Trying to understand how electrolysis works...

Hello, all. I’m a 27 year old male and previously had pretty successful laser hair removal on my face (cheeks, chin, and upper lip). I had about 8 sessions of LHR, with my last one being about 9-10 months ago. My upper lip was completely clear after about my fifth or sixth LHR session, which was over a year ago, and has been clear ever since.

I don’t have a ton of hair left on my chin/cheeks either, but I do want to get rid of some of the noticeable, thick hairs that are left. I don’t care about the fine hairs or peach fuzz. I had a consultation with an experienced and licensed electrologist here in NYC that has been written up favorably on this board before. She said she usually starts out with thermolysis, but can do blend as well. To give you a sense of how much (visible) hair I have to be treated, she said she should be able to clear both cheeks and my chin in one 30-45 minute session (using thermolysis).

But she said that when she treats a hair, that particular hair will not die the first time around and has to be treated several times before it’ll finally stop growing back. She said that the hair would be “weakened” with each treatment, such that it would get thinner and grow back slower until it finally just died.

Is this really how electrolysis works? I thought that if a hair was treated and slid out easily, then it was killed. But she was insistent that it wasn’t and that it would grow back, albeit weaker. She did not seem to be referencing the various stages/cycles of hair growth, as she talked about that later in a totally separate discussion.

So if this is how electrolysis works, what is the range of treatments a single hair requires before it is killed? She said a hair is never killed the first time around, so is it like 2-3? Can it take upwards of 5, 6 treatments on a single hair to kill that single hair?

I understand that I have a bunch of hair that is not actively growing and that cannot be seen or treated. I understand that this hair will show up later when it “wakes up” and will have to be treated then. But she was saying that even if a hair is actively growing, one “zap” of electrolysis (and subsequently sliding it out) would not actually kill it but merely weaken it. Was she just trying to simplify the explanation? Or is this really how electrolysis works?

Thanks :slight_smile:

We do not know with certainty if a single follicle requires one or more treatments as no one is plotting the longitude and latitude of each individual follicle.

Theoretically, if a follicle gets a treatment while the hair is in the early stage of growth and it is successfully treated, another hair will not grow from that follicle.

You will need to have the area treated and retreated over time and then you will begin to see less hair growth in that treated area. Total treatment time might be over a year but during that time, previously treated areas require shorter appointments.

The, “breakdown/weakening” explanantion is often more easily understood for clients. It is not an incorrect explanation because it might very well be what is happening in some situations. However, many electrologists prefer to explain that we can only treat a follicle when a hair is present and when you see growth in a previously treated area, you are seeing new hairs cycling in. All of the hairs that are capable of growing, are not all present at the same time.

Good luck.

I’m surprised to hear this said by a professional. Think about this: An underarm for example, you need an average of one hour for the first clearance, 30 minutes or less for the second, and 15 or so minutes for the third and final clearance. If this electrologist was right, you would need: 60 +60 +60 for the first 3 clearances, 30 +30 +30 for the second clearances, and 15 +15 +15 for third clearances. The 9 months of rigor to finish with 99% of hairs in the area, would become 27 months. No, dear, or you have not understood correctly, or your electrologist is completely wrong.

My electrologist gave me the same explanation that practiceboy got and she is very reputed in the city from what I’ve heard. I too was confused about whether she really believed her explanation or whether she was “simplifying” the explanation so that my expectations of the treatment time remain grounded.

From this board I have come to know that there are some practitioners out there who kill almost every treated hair the very first time! But this is not the norm, it seems like.

Just confirming what Arlene wrote.

A conclusion which I have arrived. Many practitioners have not set their own degree of death. This does not mean they are not removing the hairs on the first time, it’s just that when they are using the strategy “only anagen” is very difficult (almost impossible) to determine if the hair that appears is a hair treated before or is a new hair from a follicle that was never treated.
If for them (with magnifying glasses) is difficult to distinguish, can you imagine how it will be for the client? a client that also has every reason to be skeptical because of the lack of scruples of some colleagues who are plucking instead of killing the follicle properly?

So perhaps as a follow-up question, is the interval and hair growth between electrolysis treatments more similar to the interval/hair growth between LHR sessions or more similar to simply tweezing/waxing? My experience with LHR is that after a treatment, hair would shed and the whole area treated would be cleared of hair. Then, in a couple of weeks, the hair would slowly start to grow back, but not very much at first. Then, about a month or two after all the hair had shed (about 2 months or so after the treatment), I would essentially look back to normal (new cycle of hair had grown in) and go have those hairs treated as well.

