How Does Electrolysis Compare with Laser Hair Removal?

Electrolysis and laser hair removal are two of the most popular hair removal treatment procedures.  Both can either be done from the home or professionally under the watch of a qualified professional.  

There are, however, some fundamental differences between the two procedures:


Electrolysis = Permanent Hair Removal

The most important difference is to understand that laser hair removal can't offer permanent hair removal.  There have been no clinical studies that have suggested that laser hair removal can be an effective treatment for permanent hair removal.  

Professional electrolysis, on the other hand, has been approved by the FDA as being a legitimate permanent hair removal method.  So, if you're looking to remove hair permanently then electrolysis must be part of your hair removal process.

Laser Hair Removal = Permanent Hair Reduction

Some laser hair removal devices have been considered effective for permanent hair reduction.  However, not all lasers are the same, and currently no laser hair removal kits that are sold for use at home are strong enough for the FDA to approve them for giving permanent hair reduction.​

Pro tip:- If you have professional laser hair removal done at a clinic then you should ask about the type and model of the laser that's being used.  You can then check if the model is FDA approved by doing a search in the FDA model database.

Electrolysis works for all Skin and Hair Types

Electrolysis can be performed on all skin and hair types without any concerns.  Most laser types, however, can only be used on people with light skin type and dark hair complexion because it targets melanin cells beneath the surface of the skin.

​People with darker complexion will be limited to certain laser types (notably the Alexandrite laser) and anyone with skin darkness beyond a certain point will not be able to do laser hair removal at all.

The reason electrolysis is suitable for all hair types is that the process targets the individual hairs themselves rather than the cells that surround them.

Laser Hair Removal is Faster

Laser hair removal is a much faster process than electrolysis because multiple hairs can be treated at once.  Electrolysis, on the other hand, requires hair treatment of each individual hair.  

Laser hair removal is often considered a more feasible procedure for larger treatment areas because electrolysis is too time consuming.  Often, clients that really want permanent hair removal will take an initial bout of laser hair removal in order to permanently reduce the density of the hair and then follow up with electrolysis to finish the job.  

Laser Hair Removal is Usually more Comfortable

It should be said that the pain experienced varies from one person to the next and depends on the location, the length of the session, how sensitive the patient's skin is, how skilled the practitioner is....there are a lot of variables that come into play.

As a generalisation, however, electrolysis is generally considered to be less comfortable than laser hair removal.  Electrolysis has been compared to a pricking or stinging sensation while laser hair removal is more of an elastic band flicking against the skin with a mild burning sensation.

Some patients take pain killers and have local anaesthetic applied to ease the discomfort of an electrolysis session so the additional pain is not usually a show stopper.

Higher Variation in Results with Laser Hair Removal

In most cases, with a fully trained and experienced electrologist doing the work, the results of electrolysis are quite predictable.  The number of sessions and the total duration of treatment is harder to predict, but assuming the consumer sticks with the treatment for long enough, and the hair density is of a suitable amount, then permanent hair removal will be attained.

The FDA even admits that permanent hair removal can be achieved by electrolysis as long as enough time is given.

On the other hand, laser hair removal results can vary wildly depending on the device used, the operator, the skin colour and the hair colour of the person receiving the treatment. ​ In some cases, permanent hair reduction can be achieved, but in other cases results range from barely noticeable to greatly reduced hair.

Electrolysis is not Suitable for Large Treatment Areas

Large treatment areas are usually not feasible for treatment with electrolysis.  If a client has hair all over their back, for instance, electrolysis would take such a long time and thus cost a lot of money that most people would have to resort to laser hair removal first, to see how they reacted, and assess from there.

Laser hair removal, especially with modern machines that are on the market today, are so much faster than electrolysis.  Multiple hairs can be treated at any one time and usually the treatment process is not much more than "zapping" a small area and moving on to the next area.

Sometimes a hybrid approach of having laser hair removal initially in order to remove as much hair as possible (permanent hair reduction) before finishing the job off with a series of electrolysis treatments.

Electrolysis is not Suitable for Dense Hair

People with really dense hair aren't initially suited for electrolysis.  Given that each individual hair has to be treated, the procedure isn't cost-effective or efficient and generally would be quite painful because of the high density of needle insertions.  

Most people in this situation are advised to start with laser hair removal to see how effective the procedure is for them.  The feasibility of electrolysis can then be re-assessed after the density of the hair has been reduced from the initial series of laser treatments.

Electrolysis has been around much Longer

The procedure of using electrolysis for hair removal has been around for over 100 years. Because of this, the long term consequences of electrolysis are known.  Laser hair removal, on the other hand, has been around for 30 years.  Some questions remain unanswered about the long term safety of such treatment.

Electrolysis v Laser Comparison Chart

Laser Hair Removal

Electrolysis

Speed

Fast - can cover large areas quickly

Slow - each hair is treated individually

All Skin Types

No, not suitable for darker skin types.  The lighter the skin, the better the results

Yes - treatment is applied to the hair follicle itself rather than the cells that surround the hair.

All Hair Types

No, doesn't work on light coloured (blonde/red) hair

Yes, all hair colour can be effectively treated.

All Hair Density

Yes

No, electrolysis is not feasible for treatment areas with thick, dense hair

Permanent hair removal

​No, permanent hair reduction at best

Yes, permanent hair removal can be achieved after full series of treatment

FDA Approved

Some devices are FDA approved for permanent hair reduction

Yes, the FDA approves professional electrolysis for permanent hair removal

Large Treatment Areas

Yes, suitable for large treatment areas such as the back.

No, only suitable for smaller treatment areas

Pain Free?

No, pain is equivalent to a rubber band flicking against the skin multiple times during the session.

No, pain is equivalent to a bee sting or needle being inserted into your arm.

Invasive Procedure

No, procedure involves firing a laser from above the surface of the skin to target cells beneath the surface

Yes, procedure involves inserting a needle into the pore of the skin to apply electrical current to the base of the hair follicle

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