What is electrolysis?
It is possible to live an entire life without ever hearing about hair removal by electrolysis, but although it is often outshined by other, more well-known and accessible types of hair removal, electrolysis is the only established method that is entitled to claim a 100% permanent result. But what exactly is electrolysis? It might sound scary and very sciency at first, and admittedly, that’s exactly what it is — it is a procedure that involves killing hair follicles by electroshocking them.
In a professional salon setting, the process usually involves a needle being inserted into the hair follicle. Electric current then passes through the needle into the hair, essentially electrocuting it and causing it to fall out. If done correctly and repeated multiple times over a longer period of time, affected hair follicles become permanently damaged to the point of never regrowing new hair ever again.
Does it actually work?
Yes, it does. It is the only known hair removal method that is legally allowed to promise permanent hair removal over time, and it only takes a couple of sessions for the treatment to be completely finished. It can be used on almost all body parts, but it is timely and costly, definitely not something to turn to as a quick-fix hair removal before a date or a night out.
It is a procedure originally meant for removing hair that is abnormally dark, thick, or grows in awkward areas such as the upper lip or breasts, and though nowadays there are at-home electrolysis kits available, it is still mostly done by trained professionals — electrologists. To achieve permanently smooth skin with electrolysis requires a considerable amount of time, patience, knowledge, and expertise.
Electrolysis side effects
If done correctly and professionally, electrolysis can have minimal to no side effects in the long-term. The lower the skill of the person performing it, and the quality of the equipment used, the higher the risks of something going wrong.
Most hair removal methods are not exactly painless so it’s to wonder that the most commonly cited side effect is temporary pain (which is described as stingy kind of pain, and is also kind of expected, since we are talking about needles and electric shocks) during the procedure. Other side effects include skin irritation, redness, or inflammation after the procedure, ingrown hair, and, if done incorrectly, damage to the skin in the form of permanent bruising or scarring.
It is also important to note that, though those areas tend to have ugly hair we might want to remove, electrolysis is not a suitable method of removing hair from moles, birthmarks, or other pigmented areas. Another body parts not suitable for electrolysis hair removal are ears and nose.
Tips for performing electrolysis
To combat the pain, it is often recommended to apply some kind of numbing analgetic topical ointment or cream before the electrolysis itself. Another option is taking ibuprofen or any painkiller about an hour before starting with the hair removal. It also helps to put on some soothing music and creating an overall calming atmosphere that helps the body relax.
A different common side effect of electrolysis, ingrown hair, is best avoided by properly moisturizing the skin not just before and after the electrolysis treatment, but all the time. Another skincare practice that prevents ingrown hair is gentle exfoliation. Also, it is recommended not to shave in between sessions. Not only having longer, visible hair helps with the electrolysis process, but shaving also makes the skin more sensitive, which is the last thing we want when going through electrolysis.
To alleviate the irritation and sensitivity that may occur after the session, some people use and recommend applying ice to the affected area to reduce the swelling and inflammation. Another option is using an aloe vera gel, which has soothing properties and doubles as a moisturizer as well.
Last but not least, electrolysis leaves the skin more sensitive to any irritating elements as well as the sun. It is not recommended to go outside immediately after the procedure.
Types of electrolysis
There are two different types of electrolysis and a mix of the two currently available. The two types being:
As the name suggests, this is a heat-based method that uses radio waves rather than electric currents to make the hair vibrate. The vibration creates heat, which in turn causes the hair to fall out and damages the follicle. Out of the two, this is the faster method, but it doesn’t work on certain hair types and can have a higher hair regrowth rate.
- Galvanic electrolysis
This method uses direct electric current running through the needle which goes directly into the hair follicle, causing an electrochemical reaction that completely changes the structure of the hair, causing it, again, to fall out. This type of electrolysis tends to be slower, as the electric charge needs to be passing through the hair follicle for several minutes for it to be effective.
