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Is electrolysis removal of hair safe?

Purple Rules asks…I’m thinking of having electrolysis done on my chin and so I was wondering just how painful is it and does it really work?

The Right Brain responds:

Purple posted this question in our Forum a while ago, but because we just received a press release from a company that specializes in electrolysis we thought it would be a good time to discuss this hair removal technique.

Electrolysis removal of hair

Electrolysis, for those of you who might not be familiar with the process, involves removing hair by applying electric current to the follicle with a fine needle. The practice dates back to the late 1860s. St. Louis ophthalmologist Charles Michel is credited as one of the pioneers of the method of destroy papillae (vascular connective-tissue structures that enable hair growth) by using thin electrified needles.

Today electrolysis is a big business and is taught by various beauty schools across the country. Interestingly, only about 30 states in the US require a license to practice this type of hair removal. You can learn more by visiting the American Electrology Association which is the oldest and largest electrolysis guild in the United States.

Electrolysis versus laser

The press release we referred to earlier is for the Lucy Peters Integrated System which claims to be “the only FDA approved permanent hair removal treatment.” This was surprising to us because we had assumed that laser treatment was FDA approved. It turns out we were wrong – lasers are not approved for permanent hair removal. They are approved for permanent hair REDUCTION. The distinction may seem like a fine line but basically it means that hair may grow back after laser treatment but after electrolysis it’s gone for good. Perhaps Lucy Peters meant to say that her Integrated System USES the only FDA approved permanent hair removal treatment. But so does any electrolysis process.

The Lucy Peters system claims to be different because it uses a different type of needle that give the electrologist added control to remove hair completely without excessive pain and scarring. Excessive is the key word here and implies that some pain is probably normal for different kinds of electrolysis. And speaking of different methods, don’t be tricked by a type of electrolysis known as tweezer electrolysis which involves using tweezers to grab the hair close to the skin while electric current is applied. This method is a bit of a scam. According to the FDA, “there is no body of significant information establishing the effectiveness of the tweezer epilator to permanently remove hair.” You can click the link to learn more about what the FDA says about hair removal.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Electrolysis is a safe and effective method of permanent hair removal but the results you experience can vary tremendously based on the skill of the operator and the type of equipment used. For more background, here’s an excellent article from the American Council on Science and health about electrolysis safety.