What is electrolysis?
Electrolysis is a hair removal treatment. A trained electrologist inserts a thin wire into the hair follicle under the surface of the skin. An electric current moves down the wire to the bottom of the follicle, destroying the hair root. The follicle damage prevents hair from growing and causes the existing hair to fall out.
Electrolysis has been around for more than 100 years. It was first invented to remove irritating ingrown eyelash hairs. Electrolysis is the only FDA-approved method for permanent hair removal.
Who needs electrolysis?
Hair growth is normal and often desirable. But sometimes people want electrolysis because they:
- Are unhappy about where hair grows (for example, between the eyebrows, on the upper lip or on the breasts).
- Have hirsutism, which is excessive hair growth.
- Are gender transitioning.
What parts of the body can electrolysis treat?
Electrolysis can treat most areas of the body, including the:
- Bikini line, thighs and lower legs.
- Breasts and abdomen.
- Face, including lip, chin and eyebrows.
- Fingers and toes.
What causes unwanted hair growth?
Causes of extra hair growth include:
- Heredity issues (genetics can influence whether you have a lot of body hair or not).
- Hormone levels, such as high levels of androgens (male hormones).
- Certain drugs, such as some steroids.
- Certain illnesses, such as polycystic ovary syndrome.
What device is used during electrolysis?
Medical electrolysis devices are called epilators. They destroy the growth center of the hair using an electric current.
What happens during electrolysis?
Electrologists use a thin needle, which is often even finer than the hair. They insert the needle into the opening of the hair follicle. A small electrical current destroys the hair growth cells. The skin where the needle enters may feel temporarily hot or like a pinch.
How many electrolysis treatments will I need?
You will need several appointments. The number of sessions needed to achieve permanent hair removal differs from person to person. Typically, you need an appointment every week or every other week. The appointments can last for up to a year and a half.
Treatment length depends on several factors, including the body area and the type of hair growing there. If you’re treating a larger area, or an area with coarse hair, you’ll need more treatments.
Why do I need so many electrolysis treatments?
Hairs have different growth cycles. Your hair follicle produces hair and discards it through shedding. This hair production cycle is a process of growth, rest and replacement. Individual hairs are in different phases of this cycle. More than one treatment catches the hairs at the right point in the cycle to destroy them.
How long does electrolysis treatment last?
An electrolysis treatment lasts anywhere between 15 minutes and one hour.
What do I need to know after the procedure?
For the first 24 hours after your treatment, try to avoid activities that may irritate the hair follicles, including:
- Anything that causes sweating.
- Staying out in the sun.
- Applying makeup.
Risks / Benefits
What is the advantage of electrolysis?
Many people experience permanent hair removal after finishing electrolysis treatments. Also, electrolysis works with the widest range of skin and hair types. It’s good for sensitive areas of the body, like the face or bikini line. The main disadvantage to electrolysis is the length of time needed to achieve permanent hair removal.
Are there any risks or complications of electrolysis?
Electrolysis is very safe. Very slight risks of infection (from an unsterile needle) or scarring exist if the electrolysis is not done correctly. These risks are very low if you choose a certified, professional electrolysis practice.
You may have a slight reddening of the skin during or right after treatment. It’s very short-lived. People with darker skin may have temporary dark spots on their skin. The spots fade over time, so don’t use bleaching cream on them.
Will electrolysis leave a scar?
Scarring is rare after electrolysis treatments.
Is electrolysis painful?
Electrolysis doesn’t typically cause too much discomfort. You may feel a slight tingling. Talk to your electrologist about a topical anesthetic (numbing cream) if necessary.
Recovery and Outlook
What is the recovery time after electrolysis?
You can resume your normal activities immediately after treatment.
Is electrolysis permanent?
Yes, electrolysis safely and permanently removes hair from all skin tones. It is the only FDA-approved permanent hair removal treatment. Because electrolysis permanently destroys the growth cells in the hair follicles, the hair will not grow back.
When to Call the Doctor
What should I ask an electrologist before the procedure?
When you meet with the electrologist, ask:
- How will the procedure feel?
- How long is each session?
- How many visits do you think I’ll need?
- How much will this treatment cost?
- Will insurance cover electrolysis treatment?
- How long have you been practicing electrolysis?
- How many people have you treated?
What should I look for when choosing an electrologist?
Electrologists are trained professionals who can safely perform electrolysis procedures. When choosing an electrologist, ask about:
- Qualifications: Many states require licensing or certification for electrologists. Check that the provider’s certificate is up to date and on display. If your state does not regulate electrology, ask if the provider attended an accredited electrology school.
- Recommendations: Ask friends or family members for recommendations from personal experience. Or ask your healthcare provider for a recommendation.
- Consultation: Many practices offer a free electrolysis consultation. Ask any questions you have at this first visit so that you feel comfortable with your choice.
- Cleanliness and hygiene: At your consultation, ask about cleaning and sterilization procedures. See if the practice looks clean and if workers use disposable equipment. Make sure you are comfortable with the electrologist.
How does electrolysis compare to temporary methods of hair removal?
Many people use chemical depilatories, such as liquids or creams, to remove leg hair. The chemicals in these products can irritate your skin. Chemical hair removal can be messy and take a long time. Waxing, another method of hair removal, can be painful and costly. Home waxing kits may be messy and hard to use.
Can I use an at-home electrolysis device?
Electrical electrolysis devices exist on the market, available for home use. But it’s best to go to a trained electrologist for electrolysis. They use high-quality, sterile equipment and can individualize the treatment to best suit your needs.
For people who want to remove body hair, electrolysis can offer a permanent solution. A trained electrologist performs the procedure, which is generally not painful. After several treatment sessions, you’ll likely be hair free. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if electrolysis may be right for you.