysis instruments and equipment since 1875! Up-to-date technology will enhance your comfort and the speed of your treatment.
Is laser hair removal better than electrolysis hair removal?
According to the U.S. FDA, many types of lasers are approved for hair removal; however, manufacturers are not permitted to claim that laser removal is permanent. Lasers are approved for permanent hair reduction, not removal. This means that some hair usually remains after treatment.
It’s also important to know that laser hair removal doesn’t work for everyone. Lasers work on dark hair because the laser beam seeks out dark hair in contrast with light skin in order for it to work. Consequently, lasers are less effective on darker skinned individuals with dark hair and on lighter colored hair. People with red, white, grey or true blond hair will achieve the best results from electrolysis hair removal. Conversely, patients with very curly or kinky hair may get better results from laser hair removal because electrolysis works best on hairs that are straighter and more perpendicular to the surface of the skin.
Yes, each laser session will be faster (5 minutes for the upper lip compared to 15 minutes for electrolysis), but will still require multiple treatment sessions. Also, laser hair removal will reduce the growth of about 75% to 90% of the hair. Many patients who need large areas of hair removed will begin with laser hair removal and effectively, and permanently, remove the remaining hairs with electrolysis.
Can I do electrolysis hair removal at home?
There are home electrolysis devices on the market for you to “do-it-yourself”. These devices are usually battery-operated and require you to insert the probe into each hair follicle and then transmit the electric current through the probe to destroy the hair. However, if you don’t know how to properly insert the probe in the right place, the electricity won’t do the trick. These devices can also be unsafe for home use. If you are serious about permanent hair removal, let a professionally trained practitioner do the job.
Most of us have some amount of unwanted hair. The majority of patients are women who want upper lip, eyebrow, or bikini line hair removed. A growing number of men seek treatment too, primarily for back hair, however some seek to have their beards spruced up by permanently removing straggler hairs with electrolysis.
There is no need to suffer from embarrassment when you can take advantage of electrolysis hair removal. Just be sure to do your homework and choose a well-qualified technician. You could already be enjoying a lifetime of freedom from unwanted hair!