Electrolysis vs Laser Hair Removal – What is the Difference?

There are many methods to remove undesirable body hair in salons, clinics, spas, and medical facilities around the world.

The following discussion considers two of the most common procedures sought after today by clients who seek long-lasting methods that remove hair from specific areas of their body.

Both laser treatment and electrolysis are permanent options for the removal of unwanted hair and many people opt for a combination of these two methods to achieve the results that they desire.

See below for what to expect from both procedures and how to consider which hair removal solution best suits your needs.

 

Laser

 

A laser is a popular method to remove unwanted hair.

Various types of lasers may be used for hair removal, but the central feature of them is that they will destroy the hair follicle by the process of selective photo thermolysis.

This in simple terms means that the hair will be heated and then destroyed without damaging the surrounding tissue.

Hair pigment, which is called melanin, absorbs the laser which in turn heats up and destroys the follicle.

The light emitted by the lasers in this type of hair removal is carefully calibrated to operate at a specific wavelength that will target the melanin.

Depending on your complexion and your hair color, there are various lasers treatments that will be tailored to your personal needs.

At an appointment, the clinician will conduct an assessment to evaluate your skin tone and hair type before creating the most suitable treatment plan for you.

Depending on the cycle of growth that your hair is going through at the time of appointment, you may need follow-up treatments to get the best result.

Follow up sessions are best spaced 4 to 6 weeks apart to target hair growing at various phases.

If regrowth of the treated hairs occurs, it will be lighter and thinner and a follow-up session will be able to remove it completely.

Laser hair removal is especially useful for larger areas of hair removal when a laser with a wider beam is used as it will be capable of removing multiple follicles at the same time.

This is compared to electrolysis that targets hairs individually.

Therefore, laser hair removal is a more efficient process of hair removal from a time perspective, you can expect a more speedy treatment.

Before your session at an established clinic, your consultation will not only establish your treatment plan but a medical history will be taken to identify any potential contraindications that will affect your procedure.

You will also be advised how to prepare your skin for your session.

You will be advised to refrain from using tweezers, bleach, hair removal creams or waxing before your appointment.

You can, however, shave the day before a laser session as it will reduce skin irritation.

After your procedure, it is important to avoid UV exposure to the area that has been laser treated and be sure to apply sunscreen where necessary for two to four weeks post procedure.

In the immediate 24 hours following your treatment, you must also avoid overheating your skin, so spas, saunas and hot showers are best avoided.

This also means that excessive sweating from physical activities such as vigorous exercise should be minimized where possible.

Some chemicals may also irritate your skin so refrain from pool chemical exposure and scented cosmetics and fragrances are not recommended for use immediately following a treatment.

Shaving and plucking are also not encouraged as they may irritate the skin.

Some clinics will offer a cooling, gel-like lotion that can be applied to the skin to reduce heat in the epidermal layer and assist in reducing swelling.

Some lotions are also anti-bacterial and work to prevent any infection of the follicles which can occur if the surface of the skin is not kept properly clean.

An unscented, moisturizing cream will also be sufficient to keep the skin cool and hydrated.

It is important to note that not all lasers are created equally, so Dr. Ashley Granot at Me Clinic advises that if you are seeking a permanent solution to unwanted hair, seek out practitioners that use medical-grade lasers.

Much of the beauty grade machinery will vary in its results and is only really able to achieve hair reduction.

Medical-grade lasers once absorbed by the melanin will destroy the root of the follicle itself which is how hair is prevented from regrowing.

In general, laser hair removal is able to offer 90% permanent elimination of hair growth when a series of treatments is followed properly.

So take the time to research and find a clinic that offers highly qualified staff with state of the art equipment that will offer you the most advanced treatment options.

Positives:

  • Good for larger patches of skin such as arms, legs and back, as treatment times are faster.
  • Clinics that use a variety of advanced, medical-grade lasers will be able to treat a variety of types of hair on people with diverse complexions, so it pays to invest in a good quality treatment.
  • Skin that contrasts to the color of the hair gets the best results, such as dark hair on the fair-toned skin.
  • Less painful than other hair removal procedures.

Negatives:

  • Does not work on gray hair and is traditionally less effective on hair that is similar in hue to the skin. However, most modern, latest generation machines are now able to overcome this.
  • Beauty-grade lasers only offer hair reduction and aren’t permanent.
  • Some itching or swelling of the skin may occur post treatment.
  • Uncommon side effects include infection of hair follicles.

 

Electrolysis

 

Electrolysis operates in a different way to laser and is also is considered to be an effective treatment for permanent hair removal.

It is able to yield results across all skin types and hair types and has been practiced for over 100 years.

A successful electrolysis procedure completely removes the hair at its root.

The way it achieves this is via the use of a probe which is inserted into the hair follicle itself that generates an electrical current which kills the hair.

So unlike waxing, the hair will be easy to remove from the shaft with tweezers once it has been killed as there will not be resistance from the follicle.

The electrical current generated by the probe also destroys the cells that contribute to the growth of hair which is how it prevents regrowth.

