Transgender Permanent Facial Hair Removal – The Ultimate Guide
Why Electrolysis and How Does it Work?
Electrolysis is the only permanent hair removal method which is recognised and approved as such by the FDA (The US Food and Drug Administration).
The FDA is an agency of the US government that regulates a broad range of consumer products, services and drugs in order to ensure the efficacy of products and, even more importantly, the safety of the consumer.
It is often said that lasers achieve permanent results, but there is a distinct difference. Although lasers can achieve permanent hair reduction, for which they are FDA approved, it is not a solution for permanent hair removal.
The other advantage of electrolysis is that it is suitable for pretty much all skin tones and hair colours, unlike laser hair removal.
How it Works
In a nutshell, electrolysis involves using electrical current applied to the root of the hair, via a very fine needle, to destroy the follicle and cause the hair to fall out.
This is, of course, a very simplistic explanation, and if you would like a more detailed account we have published a separate article about the different types of electrolysis and how they work.
Before you Start
When beginning your transition the most important thing to remember is that "nothing happens overnight".
The permanent removal of facial hair is a time-consuming, but wonderfully worthwhile process, and you will need patience and commitment to achieve your desired results.
You also need to remember that electrolysis requires a considerable financial investment, and be sure that you can afford to see the process through and not be disappointed.
When and Where to Start?
The best time to begin facial hair removal is once you begin HRT.
Hormone treatment will assist in your facial hair removal by preventing new male pattern hair growth, and existing hair may even become finer in some areas.
There are two hormones which need to be regulated in order to stop hair growth (androgens: testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone; DHEA, Dihydrotestosterone; DHT). Even in female patients with PCOS (Polysistic Ovarian Syndrome) if these androgens are not regulated, the client continues to produce hair.
Where you start is a matter of personal choice but the face is the most obvious, after all, when in public no-one knows what is beneath our clothing!
The face is a mirror of who we are and that's how we present ourselves to others. When you have no facial hair, your psyche is elevated to a much more confident level.
In terms of where on the face to start, again it varies depending upon the individual. I always advise my patients to think about which area bothers them the most, and start there.
The upper lip can be one of the most painful areas to treat, so you may prefer to wait until a little later when you have become accustomed to the process. However, we do offer options such as Lidocaine injections and our Beverly Hills Hair Free system, which is much more gentle and easily tolerated on these areas.
How Long will it Take to see Results?
To achieve permanent results it can take anything from 12 months up to 3 years in some cases.
I realize that this will seem like a very wide time-frame but it is just impossible to be more specific because individuals begin treatment with us at many different phases.
Some patients that we see at Beverly Hills Hair Free have full beards, cheeks, neck and upper lip whilst others have much less, perhaps just a little upper lip and beard hair.
The above shows a photograph of a beard before and after only 8 hours of treatment - as you can see, there is already less hair visible!
As a rule, you should begin to see noticeable results after about 12 treatments - remember that progress means:
- Less hair
- Less frequent sessions
- Shorter treatment times
These are all measurable markers that will lead to permanent results and if you are not seeing these markers you may need to explore other possibilities.
Finding the Right Electrologist
Each State regulates differently in the US. I have been certified and licensed in three different states over my 20 plus year career in NY, MD and CA, and I haven't found that state regulations qualify a "reputable" professional.
It is solely the individual's passion and knowledge (a determination to learn) that makes a great professional Electrologist.
Where to Start?
- Look for an electrologist who has experience in treating trans people as they will have the knowledge and experience to support you through the process, and thus to achieve the best possible outcome.
- Read online reviews and information about the Electrologist, but don't rely on this alone
- Talk to the Electrologist and let him or her educate you, not the other way round! Do they inspire confidence in you?
- Ask questions about the process, a reputable professional will be happy to provide enough information to enable you to make an informed choice
- If you are not clear about their proposed treatment plan and the details of your treatment, you should look for a more experienced professional
- Don't be in a rush and take your time to make the right choice - after all it is a major decision and you will be spending a lot of time with your Electrologist during the course of your transition
What They Should be Asking You
I love this question because it is the best way for a professional to determine how to proceed with treatment.
