How does electrolysis work?
A very fine metal probe the diameter size of the hair is inserted alongside the hair and through the opening of the skin or hair follicle. When the metal probe reaches the bottom of the follicle, a low-level electrical current, high frequency radio wave (HF/RF), or both (i.e., the blend method) passes through the metal probe into the skin, thus destroying the hair follicle and the blood flow to it.
It takes patience and dedication to see the process through and permanently remove all unwanted hair. Because hair growth typically occurs in cycles of 2-4 months, electrolysis can be a slow process requiring multiple treatments to destroy the follicles in all the growth stages. Treatment will be most effective if a consistent schedule is maintained, so clients must keep regular visits to achieve the goal of permanent hair removal. Average length of treatment ranges anywhere from 12-24 months.
Does electrolysis hurt? Are there any side effects?
Electrolysis can be painful and may cause temporary swelling, inflammation, and possible scabbing (crusting). The pain is minimal depending on the person and her/his tolerance. There are nerves that surround the hair follicle, and when the low-level electrical current or HF/RF is passed through the metal probe and down through the skin, you can feel it. When treating sensitive areas such as the face or bikini line, a topical anesthetic can be applied prior to treatment. Ibuprofen is also recommended prior to treatment. Not only can ibuprofen relieve pain, it can also help with inflammation and minor swelling of the treated area.
Electrolysis can also create pitting, light scarring, and hyper-pigmentation (i.e., discoloration of the skin). All of these side effects are uncommon and generally only happen if your skin type is prone to such side effects. It is important that you consistently use sunscreen with SPF 30+ during electrolysis treatment. This will reduce the risk of hyper-pigmentation.
How does electrolysis compare with laser hair removal/reduction?
Laser is not approved by the FDA as permanent hair removal. Laser will remove hair, but it will not remove all of it. Hair that is thin and light in color will not be treated effectively with laser. If you have the right skin color and the right hair color, you might be a good candidate for laser hair removal/reduction. For those of us who do fall into that category, you will most likely need to finish with electrolysis, a wonderful complement to get rid of those last remaining hairs.
Though rare, laser hair removal can also result in laser rebound, a stimulation to the hair follicle creating more hair growth after laser treatments.
I seem to have hair where I didn’t used to. Will electrolysis get rid of this problem?
Anything that affects your hormones can affect your hair growth. Most women who are approaching or starting menopause will experience hair growth in places that have been smooth most of their lives. These new hairs are generally thick, stiff, and black and will require multiple treatments to be permanently eliminated. These hairs generally appear on the upper lip, chin, and sometimes on the jaw line. Birth control pills and hormone replacement can also have an effect on how your hair develops, and then there are just some of us who are genetically predisposed to excess hair growth.
I’m transgendered. Is electrolysis the right choice for me?
Transgender clients will have hair issues of a different nature. If you are just starting your transition, be aware of the changes that will happen with your hair. For most transgender women, your new regimen of hormones and androgen blockers will take 2-3 years for completion. During that time, radical changes can happen to your hair. For some trans but not all, most of your upper body hair (chest and back) will be significantly reduced, up to and possibly over 50% eradication. The hair on your arms can be thinned. It will vary from person to person with the possibility of 50% reduction. Results will also vary with regard to your legs.
Facial hair can be the biggest challenge. For most, no changes will be seen with facial hair once you start your transition. Some claim to have thinning once they transition, but it’s difficult to say how much fact is behind that. Once you start your transition, you may start treating your facial hair differently: shaving in different directions, plucking, waxing, tweezing mechanical epilators, laser, and of course, electrolysis. With the exceptions of electrolysis and laser, all of the other methods can lead one to believe that her facial hair has been thinning.
GRS/SRS preparation should be discussed with your surgeon. Some surgeons do not require electrolysis for the surgical sight and some do. For surgeons that do not require electrolysis, I would still encourage you to have electrolysis done by a professional certified electrologist. Not all surgeons are equally skilled, so hair removal during surgery can be time-consuming, and they may not be as thorough. Surgeons that do require electrolysis prior to surgery can provide a sketch of the surgery site where hair removal is required. After surgery, there may still be unwanted hair. No worries–they can be removed through electrolysis.