The Truth about Electrolysis Hair Removal


Electrolysis is the only form of epilation, or hair removal, classified by the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) as permanent. Electrolysis takes its name from the electro-chemical reaction at the core of the treatment. Its full name is Galvanic Electrolysis. The galvanic part comes from the original name for what we now know as a battery – a Galvanic Cell. These Galvanic Cells, or batteries, were used to power the original Electrolysis machines back in the 19th century.

Electrolysis hair removal is when an electric current that is applied with a very fine needle-shaped electrode, or metal probe into each hair follicle to destroy the root. It is particularly effective for those with grey or white blonde hair that find LHR does not work for them. Electrolysis, unlike LHR, is recognised by the FDA as a permanent hair removal solution, however, your treatment plan will consist of several sessions before the hair will stop growing back. Electrolysis has a great track record as it destroys the root itself and it is effective on all skin and hair types as it is not focusing on pigments.

Most chemical reactions take place between ingredients that readily react together to release energy and form new compounds but many useful chemical reactions require a bit of encouragement through heat or electricity. Such reactions are much easier to control by simply regulating the amount of heat or electricity applied.

In the case of the electro-chemical reaction in Electrolysis, a negative current is applied to the hair follicle and any moisture present in the follicle is gradually converted into sodium hydroxide (commonly known as lye) over a few minutes. Lye is highly reactive in the presence of organic compounds (in this case, skin). Fortunately, the amount of lye produced is miniscule and highly targeted to the area it is intended to work on beneath the skin.

The downsides to electrolysis treatments include the lengthy process with anywhere from 15-30 sessions needed for hair electrolysis. If the hair follicles are bent, which can happen as a result of plucking or shaving, it can be harder for the needle to reach the root to destroy it. Electrolysis can sometimes result in skin discolouration if it is performed incorrectly so it is essential to find a qualified professional for your treatments. Finally, it can be pricey in comparison to LHR.

Electrolysis side effects can include redness, red dots, acne breakouts and some swelling.

How is it done?

Firstly a conductive pad is attached to the client’s arm or leg to allow a circuit to be completed between the client and the machine.

The clinician slides a hair-thin metal probe into each targeted hair follicle. Contrary to the popular misconception, these probes are not needles. In fact they are completely blunt in order to prevent puncturing the skin but, at just 0.05mm to 0.15mm in thickness, they are literally the size of a human hair and cannot be felt as they slide into the follicle alongside the target hair.

For several minutes, a tiny current is passed through the probe to convert moisture into lye. The probe is then removed along with the entire hair which will come out effortlessly.

Today’s galvanic electrolysis machines are highly automated and run up to 32 probes consecutively allowing a good clinician to successfully treat over 200 hairs per hour.

How does it work?

Right up until the 1990s it had been a mystery why treatment with Galvanic Electrolysis proved to be permanent and far more effective than alternatives. Researchers in South Korea were finally able to provide an answer when they demonstrated that hair follicles with both the hair and root removed (i.e.: with the bottom third of the follicle removed) were able to regenerate new hairs from stem cells located in an area of the follicle called the bulge.

Unlike other methods of hair removal, Galvanic Electrolysis destroys the bulge as well as the hair and its root.  Other methods will only achieve this when the hair happens to be in its growth phase. (only about 10% of hairs at any one time)

Different Techniques?

erms like multi-needle electrolysis, single-needle electrolysis, thermolysis or blend are all often found grouped under the heading “Electrolysis” and this can be confusing.

Multi-needle electrolysis is simply another name for Galvanic Electrolysis which uses up to 32 probes at once. The term came about to distinguish it from single-needle electrolysis.

Single-needle electrolysis is not truly an electrolytic process at all. It is a common name for Thermolysis.  The name came about simply because the equipment and technique look superficially similar to Electrolysis. Thermolysis uses heat from microwave energy to destroy and remove hairs.

Blend is also a single-probe technique. It attempts to increase the effectiveness of Thermolysis by combining it with true electrolysis.  Clinical trials have never shown any measurable difference in effectiveness between Blend and Thermolysis.

Laser Hair Removal

LHR works in a completely different way to electrolysis. LHR is a concentrated light beam that targets the pigments in hair follicles. A skin type assessment will be done to test which laser and setting will be the right fit for the client and then a test patch is carried out to ensure there are no issues. Once those steps are finalised the treatments can begin, carrying over serval weeks to permanently reduce hair growth. The treatment is painless for most people and is very affordable in comparison to other methods.

One of the biggest advantages of LHR in comparison to electrolysis is the speed of the treatment. Electrolysis treatments are known to be lengthy while LHR, depending on the area, is over in a matter of minutes. LHR is painless in comparison to electrolysis and is very effective for large areas like the legs and back. The laser targets several follicles at a time so even though the area is large, the sessions are completed quickly excellent for Brazilian laser hair removal and facial hair removal.

The downside to LHR is that unlike electrolysis, it is not a permanent hair removal treatment, rather, it’s a permanent hair reduction treatment. The other downside is the types of hair ideal for treatment are those that are dark as the laser targets the pigments in the follicle. Those with grey or white blonde hair are not suitable for LHR and will find electrolysis works better for them.