The key things I like to ask are:
- Have you ever had electrolysis before?
- If so, do you know which type of electrolysis you have had?
- Have you ever had laser?
- If so, what were the results?
Most of our patients here at Beverly Hills Hair Free find us because they have been in treatment and have either not seen results or not seen them fast enough.
What You Should be Asking Them
- In my opinion, the most important question to ask is what percentage of their clientele is trans
- Explain where you are in your transition: Are you already living as a female? Do you need to keep your treatment private? Ask how your treatment plan can be organised so that it allows you to maintain your routine life
- Ask about timing so that you have the best hair free days at the time of week when it is most important to you
- Ask for an estimated time frame and how long it will take to notice results
- Go armed with a list of things you want to know about - it is really easy to forget once you are sitting there!
- Above all make sure that you feel that you have sufficient information to make your decision - and take time to think it all through thoroughly
Will there be any skin damage?
This is a commonly asked question and the answer is no - not if electrolysis is administered correctly. In fact, the skin will actually improve in appearance when the hair is removed.
Does it hurt?
Only if administered incorrectly. It can be very comfortable if performed in the right way. Watch the video below to learn more:-
Here's another video of a client going through the multi needle electrolysis treatment without any pain:-
Isn't it much slower than laser?
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 much faster than traditional Electrolysis, and has the ability to treat up to 32 hairs simultaneously. This also means that the pain factor can be controlled, delivering a virtually pain-free treatment.
Is a Patch Test Required?
I'm not sure why or how this question became part of a practice within our industry. There is no benefit to the client or practitioner from performing a patch test unless, of course, a rare skin condition exists.
Any valuable information is obtained from Q & A's during the consult and upon examination of the hair and skin.
How to Prepare?
Your professional will advise you about what they want you to do to prepare for the session, and should include the following:
- Avoid drinking alcohol before the treatment
- The hair being treated should be visible, but not long
- Drink plenty of water
Finally, of course, relax and allow the professional to do the job!
What to Expect at a Session
A typical session lasts from 1 - 5 hours of treatment.
During the treatment the patient is simply lying down while the probes are inserted and hair removed. The probes are then re-inserted into more hair follicles and so-on (see video).
We usually give a short 15 minute break between long 4 - 5 hour treatments, and of course bathroom breaks are always given as and when needed.
You will feel a heating pattern underneath the skin while the galvanic chemical is pumped into the follicle.
This sensation may be felt more keenly in some areas than others, due to the nerve endings and how thick or thin the skin is each particular area.
Here is another video showing electrolysis treatment around the bikini area:-
What are the Side Effects?
Remember that our skin is a living organ, consisting of appendages (the hair and nails) and we are introducing something foreign into the skin that is unnatural.
Therefore, the response/defense to this is swelling in order to heal, and sometimes tiny scabs form after aggressive treatment - also our skin's way of healing and completely normal.
An abnormal reaction would be excessive swelling or pain after treatment lasting 7 - 21 days and would be indicative of infection or circulatory problems. This would require medical treatment.
You should always allow yourself several days to recover between treatments, 7 - 14 days is ideal.
Take an anti-inflammatory for 2 days following treatment and drink plenty of water.
You can use shaving as a temporary solution between treatments, remembering that hair needs to 1/8 inch above the skin on treatment days. Anything longer is unnecessary and anything shorter is not recommended.
What About the Cost?
For a transitioning male the cost can range anywhere from $8,000 - $20,000 which depends on everything from how much hair needs to be removed, to how quickly the Electrologist can deliver results.
You should begin treatment on a weekly basis (or twice a week but in different areas).
As a guide, for faster accelerated results, at Beverly Hills Hair Free we treat patients for up to 4 hours each week for a minimum of 6 months (24 treatments).
A 4 hour treatment can clear anything from cheeks and chin, to some side burns and neck, depending on how much hair is present.
The cost for a 4 hour treatment is currently $560 USD.
More about Electrolysis
- View the questions that our readers have asked about electrolysis
- Electrolysis FAQ
- Electrolysis vs Laser
If you have any questions send them to us and we will get back to you with the answer shortly.