Electrolysis: what to expect

by Rose PRieto, C.C.E.

member of The Society of Clinical and Medical Hair Removal (SCMHR)


When large areas of hair need to be treated (such as upper lip, underarms, legs or bikini area), laser hair removal is what I recommend to my clients. However, laser is not 100% effective at removing all hair. Depending on the individual, laser hair removal is about 95% effective, as does not treat white or vellus (baby-fuzz) hair. In addition, laser treatments are prohibited around the eyes, so if a permanent brow is what you seek, Electrolysis is your only option. 

Electrolysis does not discriminate against hair, which means that color, texture and skin condition are irrelevant. It is a sterile treatment by which a small application of current is introduced into the hair follicle. Electrolysis is the only form of permanent hair removal; it is 100% effective and is approved by the FDA. When a direct current of energy is applied into the follicle, a chemical reaction occurs and the hair cells coagulate, causing the life supply of the hair to weaken. The goal is to gradually weaken the lifespan of the hair-root, over time, whilst maintaining the health of the skin. Electrolysis treatments can be achieved by various energy modalities: Thermolysis, Galvanic or The Blend, which combines Thermolysis & Galvanic together; I use Thermolysis in my Electrology practice (2014 Fischer TS-1 machine).  

The practice of Electrolysis can only be performed by a certified, State licensed Electrologist and is supervised by the Board of Medicine (legislatively established to ensure that every Electrology facility meets minimum requirements for safe practice). Upon inspecting an Electrology facility, I suggest that you ensure that the Practitioner exercise MAXIMUM requirements for safe practice, as this is a minimally-invasive procedure and should be practiced in a semi-sterile environment; universal precautions should be instituted at all times.

The biggest misconception about Electrolysis is that it is "painful". If the current is too high, then yes, it can be painful. That is why the certified Electrologist must ensure that she/he begin at a low level of energy, and increase the intensity gradually; always ensuring that the client is comfortable. "Pain" is a red flag for "too hot" which may result in damage to the skin; I only work within the client's threshold of comfort. Therefore, if I need to treat an area with a very low current (because that is what the client can tolerate), then the number of treatment sessions may increase. My main priority is to maintain the health of the surface SKIN while effectively treating the hair follicle, it's a fine balance. As an Esthetician and Micro-Pigmentation Specialist, as well as an Electrologist, you can take comfort in knowing that I am an expert on all aspects of skin health.  

After treatment, your skin may be slightly red and/or swollen. This is completely normal and will lessen within a few hours (but may last a few days). It is also not unusual for redness and swelling to appear the day AFTER treatment. A slight crust may develop over the treated area, again, this is normal. The crust is a good sign, it's you body's natural process for sealing the follicle in an effort for healing to occur. If a crust develops, allow the skin to heal and DO NOT pick at it, as picking may cause the area to pit or scar (allow the area to shed on it's own). During treatment, the hair was removed with a current of energy, traumatizing the dermal papilla (hair root), and rendering the follicle exposed to elements and bacteria. The best thing that you can do 48 hours post-treatment, is to keep the area clean (and avoid touching it), keep the area moist (with an anti-bacterial ointment or Aquafor), and avoid applying harsh products, including make-up.