Many areas of the body can be treated with electrolysis such as the face, stomach, thighs, chest, bikini area, fingers, toes, and back.

It is important to note that the machines professional practitioners use do vary from the portable electrolysis machines that are available for home use.

In a clinic or salon, the machines that are used will generate a higher current and are therefore a more effective option to permanently reduce hair.

You may, however, still require several treatments even with the use of a professional strength machine to remove the hair in the long term.

This is due to the various growth cycles of hair.

Although after an initial treatment there may be some regrowth of the hair, it will normally be finer and also lighter.

If however, the hair being treated happens to be in the first, active stage of its growth cycle it is likely that is will not grow back even after only one treatment.

If treating a part of the body where the hair is concentrated in a dense area, multiple treatments are normally necessary to prevent over agitation of the skin which would occur if every single follicle was pulsed in one session.

To get the best out an electrolysis treatment, some preparation in the weeks leading up to your appointment can result in less regrowth and therefore fewer treatments.

This includes refraining from using wax, tweezers, hair removal cream or other hair removal devices 2 to 4 weeks prior to your treatment.

At your appointment, you should also be aware that the area that is being treated will need to be clean.

This means you should not apply makeup, moisturizers, creams or lotions prior to attending.

Depending on your threshold, electrolysis may also be uncomfortable for you, especially if you are experiencing sensitive skin at the time of your treatments.

Generally, people describe the feeling of electrolysis as a tingling feeling ranging in intensity from a mild sensation to a moderate level of discomfort.

However, you may not experience any discomfort at all, so the individual experience of this treatment will vary.

It is good practice if your clinician performs a patch test on a smaller area of skin so you can experience the sensation yourself before proceeding with a full treatment.

Here you will also be able to see if your skin will have a reaction to the electrolysis.

The good news is that as technology develops, machines are becoming more efficient and less painful, meaning that you’ll spend less time in treatments and have a more pleasant experience overall.

Some clinics and salons will offer the application of a topical anesthetic that can prevent some of the discomforts you may experience while getting an electrolysis treatment performed.

After you complete an electrolysis treatment the aftercare of your skin is also important to minimize any after effects.

Soothing gels such as aloe vera can be applied to cool the surface of the epidermis that may experience some irritation.

Swelling and redness may also occur after your treatment which may last up to three days or only a few short hours.

In addition to cooling lotions, you may wish to take a mild painkiller or apply a cold compress to alleviate this tenderness.

If you feel that the skin is not coping well or you are feeling pain, it is advised to return to your clinician and get them to assess your skin.

Other post electrolysis considerations include ensuring that the treated area is kept clean, therefore excessive sweating for 24 following a treatment is not recommended as the open follicles may become infected from the exposure to bacteria.

Breakouts can also occur if the follicle becomes contaminated by surface dirt on the skin.

Similarly, sun exposure should also be limited to protect the skin as the open follicle ends, so ensure that SPF30 is applied to any areas treated by electrolysis that will have the sun on them for 2 weeks after a treatment.

Avoid waxing and tweezing in between appointments also.

The level of experience and skill of the operator will impact upon an electrolysis treatment.

Factors such as the selection of the size of the probe and intensity of the electrical current or pulse can impact upon your results.

Therefore, seek out an experienced and reputable operator for a more effective treatment which saves money in the longer term.

Positives:

  • Good for lighter hair on the lighter skin which other hair removal treatments traditionally cannot tackle.
  • Relatively few side effects compared to other methods of hair removal.
  • Suitable for most areas of the body.
  • Is a long term hair removal option especially if top-up treatments are received as directed.
  • Effective for treatment of areas with sparse hair growth.

Negatives:

  • It can be time-consuming to treat a large surface area with electrolysis as it addresses each hair individually. For this reason, you may feel that getting your legs or arms treated with this method an extremely lengthy and therefore costly process.
  • You may need several appointments to permanently remove the hair and with age, new hair follicles can develop in a previously treated area.
  • The treatment may be uncomfortable with a stinging sensation on the skin, even with anesthetic cream it can be moderately painful on average for those who experience discomfort.
  • Swelling and redness may occur after your treatment for several days.
  • Results vary depending on the practitioner.
  • Uncommon side effects may potentially include scarring and changes in pigment.

 

Conclusion

 

In summary, both electrolysis and laser will permanently remove hair from your body.

Electrolysis has been around for over a century and home kits exist, but get a professional treatment for best results.

It works on all hair types.

As electrolysis individually removes hair, it can be time-consuming and costly for larger areas.

If you think that you may be sensitive to mild to moderate pain or feel uncomfortable with the close proximity of the probe to delicate areas, electrolysis may not be the best treatment for you.

The laser is a faster process and therefore suitable for hair removal from larger surface areas.

It is especially effective on hair that contrasts in color to the skin it grows on, but it will not remove gray hairs.

Be sure to seek out medical-grade lasers for best results, and like electrolysis, it will also require multiple appointments to get permanent results.

So, what is the best choice for you?

It will depend on what type of hair removal outcome you are seeking, so book in some consultations at some clinics near you and see what permanent hair removal options can be tailored to suit your complexion, lifestyle, and budget.

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