Electrolysis – Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

What is Electrolysis?

FACT:  As a Permanent form of hair removal, electrolysis was discovered in 1875 by Dr. Charles E. Michel, an Ophthalmologist.

By applying Galvanic current using a filament attached to a DC battery, Dr. Michel was able to destroy his patient’s ingrown eyelash permanently!

The process became known as Galvanic Electrolysis and the FDA approved Electrolysis for “permanent destruction” of hair over 141 years ago.  It is still recognized today as the ONLY permanent form of hair removal.

Why is it so confusing to navigate the Internet for factual information about Electrolysis?

In my professional opinion, there are several reasons for the confusion:

  • We have to remember that Electrolysis has been around for many more years than the Internet; hence most authoritative information is  stored in paper form
  • Information that does exist on the internet is often based on the limited experience/knowledge of the practitioner or individual posting it.
  • Education and advances in the field are limited, and good old-fashioned textbook information hasn’t been transposed onto the Internet.
  • Newer, laser treatment dominates the internet with regard to information concerning hair removal - yet laser has only been FDA cleared for "permanent hair reduction" - as distinct from "permanent hair removal".

FACT:  Electrolysis was so successful, Hollywood studios hired Electrologists to transform celebrities’ hairlines like Rita Hayworth. (See attached article) http://thebeautydepartment.com/tag/rita-hayworth/

Misconceptions about Electrolysis

"Electrolysis has been replaced by laser"

Not true! 

Laser stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emissions of Radiation - L A S E R. Currently Laser technology can only detect pigment (known as melanin) in the hair and skin.  

Therefore, it cannot detect light or grey hair, and is not recommended for dark skin because of the pigment, however electrolysis does not have such limitations. 

For more information on Lasers you can log onto the FDA's website, or see our article about The Difference Between Electrolysis and Laser hair removal.

"Electrolysis is slow"

This is relative, as compared to Laser (which is NOT permanent) the process is slower, but achieving permanent results takes some time.

The Multi-Needle works 20 times faster than traditional Electrolysis, and because of the ability to treat up to 32 hairs simultaneously the pain factor can be controlled, delivering a virtually pain-free treatment.​

"Electrolysis is painful"

It can be, but only if administered incorrectly.  It can be very comfortable if performed in the right way.

Why are there 3 types of Electrolysis? And is one more effective than another?

The original Electrolysis modality is the “Galvanic” method discovered by Dr. Michel in 1875.  As with all discoveries, the search of a faster, better way to deliver the same result began and over time “Thermolysis” was invented.

Thermolysis delivers a “high frequency” heat to the hair follicle, and works much like the electrocoagulation knife during microsurgery i.e.  radio frequency alternating current is used to heat tissue sufficiently to destroy the target cells.

Eventually a combination of the two modalities was merged and named the “Blend.”

There is another modality, an extension of the original “Galvanic” method that utilizes 16 - 32 probes that delivers rapid-accelerated results and is virtually pain-free.

This is the method we use at Beverly Hills Hair Free.

Pros and cons

In my opinion, all three modalities have their place, whilst determining which method to use depends on several factors.

Thermolysis

Thermolysis will give you fast treatment, but tons of regrowth.  Pitting and scarring are a very common side effect.  Often patients complain of the feeling of hair being plucked, due to insufficient current being applied, and can be painful.

Galvanic

This is, in my experience, far superior when treating any hair type because the regrowth rate is extremely low.  The current can be adjusted to treat fine hair, or very deep coarse hair.   Also, there is no skin damage with galvanic electrolysis.

The Blend

A good choice for super stubborn deep rooted hairs that need extra current.  However, as the Blend uses a combination of Galvanic and Thermolysis, this modality can cause skin damage due to concentration of heat.

There is some recent controversy regarding the blend and how effective the method actually is.

In my professional opinion the method we use at Beverly Hills Hair Free is the most effective modality.  It utilizes the original “galvanic” current to convert salty tissue into a caustic chemical called “lye,” which is necessary to destroy cells that grow hair.

We offer customized treatment plans based on individual needs, to achieve hair free results in record time.

What to Expect from a Typical Electrolysis Session

A typical Electrolysis session could be anywhere from 15 minutes to 5 hours.  This will depend on the individual patient, and the area being treated.

If a patient has only a few hairs, it is simple to eliminate in a 15 or 30 minute session, and with virtually no down time.

If the treatment time required is 1-5 hours, you should expect some recovery.   Many patients experience no redness or swelling, however, 24 - 48 hours later minor scabbing develops that takes anywhere from 7 - 14 days to heal.  

These tiny scabs can be covered up with makeup and will fall away without any permanent marks.

Is It Possible to Use Anesthetic During Electrolysis Treatments to Reduce the Pain?

Yes, there are several ways to deliver a pain free treatment:

  • The first and least invasive form is a topical cream applied to the skin 30 minutes prior to treatment
  • The second way is Lidocaine injections to numb the area subcutaneously, this is very effective and usually lasts up to 4 hours.
  • The third method is the most invasive because it requires putting a patient/client under general anesthesia by an Anesthesiologist, for 1 to 6 hours.

General Anesthesia is a very popular option for patients who are having GRS/SRS surgery and do NOT wish to be awake for genital hair removal.

At Beverly Hills Hair Free, we can accomplish this in 1- 2 treatments.

