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Electrolysis Hair Removal: Should You Do It?


Don’t you sometimes wish you could just make hair in certain places disappear forever? Removing unwanted hair for the sake of a clean look and radiantly smooth skin can be such a hassle! It’s a frustrating feeling to see hairs growing back quicker than we thought or having to take more time than we want to tweeze our eyebrows to perfection.

Electrolysis, which is the only method of permanent hair removal, just might be the answer to your wish. Her Campus has the lowdown for you on exactly on what the process is and what you should know before deciding whether or not it’s right for you!

What is electrolysis?

Dr. Joshua Gordon, M.D., director and CEO of Nios Spa, explained the details of the process to us. He said, “Electrolysis is the only FDA-approved process for permanent hair removal. A flexible probe goes through the natural hair follicle opening and a minute amount of heat is sent through to the base of the hair follicle, destroying hair growth tissue. After complete treatment, growth is stopped forever.”

Nancy Star, CPE, owner of and professional electrologist at Abracadabra Electrolysis, said that there are three kinds of electrolysis used dependent upon the hair type of the patient:

  1. Galvanic
  2. Short-wave/Thermolysis
  3. Blend: Combination of Galvanic & Blend

Star noted that the kind of electrolysis you should get is dependent upon the kind of hair you have in the area from which you wish to get it removed. Star noted that galvanic has been particularly effective for treating areas with curly or kinky hair while short-wave/thermolysis seems to work better with straight hair.

What does it feel like? Does it hurt?

It’s different for everyone, depending upon the individual’s pain threshold and what area is being treated. For example, the lips are generally a more sensitive area. “It feels a little bit like tweezing a hair, maybe a little bit more pain than a small prick,” Dr. Gordon explained.

He observed the vast majority of his patients were comfortable. Most centers have different tricks they use to help patients deal with the discomfort or pain—anything from the settings of the machine to numbing creams. Generally, the power and duration of the electricity are initially put at the lowest setting and then increased until the hair comes out as easily as possible. If the patient expresses pain or discomfort, the settings can be lowered. During your appointments prior to treatment, your electrologist might also recommend creams such as Emla Cream or LMX, which are usually applied 1-2 hours prior to your treatment appointment to help numb the area being treated.

What areas can it remove hair from?

Almost anywhere! “Electrolysis can be done for any part of the body that has hair follicles except mucous membranes such as the nose,” Dr. Gordon told us.

Popular areas include the face (moustaches/sideburns/chin/eyebrows), armpits, bikini line, legs, back and abdomen.

What about laser hair removal? Isn’t that permanent too? What’s the difference?

Dr. Gordon discussed the advantages of electrolysis over laser treatment, pointing out that laser is only approved for permanent laser hair reduction not removal, because while it works for some people, it doesn’t for others. With laser, the larger the difference in color from your skin to the hair, the more effective it is. It’s not as effective when the hair color resembles the skin. This isn’t the case with electrolysis, which is equally effective on all skin and hair color combinations. It can also be used to treat mole hair, ingrown hairs, and to shape eyebrows—something that’s either impossible or too difficult to do with laser.


Are there any dangers to electrolysis?

Dr. Gordon believes that electrolysis is very safe for almost everyone: “There are very few people for whom it’s complicated.”

Star wants most people to be aware that certification to perform electrolysis is not required in every state. In New York, for example, anyone can buy a machine online and perform it. She stressed the importance of making sure you go to someone with the title “CPE” attached to his or her name. She noted, “This means they have passed the highest standards on a nation-wide standardized test by the AEA [American Electrology Association]. You can go to their website to find certified electrologists near you.”

Dr. Gordon emphasized the importance of always telling your electrologist any past serious medical conditions. If you have past scarring tendencies, a possible side effect could be keloids (excess growths of scar tissue), although it’s very rare according to Dr. Gordon. Star also pointed out that diabetes affects the way people heal, so it’s important to say if you have it to be properly assessed prior to electrolysis treatment. And although there is no scientific evidence of electrolysis adversely affecting pregnancy, Star always asks so she can get approval from her client’s doctor. Overall, electrolysis can accommodate most people without any negative effects. It’s important to communicate with your electrologist about your history and any concerns you may have.

The most common side effect after treatment is red skin in the area for a few days, which is pretty minor and expected. Being temporary, it subsides within a few days.

You should avoid touching or scratching the area to avoid infection. Even washing it with soap or applying makeup puts it at risk. Zapahair recommends avoiding alcohol and perfume, which could dry out skin and applying an anti-bacterial cream to prevent infection and help the site heal faster. Avoiding the sun for 72 hours and wearing sunscreen can prevent the formation of brown-pigment spots. Keeping the area clean and protected will ensure faster and smooth healing time!

