Electrolysis hair removal is the only method approved by the FDA for permanent hair removal. It does require multiple sessions to achieve the best possible results. However, this doesn't guarantee that you'll never see any hair where you got treated for the rest of your life.
"Regardless of the cause—heredity, metabolic, or hormonal conditions—electrolysis will permanently remove unwanted hair," says Randa Thurman, LE, CPE, owner of Pacific Coast Electrology & Skin Care.
Read on for more about how electrolysis works and what to expect, pain-wise.
Meet the Expert
Randa Thurman, LE, CPE, is the owner of Pacific Coast Electrology & Skin Care in Monterey, CA. She is a member of the northern chapter of Electrologists Association of California.
How It Works
Essentially, electrolysis works by disrupting all hair growth, says Thurman: "The process works by inserting a fine probe into the skin. It uses shortwave radio or direct current in hair follicles to stop new hair from growing. This procedure damages your hair follicles to prevent growth and causes existing hairs to fall out."
There are three types of electrolysis: galvanic (which chemically dissolves the follicle), thermolysis (which uses localized heat), and blend (which utilizes both methods).And while some at-home epilators claim to provide similar results to a professional-grade product, "they aren't as effective or permanent," claims Thurman.
Electrolysis can yield permanent results—but it's important to note that it takes time. Hair grows in different stages: growing, resting and shedding. Because all of the hair isn't on the same stage at any given time, multiple sessions will be required.
- It has the best track record. Electrolysis yields the best overall results compared to any other method when it comes to getting rid of hair permanently.
- Many different hair and skin types can benefit. "In addition to producing more permanent results, electrolysis is exceptionally versatile," says Thurman. "It can help inhibit new hair growth for all skin and hair types and may be used anywhere on the body, including the eyebrows." People who aren't good candidates for laser may still get electrolysis.
- Bent follicles can make electrolysis hair removal harder. Previous waxing or tweezing might make hair follicles bent or misshapen, which could make getting the needle to the root more difficult.
- Multiple treatments are needed. You have to truly be committed to electrolysis because you will need to undergo anywhere from 15-30 sessions.
Everyone has their own tolerance to pain. Electrolysis has been likened to a stinging and pricking sensation, and each follicle has to go through it. "You'll probably feel a momentary heat sensation or pinch," says Thurman. "Discomfort is minimal for most people, but individual tolerances vary greatly. Keep in mind that some areas of the body are much less sensitive than others. Many people read, listen to music, or even take a nap while being treated."
Electrolysis Hair Removal Costs
"Electrolysis costs depend on a lot of factors, including how much hair needs to be removed, the size of the area being treated, and where you get your services performed," notes Thurman. "Generally, a large city is going to have higher rates than a small town. Overall, electrolysis cost compares very favorably to other hair removal methods, including laser." An average cost per one-hour session of electrolysis typically ranges between $50 and $125 per hour.
Can you shave during electrolysis?
One study demonstrated that shaving one to five days before an electrolysis appointment greatly increased the efficacy of the treatment. Of course, it's best to check with your provider before picking up a razor.
How long after electrolysis can I shower?
To try to help prevent irritation, refrain from washing the treated area for at least 24 hours after electrolysis.
Which is better, waxing or electrolysis?
There's no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to hair removal. The key difference between waxing and electrolysis is how often you need treatments: While your hair will be permanently gone after a number of electrolysis sessions, you'll need to get waxes every three to six weeks since the hair will grow back.
Cleveland Clinic. Electrolysis. Updated January 5, 2021.
Electrologists Association of New Jersey. FAQs.
Richards RN, Meharg GE. Electrolysis: observations from 13 years and 140,000 hours of experience. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1995;33(4):662-666.