What Side Effects Can I expect from Electrolysis

Personally, I don’t like the term “side effects” because this suggests that there is some kind of unanticipated reaction occurring.

There is always some down time after a long, aggressive session with electrolysis, however, if a session is 15 - 45 minutes, there should only be some minor scabs (like popping a pimple).  

This is a perfectly normal, healthy reaction as the skin heals afterwards and forms a natural protective crust.

If side effects are experienced, there is likely to be some sort of problem with either the treatment or the patient having a skin reaction.

How Often Should Electrolysis be Done for Best Results?

​Depending on the patient, treatment could be once a week, or every 3 to 4 weeks.

The frequency depends on many factors, such as the area, hair type and the patient's reaction to the treatment.

We take a personal, pro-active approach to every individual's needs, in determining how to proceed with their treatment.

Each patient at Beverly Hills Hair Free is put on a customized treatment plan to achieve fast and permanent results.

How to Prevent Scarring from Electrolysis

Damaged skin due to thermolysis electrolysis

Example of skin damage caused by incorrect use of thermolysis

Scarring is a direct result of over - treatment of the skin using Thermolysis.  

This is because heat must reach a certain level during Electrolysis treatment, making pitting and scarring a major concern if administered improperly.

At Beverly Hills Hair Free, our treatment does NOT include the use of HF (Thermolysis) or any type of heat application to the skin.

Therefore, there is no scarring.

Is Electrolysis Safe and Permanent for Removing Hairs from the Bikini Area? Can Electrolysis be used for Removing Male Back Hair?

Yes, Electrolysis is safe for both Bikini areas, and male back hair.

In fact, it is highly recommended for bikini treatment because this area is so sensitive to ingrown hair in difficult to reach areas.

Treatment of male back hair is simple and fast!

What Questions Should I ask to Ensure my Electrologist is Reputable?

Before you speak to any professional, do your research!

Based on personal experience, I don't believe that qualifications, or how long someone has been in the business necessarily makes a good Electrologist, although being qualified is, of course, an important indicator and prerequisite. 

I can only suggest you bear in mind the following:

  • The Electrologist should keep good records
  • During treatment, the patient should not feel like the hair is being plucked - it should glide out effortlessly
  • Progress should be evident with 5 - 10 treatments

In addition, prior to treatment, any reputable Electrologist should ask you (the patient) certain necessary questions, such as:

  • What areas are you interested in being treated?
  • Have you had prior hair removal of any kind?
  • What are your concerns and expectations?
  • Maybe there's a pre-existing condition, or a hormonal imbalance?
  • Are you transitioning?

The answer to all of these are important in determining whether and how to proceed with treatment.

Is it Possible to Combine Laser Hair Removal with Electrolysis?  When would this make sense?

Large areas of dense hair would take a long time to clear using single needle Electrolysis, in which case it may be beneficial to treat with a laser first, as it is much quicker for large areas (assuming your hair colour and skin tone are suitable of course).

However, in my opinion combining Laser and Multi-Needle Electrolysis treatment has no benefit to the consumer.  In this case, Electrolysis is just as fast in the long term, because of the minimal re-growth and its permanence.

Although Laser can be a good option for hair reduction on the body if you are very hairy, do be aware that Laser can also stimulate new hair to grow in dormant follicles.

What is the Typical Cost for Electrolysis Hair Removal?

A typical treatment can cost anywhere from $50 - $200 per hour, and can exceed $500 per hour depending on the expertise and demand for the Electrologist.

To give you an indication of likely average costs:

Treatment Area

Average Cost

Underarms

    $1,000 - $2,000

Upper Lip

       $500 - $2,000

Bikini (not Brazilian)

    $1,500 - $4,000

Transgender Full Face (including upper lip and neck)

$10,000 - $20,000

​Genital hair removal prior to GRS/SRS can be done in various ways, we do this under anesthesia for around $1,000 - $3,000 in  1 - 2 treatments.

Is it Safe to Receive Electrolysis Treatment while Taking Accutane?

Accutane should be stopped 10 - 14 days prior to treatment.

It is safe to resume using Accutane 2 weeks after stopping Electrolysis.

Does Do-it-yourself Electrolysis Work?

This is my favorite question … The answer is NO!

Any device marketed directly to the consumer promising permanent hair removal results is a very troubling thought.

DIY Electrolysis devices do not work in the same way as professional machines; they are electronic tweezers rather than needles.​

I caution consumers to please do research before investing in these devices that promise results that they cannot deliver. 

Electrolysis is a skill, and requires professional training, in addition to the use of equipment that is FDA approved and cleared to deliver high levels of Electrical Current.

Results of Electrolysis: Before and After Pictures

This shows a woman's face with grey hairs - unlike laser hair removal, electrolysis is effective on all hair colours, and the results are clearly visible here

The above illustrates the permanent effects of electrolysis on the underarm area

Here we have results of electrolysis around the nipple area

Finally - a woman's face

Have Any Further Questions?

If you have any more questions about electrolysis that haven't been answered ​here, then you can submit your own questions to our electrolysis expert, Alana, and we will publish your answer here.  You can submit any questions you have here

More Information

For more information see our articles:

Electrolysis Hair Removal - The Facts and Guidebook

The Different Types of Electrolysis - Which is Best?

The Truth about Home Electrolysis Hair Removal​