The mixture of the two aforementioned types was created to optimize the results and eliminate the cons of each method. It can work at a decent speed and provides good results.
Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal
When thinking about permanent hair removal, we usually have laser or IPL (intense pulsed light) treatments in mind, but the truth is that, while laser definitely does provide good results, it takes many more sessions before the hair stops growing back, while only about 8 to 12 electrolysis sessions are needed for permanent hair removal.
Although laser treatments do slow down the hair growth process considerably, they don’t stop it completely, hence why laser is not recognized as a permanent hair removal method and electrolysis is. Laser users still need touch-ups once or twice a year to keep their skin completely smooth.
Compared to laser treatments, electrolysis is cheaper both in the short and in the long run, but because every single hair needs to be treated individually, a single session can take up twice the time of a laser session, because laser is able to target wider areas and remove more hair at once.
On top of that, unlike electrolysis, laser treatment is not suitable for all skin and hair types and only benefits people with fair skin and dark hair. Laser beams attack dark pigments, which means that dark-skinned people can get burnt by it while people with light, fine hair often don’t see any results at all. Electrolysis, on the other hand, works for everyone and for all body parts alike.
The pros of laser treatment in comparison to electrolysis are lesser to no pain and shorter sessions. On the other hand, electrolysis provides long-lasting results faster and is suitable for a wider variety of people.
Electrolysis vs. Epilators
The main difference between those two is, of course, that no epilator can remove hair permanently. While regular epilators use multiple high-speed tweezers to pull the hair out by force, electrolysis is based on a chemical reaction that damages the very structure of the hair, causing it to fall out by itself. Although being very different in nature, both of these methods come with a certain level of pain and skin irritation.
But for a quick, reliable, safe at-home hair removal, an epilator is probably the better choice out of the two, as well as the cheaper one. Electrolysis is geared more towards the long-term goal which makes it pay off later down the road.
Professional vs. DIY electrolysis
When booking a session at the salon, the person who is going to perform the electrolysis has gone through special training in that area and is, ideally, a licensed electrologist. They are also using powerful technology, and have all 3 electrolysis methods at disposal to choose from as they see fit.
To save some money, there are DIY at-home kits available. While they might seem a bit of an investment, they still end up being cheaper than professional salon visits and they do make electrolysis more affordable to anyone willing to put in the time and research. Most people, however, don’t have the skill levels needed for performing electrolysis on themselves safely and effectively enough.
So while it is absolutely possible to do it yourself at home, it is recommended people educate themselves on the subject as much as they can before playing with electrolysis in private. Poorly executed DIY electrolysis can bear no results in the better case (that is why so many reviews say that the at-home kits don’t work) and can cause burns or permanent scarring in the worse case.
Best at-home electrolysis kits
It is important to note that all of the kits that are going to be discussed have not been FDA approved, are mostly only available on Amazon and other online retail websites, where they’ve received mixed reviews from buyers and professionals alike. Since, as mentioned above, electrolysis was originally meant to be carried out by skilled professionals only, thinking that at-home treatment done by an untrained amateur using less sophisticated technology is always going to result in the same outcome is a bit foolish.
That is not to say that they don’t work. It is, however, hard to know the extent to which the bad or disappointing experiences mentioned in some reviews are because of the machine or the person using it. It is common for people to not do the research needed for knowing how to use the machine properly, or to give up after a couple of uses, not sticking with it long enough to see permanent results, and then write bad reviews.
On top of that, what some people don’t know or forget, electrolysis is, for the most part, only effective on hair currently in the active growth stage within the hair growth cycle, which is why not all hair can be properly shocked and repeated treatments are needed to achieve the desired outcome eventually.
One type of at-home electrolysis that is worth mentioning is electric tweezers and while their manufacturers will claim that they perform electrolysis, there is no sufficient proof to suggest that using them results in permanent hair removal.
