Delayed post-electrolysis reaction - dermatitis/breakout/...?


I’ve been working on removing my facial hair for ~3.5 years now. Started with around 2 years of laser and eventually hit the limit of what it could do for me - my natural hair colour is light brown/blonde-ish - so I started electro (thermolysis) around July 2020. Since then I’ve been going 1-2x a month, less frequently in recent months because my practitioner has had personal commitments that prevent her from working as much - my most recent sessions were at the beginning of July, mid August, and early-mid October (this past monday). I’ve been extremely satisfied with how it’s gone for me so far.

My usual experience with electro is: ~30-40 minute long session, mostly focusing on upper + lower lip, chin, and neck; antibiotic ointment and ice for ten minutes afterwards; only rinsing my face once, with very clean hands and immediately before bed, for the next 24 hours; another 48 hours of not moisturising or putting anything else on; resuming usual skincare routine, minus actives, once three full days have passed since treatment; reintroducing actives (right now, only 2% salicylic acid) after two weeks. And all the while drinking lots of water + staying out of the sun + avoiding perspiration + applying antibiotic ointment provided by my electrologist 2x daily. Usually I’m feeling fully back to normal after 48 hours, but I always give it that extra day of taking it easy just in case.

The past couple sessions, things have been different and concerning. Both times, I judged my skin to have calmed down/healed enough for me to moisturise (hada labo hydrating lotion) and start wearing SPF again (etude house sunprise), only to start feeling irritated by the end of the day, and wake up the next morning with the whole treatment area looking red and bumpy + feeling warm/inflamed. I don’t know if it’s an infection, or a rash, or what - I just know that it looks and feels very unpleasant. My usual skin texture is pretty smooth and I’m mostly happy with it, and this is pretty upsettingly far removed from that.

It just feels very strange that the condition of my skin should sharply decline like this four full days post-treatment, even after I’m careful to avoid anything that might irritate it and make sure that it looks and feels healed before putting anything on. My electrologist says she isn’t doing anything different. The only skincare changes on my end are that I started using salicylic acid 2% two weeks after my August treatment, and even then I only use it daily on my forehead and nose, and on the rest of my face once a week or less (and I stopped using it altogether 3 days before my most recent treatment). My only other lifestyle change is that I started taking remeron (mirtazapine) for insomnia in late July, but increased skin sensitivity isn’t a side effect I see listed anywhere.

Last time this happened things were back to normal and my skin looked great again a week-ish post treatment (so, treatment → reaction after 3-4 days → reaction fully resolved after another 3-4 days). This time, it seems a bit more intense, despite being even more careful than last time, so… I guess I’m a little anxious about what’s going on.

Pictures from August, 4 days post treatment:

Pictures from October, 5 days post treatment (today):

It feels warm, irritated, and tight, and some of the bumps seem to be outside of the area that was actually treated (like the ones north of my smile lines)…

(+ Ignore the pinprick scars around the corners of my mouth - those have been there since I was a teenager, not electro related)

I guess the thrust of my inquiry is: what is this? Why suddenly now? What should I do to deal with it? What should I do to prevent it happening again?

Thanks for reading.

Forgive me, but I see nothing to worry about. Maybe any reaction you see is from the aftercare you are doing? Antibiotic ointment? Why?

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The splotchiness and small white bumps are pretty normal. You might try putting some 100% pure aloe gel (no menthol) on to keep things cooled off. As the seasons change, our skin can change too. Some people get seasonal dermatitis and eczema, so it may be worth checking the humidity at home and work and getting a humidifier if needed.

And since we are still in COVID times, if you have had to wear a mask more, that may be an issue, especially if you are putting on a used mask after treatment or reusing masks a lot.

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Spot on, Andrea.

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