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What is Electrolysis Hair Removal?

By Adam Hill
Updated Feb 25, 2024
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Electrolysis hair removal refers to the practice of electrically removing hair from the human body. When hair is removed in this way, the effects are almost always permanent. In the United States, electrolysis hair removal is the only method of permanent hair removal that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It involves several steps or treatments to be completed, and is done by inserting a needle-like probe into a hair follicle, and passing an electrical current through it. Any area of the body except the inside of the nose and ears can have hair removed in this way.

There are three basic methods of electrolysis hair removal. The first is known as galvanic electrolysis, and it causes an area of damage to the hair follicle by forming a small amount of the chemical sodium hydroxide, a harsh chemical used in soap making and drain clog removers. The damage caused is just enough to prevent the follicle from growing hair again.

The second common method is to simply overheat the hair follicle in a technique called thermolysis. The blend method combines the first two to achieve the same result in a shorter amount of time. This reduced time frame can be quite valuable, because electrolysis hair removal is a notoriously time-consuming process. The electrolysis needle must remain in the hair follicle for up to a minute, and every hair must be removed this way. Even a small area can take a total of hours, depending on how much hair there is to be removed.

The tedious nature of electrolysis hair removal may be its biggest drawback, apart from the cost, which is usually anywhere from several hundred to several thousand U.S. Dollars (USD). It also requires that the patient have several treatments, no matter how much or how little hair is being removed, because of the cyclical way in which hair grows from its root. Localized redness and swelling are common after the procedure. Scabbing and skin discolorations are possible in the short term after the procedure as well.

Despite these drawbacks, electrolysis hair removal remains the most effective form of permanent hair removal available. It is also able to benefit a wider range of people than laser hair removal. For instance, whereas certain skin colors may preclude some people from having laser hair removal done, electrolysis hair removal targets the hair follicle instead of the hair's pigment. This means that people with any type of skin or hair can use this treatment.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon254277 — On Mar 12, 2012

I am a chemistry student and I want to know what electrolysis is, not hair removal. I am beautiful the way I am.

By anon129839 — On Nov 25, 2010

I know somewhere where I can get it done cheaply, but will it be permanent and will it hurt? Will it affect my skin/pores?

By StreamFinder — On Aug 20, 2010

Electrolysis hair removal systems can be very effective, but people should know that it doesn't work 100% all the time.

Sometimes you have to get multiple treatments, which can be expensive.

For those who don't have any concerns about the cost of electrolysis hair removal, you can even get it done at home -- an aesthetician can bring a portable unit to your home and give you the treatments there.

This can be a fun idea for a ladies' retreat weekend, if your friends are game.

By lightning88 — On Aug 20, 2010

How much does electrolysis hair removal cost? Does it vary from area to area? I've been considering getting electrolysis hair removal on my bikini line, but I'm worried about the cost.

Does anybody know?

By FirstViolin — On Aug 20, 2010

Has anybody ever used electrolysis for facial hair removal? I really want to get rid of my lip fuzz, but I'm afraid of the pain.

The whole idea of shocking the hair off of my face kind of scary frankly, but I think I would be willing to do it just to get rid of this stupid hair.

Has anybody done this, or know if its really painful?

By Gailfrank — On May 17, 2010

Electrolysis is a permanent way of removing unwanted body hair. It is an effective technique of hair removal that people are using from past 100 of years. It also has very little chances of side effects and suits all skin types. This article provides a detailed description about electrolysis hair removal technique. To know more about hair removal techniques people can search number of websites.

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