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Although most of the time electrolysis does not cause damage to the skin, ingrown hairs and scabbing can contribute to mild electrolysis scars. There are three types of electrolysis that are considered permanent hair removal: galvanic, thermolysis, and blend. When the procedure is done on the face, usually for male-to-female transsexuals who desire beard removal and women with excess facial hair, skin damage can be troubling. Prevention is possible with attention to aftercare.
Galvanic electrolysis uses a tiny needle to apply direct current (DC) to the hair follicle, causing the formation of lye which destroys the tissue. Thermolysis is a technique that agitates the tissue with alternating current (AC) to destroy it. The blend technique speeds up the effect by combining AC and DC, making the lye hotter. When properly performed, none of these techniques should result in electrolysis scars.
Treatments may produce some redness and swelling at first, which usually subsides within a couple of days. If the person scratches or picks at any scabs, scarring may result, just like with any other scab. Electrolysis scars can also form if ingrown hairs are dug out too aggressively. Hyperpigmentation may develop around treated areas where skin naturally reacts to damage by producing more melanin, or pigment, the same as with a suntan. Overtreatment can cause destruction of collagen, the supportive connective tissue under the skin.
Male-to-female transsexuals often have extensive electrolysis to remove beard hairs. The process can be long and time-consuming due to the size of the area and coarseness of the hair. A popping sound during thermolysis treatment means the AC current is too high and the fluid in the surrounding tissue has turned to steam. Sometimes it is tempting to indulge in a long session in order to remove as much hair as possible, but this will only increase inflammation and the possibility of electrolysis scars.
Home products that claim to remove hair through electrolysis should be viewed with caution, as most are simply fancy tweezers. Most of them do not use the actual process, which should only be performed by a trained, licensed technician. People who are more prone to scarring, such as those who form keloids, are more likely to end up with electrolysis scars. They should use home products and select professional hair removal methods with care.
To reduce inflammation and avoid electrolysis scars, products containing alcohol or other irritants should be avoided after treatment. Shaving is not recommended until the inflammation has subsided. Gentle care after treatment will help improve the appearance of skin. A daily sunscreen keeps sunburn and further irritation at bay, as will scheduling appointments with enough recovery time between them.
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