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What is an Electrolysis Machine?

Holly Collins
Holly Collins

Electrolysis is the only method of permanent hair removal recognized by the Food and Drug Administration and the American Medical Association. This type of hair removal requires a highly skilled, licensed technician and the use of an electrolysis machine. It is a delicate process, requiring a technician with training and experience, and should not be attempted at home.

An electrolysis machine helps get rid of unwanted hair by using chemical or heat energy to destroy the hair’s growth center, preventing re-growth from occurring. The process usually requires several sessions and results vary. Although it is considered a permanent hair removal process, about 7% to 10% of those receiving the treatment report that they are not satisfied.

Electrolysis uses an electrical current to remove hair.
Electrolysis uses an electrical current to remove hair.

Hair is eliminated by an electrolysis machine via the insertion of a thin probe into the hair follicle. Electricity is then transmitted down into the follicle through the probe, resulting in a localized destruction of the hair’s growth center. If done correctly, the probe will not penetrate the skin. Hair follicles are small and proper probe insertion requires experience and training. Penetration of the skin through error can be painful and carries the risk of infection.

Some electrolysis machines use a slightly different method. Instead of inserting a probe into the hair follicle, they work with a tweezer attachment that grabs and holds the hair as the electrical current is administered. This type of electrolysis can be safer and more comfortable.

An electrolysis machine works because the hair follicle environment below the skin is moist. At the base of a hair follicle is the papilla, the part of the follicle containing the blood supply. An electrolysis machine utilizes this watery area, rich in mineral content, to conduct a chemical reaction which destroys the papilla. This consequently destroys the follicle’s ability to re-grow hair.

The electrical current triggers the chemical reaction, changing the water and salt in the hair follicle into highly corrosive sodium hydroxide (NaOH). This compound is so acidic that it dissolves the follicle and papilla entirely. Without a functioning papilla, the hair follicle is unable to grow hair.

Some level of discomfort is associated with electrolysis, so a local anesthetic is frequently used during the process. Because a skilled professional is required to safely and effectively operate an electrolysis machine, the cost of the procedures can be high. Other, less expensive, options exist for removing unwanted hair but the results will not be permanent.

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Discussion Comments


@Azuza - You're right, electrolysis can get expensive. There is a salon near me that does it and they charge $85 for an hour session. And you do have to go for a lot of sessions.

A friend of mine got electrolyis on her upper lip to remove her "peach fuzz." She was always really insecure about it, so when she had the money she jumped at the chance to get it done. She was going one a week for months! The procedure was successful though, so no more upper lip hair.


I would love to get this done on my legs. My hair grows back so fast I literally have to shave them every day if I want them to be completely smooth.

It sounds like it would be so time consuming though. Electrolyis is basically a hair-by-hair process! I don't know how many visits it would take to do all of the hairs on both of my legs, but I think it would be a lot. That could probably get really expensive, really fast.

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    • Electrolysis uses an electrical current to remove hair.
      By: danr13
      Electrolysis uses an electrical current to remove hair.