Everything You Need to Know Before You Get Electrolysis Hair Removal

And what does caffeine have to do with it?

Shaving can be a daily chore, and waxing ultimately inspires ingrown hairs. Unfortunately, despite the time, money, and energy put into both routines, neither method is permanent. If you're looking for a solution that could rid you of unwanted hair forever, you may want to try electrolysis. The hair removal method might sound like something that involves electrocuting yourself, but rest assured, that won’t be part of the process. 

To help you decide if the FDA-approved procedure is right for you, we tapped three experts to clarify what it is, explain how much it costs, and to teach us what it takes to get rid of unwanted hair for-ev-er. Read on for their insights.

Um… What is electrolysis, exactly? 

"Electrolysis is a form of permanent hair reduction involving heat destruction of the targeted follicle via a thin probe inserted directly in the follicle," explains Susan Bard MD, FAAD, FACMS, at Manhattan Dermatology Specialists

How many sessions are required?

"Electrolysis takes several sessions and everyone requires a different number of sessions, as electrolysis depends on many factors including but not limited to the quantity of unwanted hair, hormones, age, medications, and genetics," says Emily Limoges, Founder of Limoges Beauty in New York City. "Electrolysis takes an average of 18 months with regular treatments. Most people require weekly treatments at first. Over time, treatments eventually become shorter less frequent."

How much does this stuff cost?

"All electrolysis is based on increments of time," notes Limoges. "Cost depends on length of appointment, geographic location, and skill of the technician. The average cost of electrolysis varies from $30-$200. Usually, the shorter appointments cost less than longer appointments."

Who are candidates for electrolysis?

"As opposed to laser hair removal (which works by heating cells that have a certain color, 'chromophore', against which a specific laser wavelength is selected), electrolysis is less dependent on hair color and contrast with surrounding skin,"

shares Jonathan Bank, MD, a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon at Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in Great Neck, NY. "In other words, while laser may work best for dark hair on a light skin background, electrolysis is a good option for light hair on light skin, or dark hair on dark skin."

How long do sessions last?
"Electrolysis usually ranges from 15 minutes to 1 hour.  Treatments usually are in increments of 15 minutes," says Limoges. "Shorter and longer treatments do exist by request."

Are there potential side effects?

"There is a small risk of minor scarring because the electrical current doesn't discern between the hair follicle cells and other types of cells in the area, so 'collateral damage' may occur," warns Bank.

Does it hurt?

Sensitivity levels differ, depending on the individual, regardless of what beauty procedure is being performed. The sensation of electrolysis feels like a tiny shock, for a fraction of a second, to some. For others, a feeling of temporary heat and/or tingling may occur. Many places, like Limoges Beauty, apply a numbing cream before starting.

Anything else clients should know?

"Cutting and shaving the hair in between treatments is the only method of treating the hair between electrolysis sessions," explains Limoges. "These methods will never make your hair grow back thicker or stronger, contrary to all the myths about cutting and shaving." Oh, and one last note from Limoges: "It’s best to avoid caffeine before going in, as it can make the skin more sensitive to the treatment."

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