Or is the interval and hair growth between electrolysis sessions more similar to the interval and hair growth between tweezings, where I’ll tweeze and be hairless for a couple days, but then the next week it looks exactly the same again?

Hi practiceboy,

Waxing/tweezing - Hair has to be present , even as little as 1/8" in order to wax off and also had to be long enough to grasp with the tweezers. If the wax/tweezing removes the entire hair and you see hair growing in the area within a month, those hairs are growing in follicles that did not get waxed/tweezed in that session. It should take about 6 weeks before you see those waxed/tweezed hairs return.

LHR - needs that stubble on freshly shaved skin. The laser will target that dark spot in the follicle. You return in about 6 weeks to target those same follicles that need to be retreated and also new hairs coming in from follicles that were not yet treated. You mentioned that you would see hair grow after a couple of weeks. These hairs were not present at the time of your laser appointment so they were not present for you to shave. Some laser facilities ask clients to return for, “in-between clean ups”, for those untreated follicles that had to hair present during the prior visit.

You talk about hair growing back. Hair needs about 6 weeks to regrow to the surface of the skin. The hairs that appear within a month after your treatments are from follicles that did not have a hair showing when you had the treatment or had a poor treatment (hair breaks).

Electrolysis is not like LHR or waxing/tweezing in terms of timing. We can only treat follicles when hairs are long enough for us to grasp with our forceps. We talk about getting full clearances. This means that with each appointment, we hope to be able to remove all of the hair in the problem area. With electrolysis you see little by little, less and less hair growth as each hair producing follicle is treated. Therefore, electrology clients require more frequent visits than laser unless you are able to schedule very long appointments where we are able to give you full clearances each session.

Since electrolysis is very time consuming for both the client and practitioner and very labor intensive, we rarely do full clearances in one session.

Thanks, Arlene. If you have very few visible hairs to be treated, such that your electrologist says that she can treat all visible hairs within 30-45 minutes, then I imagine that you wouldn’t need to schedule such frequent visits?

Because all of the hair is not above the skin’s surface, you need to return more frequently for electrolysis. Laser can treat those tiny black spots of hair and electrolysis needs to be able to grasp those hairs. Those hairs will emerge for the electrologist in a few days.

Good luck.

One thing that most electrolysis and laser practitioners do not seem to understand, is that beard hair and scalp hair are unlike all other hairs on the body. In both cases the hairs have a very long anagen period and a very short telogen period.

Think about it, the length of the anagen period determines how long a hair can grow. The average scalp hair may have 3-5 year long anagen period, the average beard hair is around 2-3 years I believe. The length of the telogen stage (and its ratio compared to the anagen length) determines the density of hairs in a region. In the case of beard/scalp hairs, the short telogen period and long anagen means that >90% of all follicles will be active at a given time.

Contrast that with areas like the legs or arms where there is short anagen and long telogen, in that case the hairs can only grow to a short length during the anagen period before they are shed and go into telogen where they sit dormant for many months. Thus only around 10-20% or so of the follicles on your legs/arms will be active at a given time.

Typical telogen period on beard hairs is between 2-4 weeks depending on the individual, so if you pluck it or it is treated with electrolysis but not killed then you will see the same hair reemerge after that amount of time.

A single hair only takes one treatment to kill, provided that the treatment is of sufficient energy and delivered to the correct area. The problem is that beard hairs are more difficult to kill than body hairs, for a number of different reasons. Because of the risk of scarring, many electrologists will undertreat beard hairs and thus have to treat many of them several times.

However, if you are lucky enough to find a highly skilled electrologist like most of the ones who post on this forum, then you are likely to find a high percentage of the hairs killed on the first pass because better strategy and more accurate placement means the hair can be killed using lower energy.

I have observed that many hairs are permanently disabled in one zap. My friiend and colleague, Josefa, has pictorial histories to prove that hairs are “killed” in the first and only pass. SKILL and KNOW HOW matters and working with GOOD TOOLS makes certain statements untrue.

I am 21 with an olive skin tone.I started my electrolysis after a consultation today.I finally found a BIAE with a blend.OMG!it was so painful but i think it what i have to bear for beauty.
But am confused about something.The lady said that electrolysis could years for me to clear the araea permanently.This is not what i expected because i have read stories on hear that some people completed their treatment in 2years some 1 and a half.
I understand the area am treating is quite large(chin,under chin and part of the neck)but the lady said i don’t have coarse hair they are fine but still noticeable and my hair is U and J shaped…
Please is she correct?
Secondly,if am to choose between two electrolgist,do i go for one with the latest Aplius technology or with blend?WHich is more effective and makes work faster?Thanks mam91

In addition she said she can’t do more than 30mins of blend electrolysis on the treated area.And i am getting scared this wouldnt get all the hairs treated on time.

