When to Have Laser Hair Removal and Electrolysis Together

While both electrolysis and laser hair removal treatments have been proven to provide pretty significant results, is there ever a time when it makes sense to combine the treatments?

This article aims to guide you through the process of each treatment and to point out when it is appropriate to have both treatments together.

Electrolysis Overview

Electrolysis is currently the only form of permanent hair removal approved by the FDA. A very fine needle or probe is inserted into the hair follicle and an electric current is applied to the follicle in order to destroy it.

The process can be very lengthy as each hair is treated, one at a time, and can also be painful as it is an invasive procedure.

Electrolysis works on any colour hair or skin tone combinations, and has been proven to provide permanent results over time. We only advise professional electrolysis treatments and to always review certifications before making an appointment with an electrologist.

Laser Hair Removal Overview

woman has her underarms lasered

Laser hair removal treatments are currently used as an alternative to electrolysis and can provide semi-permanent to permanent hair reduction. The laser technique uses Selective Photothermolysis (SPTL) to target dark matter within the hair follicle (the melanin).

The pulses of laser light aim to damage the hair follicle enough to stop the hair from growing back. The procedure works on the localized area where you would like hair to be removed, attacking multiple hairs at a time.

As the laser is aimed towards dark matter, this treatment does not work well on lighter hairs. While non-invasive, laser therapy can also be painful.

There are a few FDA-approved machines on the market that are for at home use, but professional laser treatments are more effective in the long run.

When is Electrolysis not appropriate?

Close up of hair growth

Electrolysis works on any type of hair or skin tone. However, as electrolysis works on a hair by hair basis it is not really an appropriate procedure for large amounts of hair. It works well for smaller areas, such as the eyebrows, chin, upper lip, jaw line or neck.

It would take an enormous amount of time to treat a leg or an entire back. Electrolysis may also not be the best treatment on very dense hair, as in this case it is difficult to see the opening of each hair follicle, and therefore difficult to insert the probe correctly.

This can result in the treatment not working properly and therefore there not being any results, or in skin damage if the electrologist doesn’t proceed correctly.

When is Laser Hair Removal not Appropriate?

Laser hair removal treatment does not work on light blond, red or grey hairs. As the laser targets dark pigment it will only pick up on dark hairs and not damage the others.

Some professional laser treatment machines can now be used on any type of skin colour, however the FDA-approved home use laser devices can only be used on people with skin colour from I to IV on the Fitzpatrick scale.

Laser hair removal treatment should also not be performed if the candidate has a tan as this can cause a higher risk for skin burns.

Combining Both Treatments

​There are certain situations where it may be beneficial, or even necessary, to combine the treatments.

First and foremost, if you decide to combine the treatments it is important to discuss this with the doctor or professional electrologist who is treating you. In order to avoid skin damage it may be prudent to wait a few weeks between treatments, or finish one treatment before starting another.

The most common combination would be to start with laser treatment and finish with electrolysis, once the laser has treated large patches of the hair that are to be removed. It is also possible to alternate treatments if you are willing to pay for both and get the best of both options.

While electrolysis is the only method of acquiring permanent hair removal, it is possible to significantly reduce the amount of regrowth, or at least slow the regrowth rate down with laser treatments. One laser session is more expensive than an electrolysis session, but you usually only need 7-8 to see results with laser. Electrolysis usually takes about 15 sessions to see some kind of results, often a lot more.

Large Areas of Hair

Photo of man with hairy chest

As mentioned earlier, electrolysis is not a good option for large areas of hair, while laser can actually treat a large area within one session. However, if laser has been 80% successful as a first treatment, electrolysis may then be able to eliminate the remaining 20% of hair.

If alternating treatment it is important to remember that hair can only be destroyed when it is in its “growing” phase (anagen phase - see growth cycle of a hair for more information), and therefore removed hair may grow back a few times before it is effectively eliminated. It is beneficial to wait a week or two between each treatment to allow all hairs to be treated at the right time.

If alternating, it is also important to remember that while it is advised to shave the area before laser treatment, it is not advised to do so before electrolysis. Waxing or plucking should not be done before either treatment.

Examples of when combining treatments would work:

  • Dark leg hair on a pale skinned female candidate: the perfect candidate for successful laser treatment. The legs can be treated with laser and once the treatment is over, any straggling hairs can be removed by electrolysis.
  • Dense, curly salt and pepper beard hair on a male candidate: laser treatments for the dark hair, electrolysis for the grey hair. This could be either treated alternately or one after the other.
  • Dark and light hair on the chin and upper lip on a dark skinned female candidate: laser and electrolysis treatments can be alternated to treat the dark and light hairs together.

Again, when alternating treatments it is important to leave time between each session to avoid skin sensitivity, additional pain, redness and swelling.

Can the effectiveness of a combination treatment be proven?

While there are currently no scientific studies to show that combining laser hair removal and electrolysis would be more effective than just using one or the other, there are studies showing that both treatments work separately.

The FDA has approved electrolysis as a permanent form of hair removal and laser treatments as a form of hair reduction, so there is no reason why the two cannot be combined together, as long as cost is not a factor and the treatments are performed by a professional, or professionals, who are certified and knowledgeable of both treatments.

The latter is important as you do not want to heighten the risk any scarring or skin injuries, which can happen if the treatments are not spaced out correctly.

Conclusion

While electrolysis is the only form of permanent hair removal approved by the FDA, the process to obtain results can be very long and tedious. Laser hair removal treatment can provide results of significant hair reduction at a much faster rate.

There are times when it is beneficial to combine the treatments, as seen above, but to reiterate, this should only be done after consultation with certified professionals who have experience in both fields, and in combining the treatments.

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