Clean N Easy Deluxe Electrolysis
Considered a more of an “entry-level” electrolysis device, the Clean N Easy unit is way more simple and intuitive than some of the semi-professional electrolysis machines on the market. It uses a modified galvanic technology and comes in the form of a thin probe and a pair of tweezers. To make the procedure less painful and dangerous, it has a thin stylet tip instead of an actual needle, which eliminates the possibility of accidentally damaging the skin with it.
On the other hand, it is harder to get the tip into the hair follicle than it would be with a needle, so using this device requires some patience and learning. Because the process of using it can be quite time consuming, the Clean N Easy is mostly recommended for treating smaller areas on the body rather than legs or arms. It can take longer to see more permanent results when using the Clean N Easy in comparison with other, more powerful at-home kits or with professional electrolysis treatments.
Out of the currently available at-home kits utilizing electrolysis, the Clean N Easy unit is one of the most affordable ones, as well as one of the easiest ones to use. Unlike many other devices, this one is also very compact and portable, making it easy to travel with.
Verseo eSmooth Roller Pen
Another budget, simple, travel-friendly electrolysis device. It utilizes the galvanic type of electrolysis and promises completely painless treatment, making the electric pulse go down the hair follicle with the help of conductive gel which is a part of the package.
It is a fairly simple device with a few different setting options which correspond with different colors of power-indicating LED lights the pen flashes during the treatment. Apart from the pen itself and the conductive gel, the package also includes conductive patches for easier and cleaner use.
Like other at-home electrolysis kits, the Verseo eSmooth pen receives mixed reviews on the internet, but the general consensus is that while seeing more permanent results might take longer than with the more high-end, high-power machines, it does work and it is a good option especially for people who need to travel but want to keep up with their electrolysis treatments.
V2R Galvanic Electrolysis System
This is a mid-range, simple, straightforward model utilizing galvanic-type electrolysis. According to the manufacturer, this product is geared mostly towards the face and other sensitive areas where blend-type electrolysis might be a bit too powerful.
Marketed as easy to use with no training required, it comes in a simple design and with a fully adjustable rheostat. According to the reviews, this is a good value for price product that delivers the results it promises.
Électrolyse Automatique Deluxe
This model is more of a professional, salon-type machine. It is one of the most powerful ones out there, making it highly effective and a good pick for someone who knows a thing or two about electrolysis already and means some serious business. As opposed to the Clean N Easy, this device is designed to treat larger sections on the body at once, ideal for arms, legs, chest, or back.
The Électrolyse Automatique utilizes a blend-type technology and provides multiple different settings and adjustments for different hair types and body parts. It also has a foot pedal to activate the electric shock hands-free for more convenience.
Although still cheaper than most professional salon treatments, the Électrolyse Automatique Deluxe is one of the most expensive at-home kits on the market. To make up for that fact, it comes with a one-year complete warranty, guaranteeing money back if the buyer is dissatisfied with the product, as well as access to detailed PDF guides, instructional videos, and technical support.
Aavexx 600 Dual Function Blend-Tone
Another very powerful machine meant for professional-level use. Aavexx is dominating the electrolysis machine market and the 600 model is their newest and best so far. Advertised as a good option for both, home and salon use, removing hair with this high-end machine also requires lots of knowledge and skill. Similarly to Electrolyse Automatique, it has adjustable settings for different hair thickness and body parts, as well as the foot pedal and other convenient add-ons.
The Aavexx 600, also sometimes sold under the name AVX600, is a needle-free device that uses electrode clips instead. It has two different modes, single-output for taking care of one hair at a time, and multiple-output for larger areas, where it can treat multiple hair follicles at once. It can switch between all 3 types of electrolysis: thermolysis, galvanic, and blend. On top of that, it comes with all the supplies needed for up to 3 months of treatment.
Compared to older Aavexx transdermal machines, the 600 model has a fully programmable auto-timer and shortwave blend function listed as improvements. Much like the Electrolyse Automatique product, this semi-professional machine also comes at a fairly high price point, with a one year warranty and detailed guides provided upon purchase.