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Electrolysis for Removing Hair

Treatment Overview

Electrolysis is a common method of removing unwanted hair. A small needle or thin metal probe is inserted into the opening of the skin where hair grows (small sacs beneath the skin called hair follicles). Next, a low-level electrical current passes through the needle or probe into your skin and destroys the hair follicle. Hair is unable to grow back in an area where the follicle has been destroyed.

The process of electrolysis can be slow and can require several treatment sessions to destroy the hair follicles. Treatment can be uncomfortable—the feeling is sometimes described as having little rubber bands snapping at your skin. The destruction of each individual hair follicle may take from less than 1 second up to 20 seconds.

What To Expect After Treatment

After electrolysis, your treated skin may temporarily be red, swollen, and tender. You may need additional treatments to permanently remove all unwanted hair. You should notice a loss of unwanted hair in the treated area within several weeks to months after the first treatment.

Why It Is Done

Electrolysis is done to permanently remove unwanted hair. Electrolysis is commonly used to remove hair on the face (eyebrows, upper and lower lips, cheeks, chin, hairline, bridge of the nose between eyebrows, and sideburns) and also on the neck, shoulders, arms and underarms, breasts, abdomen, bikini line, legs, back, and chest.

Who should not have electrolysis?

Electrolysis should not be done on the inside of your ears or nose. It also should never be done to remove hair from a mole or a birthmark. If you have a pacemaker, you should not have electrolysis on any part of your body.

How Well It Works

When electrolysis is done correctly, it permanently removes unwanted hair. Successful hair removal depends on the skill of the person doing the electrolysis.

Risks

Electrolysis poses few risks in a healthy person. During treatment, you may feel some pain from the electrical current flow. After treatment, your skin may be red, swollen (inflamed), and tender. These are temporary side effects. Electrolysis can cause scarring, keloid scars, and changes in skin color of the treated skin in some people.

What To Think About

Finding a licensed, reputable electrologist is important to successfully and permanently removing unwanted hair. Each state in the United States regulates the licensing of electrologists. Your doctor, friends, or family may be able to recommend a licensed electrologist.

Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Keith A. Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
Last Revised July 31, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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