If you have extra or unwanted hair growth, electrolysis can provide permanent hair removal. It’s safe to use for facial hair removal and on the rest of body. During your sessions, a trained electrologist removes the hair with an electric current. The procedure is not painful and has no long-lasting side effects.
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.
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Hair growth is normal and often desirable. But sometimes people want electrolysis because they:
Electrolysis can treat most areas of the body, including the:
Causes of extra hair growth include:
Medical electrolysis devices are called epilators. They destroy the growth center of the hair using an electric current.
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.
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.
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.
An electrolysis treatment lasts anywhere between 15 minutes and one hour.
For the first 24 hours after your treatment, try to avoid activities that may irritate the hair follicles, including:
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.
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.
Scarring is rare after electrolysis treatments.
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.
You can resume your normal activities immediately after treatment.
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 you meet with the electrologist, ask:
Electrologists are trained professionals who can safely perform electrolysis procedures. When choosing an electrologist, ask about:
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.
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.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/05/2021.
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