7 Situations when Electrolysis is better than Laser Hair Removal

The two most popular methods for permanent hair reduction or removal are Electrolysis and Laser. Both can be effective, but there are certain circumstances when only electrolysis will do.

1. When you want Permanent Hair Removal

Close up of hair growth

​Firstly, electrolysis is the only FDA recognised method for permanent hair removal, as opposed to laser treatment, which offers permanent hair reduction (up to 80%).

If you are truly looking to eliminate unwanted hair, electrolysis is for you. The caveat to this is that it is only feasible for small areas or single hairs. This is because electrolysis involves treating each hair individually, making it very time consuming, It would therefore be impractical and hugely expensive for large areas of dense hair.

What does Permanent Actually Mean?

​Permanent means that once a follicle has been disabled through electrolysis then it's no longer able to produce hair in the future.

However, this doesn't mean that hair definitely won't grow back in the same treated area. Hair follicles can be activated and deactivated over time depending on a number of factors.

This means that, in theory, new follicles can activate after successful treatment with electrolysis (maybe due to a change in hormone levels) and give the illusion that the electrolysis wasn't successful.

In most cases, however, electrolysis does a very good job of permanent hair removal and is certainly the best treatment option for long term results.  For more information, see our article "What does permanent hair reduction actually mean?

2. When your Skin or Hair Colour is not Suitable for Laser Hair Removal

Close up of  lady with silver hair

Secondly, electrolysis is suitable for all hair and skin types, whereas lasers generally work best for those with light skin and dark, coarse hair.

Why Laser Hair Removal only Work on Certain Skin and Hair Types

To understand the reason for this, it is necessary to understand how each treatment works:

Lasers work by using a laser beam that is attracted to melanin, a dark pigment found in skin and around base of the hair follicle, to target and destroy the hair follicle. The hair then falls out after 2 – 3 weeks.

Dark hair naturally has more melanin and the contrast between it and light skin means that it is ideal for laser treatment. Lasers are not effective for light, red, grey or fine hair.

Why Electrolysis Works for all Hair Types

Electrolysis applies a short burst of electrical current to the root of the hair by use of a very fine needle inserted inside the hair follicle. This causes decomposition of the hair growing follicles, making it impossible for hair to re-grow. Because of the nature of the treatment, hair and skin colour is irrelevant.

3. When you need to Target Hairs Accurately

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Thirdly, electrolysis is more targeted as it treats hairs individually.

As explained above, the process of electrolysis is highly targeted, so for individual or few hairs it is most suitable. In contrast, lasers treat several hairs at once and are therefore less targeted.

Example - Eyebrow Hair Removal

A great example is eyebrow hair removal.  For this part of the body, electrolysis would be a good way of permanently shaping the eyebrows (or removing hair from the unibrow).  ​Laser, on the other hand, wouldn't have the necessary precision and wouldn't be recommended as a suitable treatment protocol.

4. When You Want to Remove Hair from a Mole

Woman with mole on upper lip

Electrolysis is safe and approved for the permanent removal of unsightly hairs growing from healthy moles. The only other alternatives are shaving, trimming or tweezing, none of which are permanent.

It is important to have a dermatologist check out your mole prior to treatment, both for your own benefit and because no reputable professional electrologist will work on a mole without their approval.

Lasers are not currently suitable for use on hair growing from moles because the pigment in the mole can lead to a high risk of burning.

5. When you Want Guaranteed Results

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The electrolysis procedure works on everyone no matter the colour of hair or type of skin.  Even on large treatment areas that contain a high density of hair - it will take longer, of course - but as long as you have enough treatments, the hair will be removed. It is the best treatment for predictable results.

Laser hair removal, on the other hand, has a more variable track record.  Even some people that would appear to have the perfect hair and skin type for laser hair removal (light skin and coarse dark hair)​ don't respond to the treatment.  We still don't yet know why this anomaly occurs for some people and not for others.

6. When You're Concerned about Safety

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Electrolysis is one of the oldest forms of hair removal - it's been in use and scientifically tested for over 100 years.  You can rest assured that this form of hair removal has been proven both safe and effective with no long term ill health effects associated with it.

Laser hair removal, on the other hand, is a more recent technological invention.  It has been used for the past 30 years and while there have been a large number of scientific studies and is widely regarded as being safe, 30 years is a relatively short window.   ​It's not possible to truly understand the long term effects of this treatment in such a short time frame.

7. When you Have a Tattoo on the Treatment Area

If you have a tattoo on the area that you want to be treated then laser hair removal isn't an option.  The dark colour of the tattoo absorbs the laser and can lead to quite serious burns.​

There have been reports whereby customers have even used a standard dark pen marker on the skin in order to clearly highlight the treatment area to their laser hair removal technician and even just the dark colour of the marker led to burns.

Situations when you May Consider using Laser Hair Removal and Electrolysis Together

Woman having laser hair removal on her face

As mentioned earlier on in the article, electrolysis is quite a slow treatment because each hair has to be treated individually.  This make large treatment areas infeasible for electrolysis unless you're willing to take a high number of sessions and spend a lot of money.

In these situations the electrologist may advise that you initially take a series of laser hair removal treatments first in order to reduce the density of the hair.  Sometimes laser hair removal can reduce the density of the hair to a degree whereby the area can be "finished off" with electrolysis.

Similarities Between Electrolysis and Laser Hair Removal

Series of Treatments Required for Results

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Whether electrolysis or laser treatments are used, it will be necessary to undergo a series of treatments over a period of time to achieve permanence.

This is because hair grows in 3 stages, namely anagen (growing stage), telogen (resting stage) and catagen (shedding stage). Hairs will not be at the same stage at the same time, and both electrolysis and laser treatments are only effective on hair follicles when at the growing stage.

For more information see our articles “Electrolysis Hair Removal – The Facts and Guidebook” and “What does Permanent Hair Reduction Actually Mean”.

Both Treatments can Cause Discomfort

Both electrolysis and laser hair removal can be painful, but both can be eased by approved pain killers and numbing creams, applied prior to treatment.

Whatever you decide, it is important to research properly and make your choice of clinic/practitioner based upon their experience, qualifications and recommendations rather than cost.