Ruth Ann Byrd Key, LE, CME
Aesthetic
Skin
of the Villages
352.874.3653
607 County Road 466, Lady Lake, Fl 32159

WHAT IS ELECTROLYSIS?

Electrolysis is a common term used to describe hair removal with electrical current. This came about after Dr. Charles Michel, a St. Louis, Missouri, opthamologist devised a method of using battery current to cause a chemical transformation in the hair follicle, devised on the principle of electrolysis for metal plating. He needed to find a procedure to ablate ingrown eyelashes without significant scarring.  This method today is called Electrolysis, Galvanic or Multiple Needle Galvanic.  Subsequent modalities such as Thermolysis and the  Blend are also referred to as “electrolysis”.


HOW DOES ELECTROLYSIS WORK?

A needle sized electrode is inserted into the hair follicle or tiny tube in the skin where the hair is growing. Current is then delivered to the bottom of the follicle to destroy the vascular tissue that supports the hair. The hair is then removed with sterile forceps and the area is left to heal.


IS ELECTROLYSIS PERMANENT?

Yes, but it is not instantaneous. The electrologist can't see into the bottom of the follicle, therefore great care is taken not to over-treat the area. Only enough current is administered to disengage the hair for easy removal. If the follicle later produces another hair, then the process is repeated until the follicle no longer produces a hair. This process of elimination is necessary to allow the skin to appear as if it has never been treated once the series of treatments is finished.


DOES ELECTROLYSIS HURT?

There is some discomfort, but usually no more than tweezing. Modern equipment allows the electrologist to accurately treat without massive trauma to the skin. The skin is equipped with tiny sensors that will warn the electrolysis patient if treatment is not correct. The skin may begin to feel too warm, or the patient may feel nauseous or seem to feel jittery if the skin is being traumatized. Every patient has the right to complain or discuss the treatment with the electrologist.

 

Is electrolysis expensive? Professional electrologists usually work within a fee structure much like attorneys or accountants. You must first know how long the individual treatments will be, then multiply the number of treatment hours by the rate per hour to know the estimated total cost. Cost is predicated on the skin type, temporary removal methods used in the past and the number of hairs to be removed.


IS ELECTROLYSIS TIME CONSUMING?  

Most of the time spent on electrolysis is waiting between treatments for re-growth.


WHAT IF IT DOESN'T WORK?

If the area being treated does not respond as described in the consultation and if there are other symptoms of health problems, i.e. irregular periods, weight gain, etc., by all means, discuss this with the electrologist so a medical treatment plan can be implemented if it is necessary.


WHAT CAUSES UNWANTED HAIR?

Hair covers most of the human body. Most hair growth patterns are hereditary and pose no problem; however, some areas can become unsightly after temporary removal, with age or hormonal changes. Many females experience facial hair growth at puberty, during pregnancy and childbirth or at menopause. A sudden growth of hair on the face of a female may indicate a medical problem that needs to be discussed with a physician. Many males experience hair growth on their shoulders and back that they deem unsightly. It is normal for females and males to lose hair on their lower extremities and grow more hair on their upper bodies (except at the top of their head) as they grow older.


HOW EFFECTIVE IS LASER HAIR REMOVAL?

Laser hair removal is being utilized for mass hair removal from large areas of the body. The hair must be dark because lasers target pigment in the hair follicles rather than the moisture targeted by conventional treatment. Laser does not work on blonde, red or white hairs. Several lasers have been granted clearance by the United States Food and Drug Administration to advertise "permanent reduction" and these lasers are proving to be very effective for removing hair from areas of the human body that have been considered impractical by conventional methods. Fewer treatments are required for laser hair removal than conventional electrolysis.


WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WAY ELECTROLYSIS WORKS AND THE WAY LASER WORKS?

With conventional electrolysis, no matter what modality is being used, the target tissue in the hair follicle is the moist dermal papilla. This current, whether direct or alternating (RF), causes either a chemical reaction or heats up the moist tissue and destroys it. Great care has to be taken not to administer too much current that would affect the moist ground tissue of the dermis that surrounds the lower portion of the hair follicle. This layer of skin contains the collagen and elastin layers and can be irreparably damaged to being too aggressive with conventional treatment. The laser is different, because it's light is absorbed by the dark pigment producing cells at the bottom of the hair follicle. These are called melanocytes, which means they produce melanin. The heat from the melanocytes is then transferred to the adjacent vascular cells and the heat destroys these cells of the dermal papilla. Because there are no pigment cells in the adjacent dermis, the laser can be turned higher than conventional devices because there is no chance of damage.


WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE IN COST BETWEEN LASER AND ELECTROLYSIS?

The cost for laser treatment seems to be greater per treatment than for electrolysis but fewer treatments are required. In most cases, the laser will prove to be less costly than conventional treatment. Can hairs be removed from any part of the body? With conventional electrolysis, it is advisable not to treat the mucous membranes inside the nose and ears because of high risk of infection. The right kind of laser can be used safely to treat these areas however, since laser is non-invasive. The nostrils are lased from the outside and the ears are safely plugged before laser treatment. 


HOW SAFE IS IT TO TREAT GENITALS?

Genitals can be treated with either method. It is wise to limit the amount of electrolysis because of the risk of invasion of pathogenic bacteria. Laser has proven to be fast and easy for even the most sensitive genital areas in both men and women.


HOW DO I PREPARE FOR TREATMENT?

If you choose to have electrolysis, then you must discontinue any method of temporary removal for about a week before treatment and resort to clipping the hairs until two days before treatment. The hairs must be long enough to be removed to prevent the risk of infection. With electrolysis, closely spaced treatments are necessary to treat the emerging hairs. As the hair growth slows, the treatments get shorter and farther apart until the hairs no longer are growing.


For laser, it is important that all the hairs be present in the follicle for the laser to be successful, so it is advisable not to use any method of hair removal except shaving or clipping for 6-8 weeks prior to treatment. It is also not advisable to put chemicals on the skin such as depilatories or bleach for at least 4-6 weeks.


WHAT ABOUT SCARRING?

There is always a risk when any invasive procedure is done on the human body, however the risks are very small with electrolysis as long as the electrologist is trained. Immediately after treatment, you should experience a tiny red lesion at each treated follicle much like an insect bite. This lesion will disappear shortly after treatment and the area will return to normal. If there is continued redness for several days or visible scabbing, especially on the face, please report this to the electrologist. The solution could be as simple as changing the type of electrode because of the client's allergy to metal. Scarring from laser is not a common occurrence, since it is not an invasive procedure. It is up to the consumer to determine whether the laser operator has been trained and is using the correct hair removal laser.


IS LASER HAIR REMOVAL SAFE AFTER ELECTROLYSIS TREATMENTS AND VICE VERSA?

It is safe and even recommended because laser will not affect blond, white or red hairs and many people have hairs of almost every color in areas of skin that grow hair. If a client finds that they do not have the time or it is inconvenient to continue with electrolysis on dark hairs, they may choose to have laser to eliminate the time factor in treatment.


Hair Removal