This method involves inserting a metal probe (needle) into the hair follicle to the Dermal Papilla (the base of the follicle). An electrical current is then discharged to cauterise the follicle, hopefully preventing re-growth. Each hair is probed individually and then removed using tweezers.
- Permanent procedure: one of the best methodologies of permanent hair removal.
- Proven: this method has by far the best and longest track record of effective results.
- Effective: one of the lowest re-growth treatments available. Can also be used on any skin type or hair colour.
- Cheap: it is a relatively inexpensive treatment for small areas of growth as fewer sessions are required compared to with other methods.
- Expensive: electrolysis hair removal can be expensive compared to some other permanent hair remover methods (e.g. laser treatment) for large areas.
- Painful: moderately painful as the patient receives a shot of electricity into the skin, and certain areas such as the moustache, are especially sensitive and can lead to eye watering.
- Time consuming: each hair is treated individually which means that an hour of treatment still covers only a relatively small area.
- Difficult: hairs must be caught in their growth phase for the treatment to be effective and the needle needs to be skilfully placed at the right depth for the electric charge to hit the base of the follicle.
- Skin damage and infection: There is a risk of scarring if an area is treated too aggressively. Infections can occur if the skin is punctured by improper use of the needle.
Approximately 90% of patients experience permanent hair removal of the treated area over the course of treatment. There are known examples where between only 7% and 10% of patients did not achieve satisfactory results.
There are 3 main types of electrolysis methods for removing hairs:
- Galvanic: this is the most common type. The probe emits a galvanic current causing the salt and water in the hair follicle around the probe to be chemically altered producing lye. Lye is the caustic substance that is the destructive ingredient in the galvanic process. The lye dissolves the base of the follicle that causes hair growth. Galvanic electrolysis is more effective than thermolysis, although it takes longer than thermolysis or blend. Because lye is a fluid it can reach all parts of the follicle, therefore it can effectively treat distorted and curved follicles. This is also the slowest type of electrolysis.
- Thermolysis (or Diathermy): this method works by heating the water in the skin around the probe. It is this extreme heat that damages the cells in the follicle, thus preventing hair re-growth.
- Blend: this technique uses a combination of both thermolysis and galvanic currents. Lye (the chemical created using galvanic currents) is more caustic when it is heated, so it is theoretically more effective at permanently removing hairs. The heat also opens the pores allowing the lye to permeate more freely, adding to its effectiveness. This technique is more comfortable than thermolysis alone, although it takes slightly longer.
Electrolysis treatments can be performed by professional practitioners or by the patient using one of the many home (DIY) kits.
The sensitivity of the skin and the condition, strength and location of the hairs determine the treatment plan. The time between treatments will vary depending on the area of skin to be treated and the density of hair. For example, for treatment on the face, an average time of about 2 weeks should be allowed between treatments.
For most people one course of treatment will not be sufficient to permanently remove all unwanted hair, this is due to the following reasons:
- Wavy hairs: if the hair is naturally wavy, the follicles are often distorted and difficult to reach with the tip of the probe. Several treatments are often required to ensure that the follicle is fully destroyed.
- Previous epilation: if a patient has been tweezing or waxing prior to the electrolysis treatment, then it is likely that some of the active follicles will not be noticed during the first treatment (as they will be hairless). Hairs from these follicles are likely to emerge after the treatment and give the impression that the electrolysis treatment was ineffective.
- Sensitive skin: if the client has sensitive skin, the treatment will need to be done in stages so as to prevent permanent skin damage.
- Hormone imbalance: this is often the reason for excessive hair re-growth. If this is suspected then it is advisable to consult a doctor prior to further treatment.