What is Electrolysis?

Mary McMahon

Electrolysis is a method of semi-permanent hair removal which involves inserting a small electrified needle into the hair follicle to destroy growth tissue. Electrolysis can be used on many parts of the body and is one among several epilation techniques suitable for people seeking permanent hair removal. Usually, accomplished in a series of sessions depending on the size of the area requiring hair removal, electrolysis is successful in permanently removing hair about 90% of the time.

Ingrown hairs might require electrolysis.
Ingrown hairs might require electrolysis.

The roots of electrolysis lie in the 1800s, when several physicians discovered that an electrified needle could be used to permanently remove hair. In the twentieth century, the technique was refined and several professional electrology trade organizations arose to promote education and training for electrologists. Many parts of the world do not heavily regulate electrolysis, and it is important to find a reputable electrologist to achieve good results.

Electrolysis can be used to remove chest hair.
Electrolysis can be used to remove chest hair.

Most electrologists train at a beauty school or college. If membership in a professional organization is desired, an electrologist may be required to pass an examination or test to determine basic skill level and safety standards. Electrologists are expected to use sterile, clean equipment in a sterile environment to minimize risks to their clients.

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Electrolysis works by destroying the cells which promote the growth of hair. There are several techniques, beginning with galvanic electrolysis, which chemically alters the salt and water around the hair follicle to produce a small amount of lye to destroy the cells. Another type of electrolysis, thermolysis, vibrates the cells around the follicle to produce heat, which will achieve the same affect. Some electrologists combine both techniques, believing that lye is more effective if it is heated.

Electrolysis is not entirely pain free, although the pain is usually minimal. In some cases, a topical anesthetic may be used. Primarily, electrolysis is boring because it is a time consuming and tedious process: most technicians who offer electrolysis also offer entertainment for their clients. After an electrolysis session, the skin may be slightly red or irritated. Several sessions may also be required to remove stubborn hair or to cover a large area.

Electrolysis is used in a variety of applications. Many women get electrolysis to remove mustaches or other unsightly facial hair, trim the bikini line, or remove leg hair. Electrolysis can also be used to remove ingrown hairs, or to shape the brow and hair line. Men may get electrolysis to remove back or chest hair, shape beards, or reduce leg hair. Electrolysis is also used by transgendered individuals to permanently remove undesired hair.

Electrologists work in a sterile setting.
Electrologists work in a sterile setting.

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Discussion Comments


When do you decide that electrolysis is semi-permanent?


can i simply hold up a 9-volt battery up to my face? or better yet, does the process involve direct current or alternating current?

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