What Is Galvanic Electrolysis?

Amanda Livingstone

Galvanic electrolysis is a permanent hair removal process that uses an electrical current to produce a chemical reaction that destroys the hair follicle. During the hair removal process, electrical current is delivered into the hair follicle by a small needle probe that creates a new substance called lye. After repeated exposure to this caustic agent, the lye will permanently damage the follicle's surrounding tissue, preventing regrowth of hair.

Galvanic electrolysis destroys hair follicles, causing hair to fall out.
Galvanic electrolysis destroys hair follicles, causing hair to fall out.

This treatment removes hair through a chemical process similar to that found in a battery. Much like a battery, galvanic electrolysis is initiated by direct electrical current. Once the direct electrical current comes in contact with a solution of salt water found in the hair follicle, a chemical reaction occurs, causing a formation of sodium hydroxide, or lye, hydrogen gas and chlorine gas. Over time lye — which is highly corrosive agent — will dissolve the base of the hair follicle, called the dermal papilla.

Galvanic electrolysis is often used in the eyebrow region.
Galvanic electrolysis is often used in the eyebrow region.

Hair destroying current is delivered by a needle probe directly connected to the electrolysis machine, where a technician can control the amount of current passed into the follicle. Before a treatment session can begin, safety precautions such as sanitizing equipment and skin should be taken. After all safety precautions have been met, the technician will carefully insert the needle probe into the hair follicle. The device is usually held in place for about two minutes.

In order to achieve permanent hair loss, multiple treatment sessions spanning months to even years must be done. Areas such as the chin and eyebrows can take upwards of 10 hours in one session to complete, while the bikini line can take up to 16 hours. The specific time period needed to achieve permanent hair loss using galvanic electrolysis will ultimately depend on the treatment area, skin sensitivity and hormonal balance.

Despite being one of the most effective types of permanent hair removal methods today, galvanic electrolysis is still one of the slowest and most painful methods. Common hourly rates for electrolysis can range between $45 and $125 US Dollars (USD), depending on the technician and problem area. When using the electrolysis method, patients must be able to commit a great deal of money, effort and time.

Another drawback associated with galvanic electrolysis is the potential for skin damage. When electrolysis is not performed correctly, the patient can be left with pitting and scarring of skin. Patients with darker skin tones can also experience skin color changes such as hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation. Other side effects of the galvanic method are scabbing, slight swelling and infection.

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