The possibility of infection because of the actual process is extremely rare. Star recommends that people make sure they go to certified professional electrologists with hygienic practices. She said electrologists “should use disposable gloves and disposable needles they throw out after every session. Reusing can collect bacteria leading to infection.”

Dr. Gordon uses pre-sterilized, disposable probes and disinfects the skin prior to treatment with alcohol. He hasn’t experienced any serious problems in regards to adverse effects post-treatment.

Okay… so it sounds perfect! Are there any other reasons why I should or shouldn’t get it?

Treatments can range from a couple months to slightly over a year or more depending upon the size of the area(s) being treated. Hair grows in cycles, and depending upon how fast yours grows and how much you have, you might have more or fewer treatments to be completely hair-free. A lot of girls do not have the patience for such a long, tedious process.

Natasha*, a sophomore at New York University, explained, “You have to wait until the hair grows back pretty prominently for your next treatment and waxing or shaving it off defeats the purpose of getting to the root. I didn’t like walking around in those in-between phases looking like I had a moustache, and it was also taking really long, so I decided to stop treatment.”

Cost is also dependent on the time spent in treatment, so the larger the area and the more hair there is in that area, generally the more expensive the treatment is. And this treatment that permanently removes hair can be quite a bank breaker!

Natasha said that her treatment cost her $30 for every 15 minutes. One session can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, and the amount of sessions you have in a year can be anything from 15 to 300. It’s a very individual process dependent upon the area and the density of the hair in that area.

Dr. Gordon recommends that collegiettes interested in electrolysis might want to look into smaller areas of treatment such as eyebrow shaping. These will cost significantly less than removing unwanted hairs than, say, the legs.

According to HairRemoval.com, these are the approximate price ranges for popular areas of removal.

  • Upper Lip: $330-$880
  • Bikini Line: $1,100 – $1,760
  • Underarms: $1,100 – $1,760
  • Legs (angle to bikini): $8,800 – $22,400

Electrolysis can be very expensive especially for collegiettes like us, still trying to save as much as we can in consideration of student loans, textbook and supply costs, and other necessary expenses for college.

Natasha* says, “It definitely works, and it’s the only FDA-approved process to guarantee permanent hair removal. It was just too long and pricey for me to finish. I’ve gone back to waxing on a weekly process. It’s just more practical for me.”

However, Jaimee, a former NYU student and patient of Star, doesn’t regret having electrolysis. She originally came to NYC from a small town in the Midwest and noticed she was very different from the girls her age because she had excess facial hair, a mustache. She confessed, “I felt very insecure and I didn’t know what to do. Someone had recommended electrolysis.” As a patient of Star, she noticed a difference almost immediately. Her confidence increased and she started socializing more. She also enjoyed the great, supportive relationship she built with Star. She said, “By my sophomore year, I was hair free […] I feel so much prettier and much more self-assured […] I would recommend electrolysis for any young girl who feels insecure [about her body hair].”

What do you think, collegiettes? Is it something you would try?

Avianne Tan is a senior at New York University studying journalism and English. As a social justice advocate, feminist and mental health advocate, Avianne aspires to use journalism as a platform to raise awareness and incite positive change. Currently, she is an interactive news intern for WABC-TV NY Channel 7 Eyewitness News at 7online.com. Being a news junkie, she also writes for The News Blog here on Her Campus. When she's not reading or writing news, Avianne loves taking spontaneous adventures, eating new food and relaxing with her pets. Catch Avianne Flu by following her on Twitter and Instagram! To learn more about Avianne, please visit her website at www.aviannetan.wix.com/atan.
As the Senior Designer, Kelsey is responsible for the conceptualization and design of solutions that support and strengthen Her Campus on all levels. While managing junior designers, Kelsey manages and oversees the creative needs of Her Campus’s 260+ chapters nationwide and abroad. Passionate about campaign ideation and finding innovative design solutions for brands, Kelsey works closely with the client services team to develop integrated marketing and native advertising campaigns for Her Campus clients such as Macy’s, UGG, Merck, Amtrak, Intel, TRESemmé and more. A 2012 college graduate, Kelsey passionately pursued English Literature, Creative Writing and Studio Art at Skidmore College. Born in and native to Massachusetts, Kelsey supplements creative jewelry design and metal smithing with a passion for fitness and Boston Bruins hockey. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_thornFollow her on Instagram: @kelsey_thorn