Hi mam, this is why she says it may take years (the 30 min treatments). When people have a lot of dense hair, it requires many hours even at a decent speed to actually begin to visibly clear the hairs. Whether it is done over a few days in an intensive clearing or over a few weeks of longish weekly or bi-weekly appointments.

You are hoping to treat a large area and therefore the electrologist is going to be hopping about removing a few hairs from there and a few from there. What will happen is that gradually you may begin to notice a reduction in hairs.

A problem with a lot of electrologist’s here in the UK (in my opinion) is that they are not equipped to handle the treatment of large areas. That goes from basic stuff like their equipment to their overall strategy. If you just want an upper lip treated and are willing to spend 18 months, then it’s do-able. This is something I personally encountered and therefore with my electrologist in London I just completed smaller areas - such as the upper lip or the coarse hairs only on my sideburns. Often, the same follicle requires a second treatment later on down the hair because it is not fully treated the first time, this can add significantly to your overall time to complete treatment when we’re talking about dense hairs in an area that never gets close to being cleared.

If you read my sister’s tread linked in my signature, you may get in insight into treating dense facial hair.

As a modality, I like blend and this is what I had for those smaller areas. It’s not essential that the electrologist has an Apilus but what I think you do need is someone equipped to handle the hair you have and for the sake of not spending hours on something that may only take half an hour, speed can matter. So you may want to ‘break-up’ the areas and start on something smaller with your electrologist as I did. Or you may want to find someone who can deal with the hair you have in a decent timeframe.

As an example, user Mark813 is planning on seeing Mairi Hawkes in Scotland for some more intensive work to reach clearance or at least close to it. Something to think about.

wow.quite impressed.Alright am hopeful again.I think She is quite fast as her hands kept switching from the tweezers to probe quickly.Pllease what do you recommend for after care after she has applied some cream that soothes the skin after electrolysis(it is light caramel in colour).She said she can do more than 30mins for the next few treatments but would move longer later(after she has seen my skin doesnt react badly)I guess she is ok.I just pray by 1 year i should be 3/4 done.Thanks stoppit

I’m not sure if you read my sister’s diary first post. The electrologist that did the work is from HairTell, not the one that did my initial work. One of the reasons is that this electrologist was removing about a minimum of 20hairs/min using an Apilus (not to mention her skill in treating hairs). My local electrologist was using blend at about 5-7 hairs/min… which is pretty fast given most other electrologists I’ve encountered here remove about half that with blend. So you can easily work out that in 30 mins we removed about 4 times as much hair as with our local electrologist.

But obviously, it’s better that for that every hair treated is permanently killed, even if it’s fewer per min rather than the other way.

For aftercare, if you are prone to whiteheads you can swipe over the area with tea tree oil. But I would only do this once on the day of treatment after washing your face. Later, pure witch hazel water is great. You can spritz your face with it or dampen a cotton pad and swipe over the area. Aloe vera gel can be used to form a protective layer but I never used this. And one of my favourite products, which you can use as a moisturiser generally is rosehip oil.

In the end, the only two products I use are witch hazel water and rosehip oil. These can be used by even the most sensitive skins and are part of my general skincare routine as a toner and moisturiser.

I have never subscribed to the given percentages of follicles growing idea. To say that more than 90% of all hairs are growing at one time give the consumer the idea that with one clearance of a beard that you are almost done with treatments. I believe that the general health of the client is a huge factor in the amount of follicles producing hair. That telogen and exogen are nearly impossible to document.

I base my assertions primarily on info sourced from ‘Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair’ by Clarence Robbins (an academic research compendium which gives an overview of the available scientific literature on subjects related to the chemistry and physiology of hair).

Of course, those numbers are not meant to be exact, they are just approximations based on the research. There are a ton of different factors affecting how many follicles in a region are producing hair, health, drug interactions, age, hormones, etc… The main point is that the beard and scalp have very different ratios of telogen/anagen compared to other hairs on the body. Therefore the beard and scalp will have the vast majority of follicles in anagen at any given time whereas other areas on the body will have the majority of follicles in telogen at any given time.

If it were possible to achieve 100% kill rate on beard hairs then one would be almost done after the first clearance. But given the difficulties involved in treating beard hairs I doubt that one could safely achieve 100% kill rate even using galvanic.

Also, while you are correct about exogen, telogen is quite easy to document provided you have sufficient magnification.