How Electrolysis Works for Permanent Hair Removal

A look at Galvanic Electrolysis and why it is still the best for permanent hair removal.

Provided by our electrolysis expert, Alana Dzurek.

The History of Electrolysis

In order to understand what Electrolysis is, and how it works to remove hair permanently, it’s important to understand the history dating back to it’s inception.

In 1875, an Ophthalmologist by the name of Dr. Charles E. Michel, in the quest to find a cure for trichiasis (ingrown eyelashes), experimented with the use of the electricity, using a needle attached to a battery to remove a patient’s ingrown eyelash.

eye and eyelash

Michel discovered that by inserting a tiny probe into the hair follicle and applying a direct current (DC) while the patient was holding onto a grounding device, he could remove the hair permanently.

Electrolysis literally means, “converting salt-water molecules to sodium hydroxide, hydrogen gas and chlorine gas" (known as Lye) to decompose matter. 

This was the original “Galvanic” form of Electrolysis, approved by the FDA for permanent hair removal (and remains so today after 142 years). 

How Galvanic Electrolysis Works

Cross section of a hair and hair follicle

The average human adult body is made up of approximately 60% salt water.

Once a tiny probe is inserted into a hair follicle, salt water is detected and current is introduced, a chemical reaction occurs which converts salt water molecules into a caustic chemical called lye.

The lye fills the hair follicle and destroys the stem cells that grow the hair.

Consequently hair regrowth rates are kept to a minimum and only a few treatments are required before permanent hair removal is achieved. 

Early Days

The discovery proved extremely successful, but very slow, as each hair follicle needed to be treated individually.

Beverly Hills Hairfree 32 needles

At the beginning of the 20th century the first commercial electrolysis kits were produced, leading to their use by operators other than medical practitioners for the first time, such as barbers and beauticians.

How Electrolysis Developed

In an effort to improve upon it’s value, more needles were added to this galvanic treatment, to be used in a more effective way. 

It is recorded that a German dermatologist Ernst Kromayer used and developed a multiple needle machine as early as 1908.

Paul Kree is credited with inventing a multi-needle technique, however, he essentially patented Kromayer’s apparatus.

Early Electrolysis

Taken from St.Louis Post Dispatch, Sept  1939 Source: Newspapers.com

These early users of multi-needle had tremendous success treating hair applying the original galvanic method of electrolysis. By simply implementing more than one needle at a time, they were able to treat up to 10 follicles simultaneously.

Beverly hills electrolysis for famous

This greatly increased the speed at which treatment could be given and so, although still mightily expensive for the average worker, it was brought into reach of the mass market.

The downside of early multi-needle electrolysis was the high level of discomfort.

Although an individual probe of electricity was bearable, the insertion of 10 probes all delivering electrical current at the same time, was pretty uncomfortable.

We now fast-forward to the early 1980’s - Los Angeles, CA, at the “House of St. James Salon” on Sunset Blvd:

A man by the name of Dwight Letchworth, is using “next generation” multi-needle machines utilizing 16 probes with great efficacy, even treating the “rich & famous” and those fortunate enough to receive this expensive treatment.

He even figured out a formula for clearing a man’s beard - calling it the “$8750 shave.”

Multi needle electrolysis clip Letchworth

The Los Angeles Times, Oct 1980   Source: Newspapers.com

A patient of Letchworth’s recalls receiving lidocaine injections prior to a long treatment in order to remain completely comfortable. 

She also remembers Letchworth actually removing the hair from one side of his face as an advertisement for how smooth his face felt without any hair after having Electrolysis.  I can only imagine living life this way??

Beverly Hills fast electrolysis

Today, Beverly Hills Hair Free offers this same Electrolysis treatment, utilizing up to 32 probes at a time, tripling the speed of hair removal.

Our method has earned us an International clientele, and a reputation for prepping transitioning clients for surgery in record time.

Nowadays, the process is much more comfortable than it used to be as the technology is far superior to those early days and the probes are vastly improved.

At Beverly Hills Hair Free, we work with the best plastic surgeons and anesthesiologists to make sure that sensitive areas are properly numbed in order to perform several hours of necessary hair removal

What about Thermolysis and The Blend?

It has always been standard practice to accept three different ways to administer Electrolysis.

I, however, do NOT agree with this - but let us examine why:

The word “Electrolysis” literally means, converting salt water molecules into sodium hydroxide, hydrogen gas (lye), which applies exactly to “Galvanic” electrolysis.

Here’s how Galvanic works; once the probe enters the follicle and detects salty tissue,  the current immediately begins to create Lye, filling the follicle entirely, and allowing gas to escape through the opening.

Once the probe is removed and hair slides out, the lye is still working inside the follicle to destroy remaining stem cells.

What does this mean? It simply means if you throw a live wire into water, it will make contact and electrocute anything it comes in contact with, the same goes for “Galvanic”.

Thermolysis was developed in the 1920's in an effort to speed up the process of electrolysis.

The definition for thermolysis is "the breakdown of molecules by the action of heat.

Heat travels up the probe to destroy tissue, however there is no effect on surrounding stem cells, and so thermolysis has a high re-growth rate, hence many return visits lasting 2-4 years.

In terms of efficiency, the galvanic method is by far superior to thermolysis in my professional opinion, and requires less treatments, for faster permanent results.

The 3rd method, called the Blend, was developed in the 1930's in an attempt to harness the speed of thermolysis with the efficacy of galvanic electrolysis by utilising a combination of the two. 

However, as I just stated,  galvanic is effective alone, and there is absolutely no need to incorporate any form of thermolysis to achieve 100% permanent hair removal.

In summary I will say that, although it is largely up to the practitioner to determine which method to use, it is also important for the client to carry out proper research to ensure that they are fully aware of what they are purchasing.

After all, it is ultimately the client who is the paying the bill and who will be disappointed if the results do not match their expectations.

The Only FDA Approved Permanent Hair Removal Method

Lastly, I would just like to add that Electrolysis is currently the only permanent method for hair removal, as reconfirmed by the FDA Consumer Health Information Bulletin of 27 June 2007, which stated:

FDA Logo

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes electrology as providing permanent hair removal. The FDA identification in Title 21, CFR, Sec. 878.5350 for needle-type epilators is: “a device intended to remove the hair by destroying the dermal papilla of a hair”. As no other device for hair removal has the unique identification of “destroying the dermal papilla of a hair”, only electrologists are allowed to claim permanent hair removal in their advertising”.


For the past 12 months, I have been testing and playing with all sorts of hair removal products for Hair Free Life. My goal is to provide the most accurate and up-to-date hair removal consumer information on the internet. When I'm not photographing, reviewing and researching hair removal products I play the drums in a samba band and am a volunteer for the Swindon Lions! Got any questions? Write to us below:

  • Avatar Anonymous says:

    How effective is this hair removal with huiritism?

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