As two of the top names in long-term hair removal, electrolysis and laser hair removal often find themselves sharing the spotlight for methods of permanent hair removal and reduction. Both of these procedures are known for long-term hair removal success. This is because both processes target hair follicles beneath the surface of the skin, which effectively works to curb hair growth at its root.
So, which is right for you? Both options deliver results and are actively gaining popularity. Currently, in the US, laser hair removal is more popular, but electrolysis is gaining traction. Both options come with both pros and cons.
In this article, we will outline exactly how each treatment works, so you know exactly what you’ll be getting yourself into. We will also look at the costs required, time involved, and safety of each procedure, along with many other important details that you should know before deciding which process is best for you and your hair removal goals.
Read on to learn more about electrolysis and laser hair removal to ensure that you know your options when attempting to tackle long-term hair removal.
How Does Electrolysis Work?
Electrolysis may seem like a daunting word that you’ve seen in infomercials or on Instagram ads. It’s nothing to be scared of, and actually yields visible and tested results that last. In fact, electrolysis is currently the only FDA-approved method of permanent hair removal. Electrolysis has been around for over a century. Yes, really, that long.
What does electrolysis even mean? We’ll tell you. The process consists of inserting a metal probe directly into the hair follicle and sending an electric current through it. This damages the hair follicle enough to prevent new hair growth from starting because it targets the very bottom of the root of the hair.
This process should ideally be performed by a licensed, board-certified dermatologist. Because the process involves targeting each individual hair follicle, an extreme level of precision must go into the treatment.
Our skin has multiple follicles for each hair, which means several sessions are required. This is because our hair grows in cycles, and while many follicles can be treated during one session, there could be dormant follicles that will begin to grow after the first session and must then be retreated.
The great thing about electrolysis is that once it's done, it's done. The hair removal achieved by electrolysis is permanent. There is no threat of regrowth, so make sure you really want the area you’re treating to be hair-free forever.
How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?
Laser hair removal is pretty common and popular. It is on the rise, with an increase of 30 percent from 2013. It targets hair in the anagen phase of hair growth, which refers to the hair growth cycle we mentioned above.
Laser hair removal uses high heat lasers to damage your hair follicles. The lasers emit light that is then absorbed by the pigment in the hair follicle. This means that the light energy of the laser is traveling all the way to the base of each hair root in every follicle. The light energy is then converted to heat which damages the hair follicles to slow down hair growth.
The lasers quickly target coarse, dark hair and can treat several hairs at once. This means that small areas can be treated in minutes, making it a fast and effective treatment.
Laser hair removal permanently diminishes hair growth but doesn’t necessarily eliminate unwanted hair forever. It is possible that hair may still grow, but it will definitely be finer, less concentrated, and lighter in pigment.
Are These Hair Removal Methods Painful?
Neither of these two methods of hair removal is described as painful. However, there are some downsides associated with both that are described below. Be mindful that everyone has a different pain tolerance and experience.
People who choose electrolysis typically describe the process as one involving a bit of discomfort, more so than those who have had laser hair removal. Electrolysis feels like a stinging or pricking sensation at each insertion of the probe into a hair follicle, as well as a heat sensation when the electric current is used.
Laser Hair Removal
On the other hand, laser hair removal has been described as feeling like a rubber band snapping against your skin. It is often described as less painful than electrolysis, mostly because it’s faster and doesn’t address each follicle individually.
On the off chance you experience things such as blistering and swelling, the process can be more painful. That is why it is important to go to an experienced aesthetician or do the process using an at-home device so that you have maximal control and can listen to your body’s specific needs.
Are They Time-Consuming?
This is where these choices begin to differ. Electrolysis takes significantly longer than laser hair removal but doesn’t require upkeep after the whole process is finished. Laser hair removal is quick and easy but isn’t a guaranteed long-term solution to hair growth in undesired areas. Read on to discover why this is and the specifics behind the timelines of each process.
We mentioned earlier that our skin has multiple follicles for each hair. There are over five million hair follicles on our bodies. This makes the process of electrolysis a slow one. For small areas, a session every week for a few weeks should get the job done. However, for larger areas such as legs or arms, several longer sessions will be required.
Some people require up to 30 treatments, each a month apart. Yes, that does mean the entire electrolysis process could take over two years. However, as we mentioned, once the process is complete, you are left with hairless skin for life.
Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal is a fairly fast process. It can target multiple hairs at once. Although you will most likely need multiple sessions to see results, these sessions will be quick and noninvasive. After a few sessions, you typically see visible results. Following this, you may only need a few upkeep appointments, either in-office or at home, to keep your hair at bay.
So, this is definitely the faster option but also requires maintenance to get the full scope of results. Typically, four to eight treatments are needed. With an at-home option, you have more control and flexibility.
Do They Work For Everyone?
Both options work for anyone and everyone. However, there are some nuances between the two that might make one a better choice for your individual needs. Let’s dive into that below.
Electrolysis truly is safe for all and doesn’t have any drawbacks. That’s easy enough!
Laser Hair Removal
Although laser hair removal is technically available to anyone who wants to try it, because of the way it targets certain pigments, there are some that may not be the best candidates for it. Laser hair removal proves most effective for dark hair pigments on lighter skin tones.
This is because the lasers use contrast to target dark colors rather than the entire surface of the skin. This means that those with darker or tanned skin can experience less effective results and discoloration of the skin.
How Much Downtime Is Involved?
Barely any downtime is needed for either treatment. Both of these processes allow you to resume normal activities almost immediately after. For both electrolysis and laser hair removal, there is little to no recovery time needed. Feel free to go right back to your day-to-day activities.
Are They Safe?
Both of these procedures are safe and serve as two great options for hair removal. Neither electrolysis nor laser hair removal has any long-term health consequences. You can always talk to a professional about any specific concerns you might have to make sure treatment will work for you.
Side Effects of Electrolysis
Although there are no harmful chemicals or toxins used on the skin during an electrolysis treatment, there can be some side effects. If this process is done wrong, it can actually damage your hair follicles instead of just rendering them incapable of hair growth. This can cause uncomfortable inflammation and redness.
Additionally, if an unsterilized needle is used, infection is likely and can become painful. This can also lead to long-term scarring. Although unpleasant, this can be avoided when using an experienced and safe dermatologist.
Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal is a very safe process. However, because of the heat of the laser, if done incorrectly, there can be some side effects. Potential side effects for a laser treatment include blisters, inflammation, irritation, swelling, and pigmentation changes. Most of these, however, are short-term and should fade quickly after the procedure. Applying ice or a cool compress to the area after the procedure can help.
The main side effect of laser hair removal is pigmentation changes. Because the process targets dark hair and is pigment-oriented, it can cause discoloration in the form of light or dark spots on the skin. This is especially common in tanned or darker skin types.
To Sum It All Up
It is important to know your options, and these are definitely two good ones. If you’re looking for something quick, laser hair removal is your best bet. Laser hair removal is faster and more tolerable.
Laser hair removal can yield permanent results for some, but not all, of its users. However, laser hair removal can be done from the comfort of your own home (unlike electrolysis) using an at-home handheld device.
It is important to know your options, especially when considering hair removal. Be sure to do your research and make an informed decision on which route seems best for you. When you’re ready to go hair-free, KENZZI is here to help!