What is Electrology?

N.M. Shanley

Electrology is a method of permanent hair removal, or depilation. This process, often called electrolysis, includes sending a very small electrical current to the base of the hair follicle. A very fine needle is inserted into the follicle to deliver the current. This current destroys the follicle so it cannot grow a new hair.

A woman with hairless legs.
A woman with hairless legs.

There are three electrology methods used. The galvanic method uses electric current only, and is called the true electrolysis. Alternatively, the thermolysis method uses heat instead of electric current to destroy hair follicles. Some practitioners prefer the blended method, which utilizes both electricity and heat to stop hair growth.

Electrolysis removes hair permanently.
Electrolysis removes hair permanently.

The treatment time depends on how coarse and dense the hair is in the area being treated. Often, one treatment can destroy the hair follicle. Heavy, coarse, or dense hair may require more than one electrology session. Patients can experience some pain with electrology hair removal. A trained, certified electologist or a medical doctor could offer these treatments.

Dr. Charles E. Michel, an eye doctor, introduced electrolysis in 1875. He used it to eliminate ingrown eyelashes. Throughout the next century, electrology technology was improved.

In the 1970s, the addition of transistors to electrolysis machines made the process more reliable. The 1980s led to computerized electrolysis machines. This allowed machines to be made smaller and easier to use.

Continued use and research has led to standardization of electrology machines and training. In the United States, electrolysis is the only method of permanent hair removal recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Electrology needles are also reviewed and approved by the FDA.

When completed properly, hair removal through electrolysis should be permanent. Hair growth can reoccur if this procedure is done improperly or treatment of the follicle is incomplete. Patients may also experience mild stinging from the electric current that is used.

Electrolysis can be costly, especially when several sessions are needed. Alternatives include shaving, chemical hair removal, plucking or tweezing, and laser hair removal. All of these methods must be repeated, or done on a regular basis, to keep the skin hair free.

Chemical hair removal destroys the hair at the skin surface. This can be painful and may cause skin irritation. Laser hair removal has been noted as a permanent hair removal system, but hair growth and skin discoloration have been reported. Laser hair removal has grown in popularity since it can be less painful than electrolysis.

Laser hair removal involves sending pulses of light into the skin. The light pulses alter the hair follicle, which slows hair regrowth. Several treatments may be needed to achieve desired results.

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