In the last few weeks I have been talking with a young man who went to an electrologist who presented him with gross unsanitary conditions. I have been explaining how a client can identify “proper procedures” so here’s a little “look-see” at one way we “zapperettes” sterilize tweezers and other instruments (the short version!).

Photo 1 is my old “Pelton & Crain” autoclave, a real workhorse in the medical community. This uses heat and steam.
Photo 2 shows a batch of tweezers that just came out of the sterilizer.
Photo 3 shows and individual bag containing one tweezer. See the word “CROSSTEX?” That’s the “chemical indicator.” In a new (unused) bag the word is pink. Once through the sterilizer, it changes color to blue. (This is only one precaution that we use to show sterilization was successful.)
Photo 4 shows WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE! You want to see your tweezer being torn out of a fresh steri-bag that has been through the process successfully.

Of course, there are several other approved methods of sterilization; this is one of them. I’m posting these photos to give clients a little inside view on what to look for in an electrologist’s office. Always look for that BAG!

This particular client said his electrologist “stored” the tweezer on a dirty bathroom sink, and used it on him for several days with no sterilization whatsoever. Yeah, that’s a “no-no” … and I don’t mean THAT silly hair removal device.

Good info, Mike.

Appropriate sterilizers include dry heat and autoclave. Liquid chemicals are not appropriate for use in the electrology practice. Packaging can include several types of envelopes for autoclave and dry heat, and glass tubes with corks can be used for dry heat. The “old” AEA standards can be found at Updated standards have been researched and written, however they have not been published yet, for some unknown reason.

Here’s some info about the instruments for the practitioner:

Good information Michael. How often do you spore test your autoclave?

@BArbara, Here Dry heat often means the glass bead sterilizers. They are prohibited for use now though you still see them commonly.


Thanks for the information Barbara … and once again this shows how the AEA shines and has gotten this amazingly correct! (Readers need to know that the CDC … US Centers for Disease Control … was instrumental in designing electrology rules. So these are “stellar.”)

I usually review all my procedures at least once per year. I sometimes get lazy, because Dr. C’s nurse often does the sterilization for me. (I hate doing the “log-in” paperwork each time, and sometimes forget.)

For clients reading all this information (and it’s lengthy), you only need to focus on a few key items. You want to see hand washing, gloves (worn properly: not worn the whole day and after taking breaks, eating and using the toilet!), a new sterile disposable needle (if the electrologist is using single-needle) and a sterile tweezer in a steri-bag.

If your “zaparrini” (that’s Italian) gets these few details right, you are more than 95% safe. And certainly safe from any serious pathogen. These are the “big issues” and the client, simply knowing what to look for, can easily verify these procedures. If you watch closely, and know what to look for, you don’t have to ask any “uncomfortable” questions … just observe.

Again, THANKS for the information Barbara! AEA? Really, it’s the ONLY “show in town!” Oh, by the way, your autoclave or dry heat is a great place to warm up your “pastrami sub.”

JUST KIDDIN’ tee hee!

If you read the Standards you will see that glass bead “sterilizers” are in the DO NOT USE list.

Dry heat sterilizers (NOT glass bead) are appropriate and should be legal in every state if they are using FDA information. The FDA lists them, along with autoclaves, as sterilizers.

You are right of course Barbara. I did forget about the dry heat sterilizers themselves (not the glass bead ones) . I dont see them often for some reason.


I only saw my electrologist remove her tweezers from a package once. She claims she sterilizes equipment but usually the tweezers are in a plastic cup or on top of the table. I noticed it’s always the same ones because they have a blue handle. Also, she puts gloves on but then searches for things with them on before beginning the session.

Thanks for your kind comments lyrical!

Here’s the thing: the electrologist’s office is not an operating room (theatre)!

I have worked in surgery. Authentic surgical gloves are sterile (super expensive) and it’s an art form to scrub properly and get those damned gloves on perfectly … without ever touching the gloves with your clean hands. Once in the OR, you touch nothing except sterile surfaces, sterile instruments and the patient’s skin. (Costs? Surgical paper drapes, etc., … cost about $800 per set-up. So you see the vast difference here?)

But remember, in surgery we are actually inside the body! Electrolysis is nothing like that. The gloves electrologists wear are not sterile. The non-sterile gloves are mostly supposed to help in skin-to-skin contact and that’s about it.

If your electrologist touches an instrument (with gloves), sets her machine or helps position you, she does not have to scrub and start over: you are not having surgery! Your electrologist will know when to change her gloves.

To tell you the truth, I could easily make an argument for wearing no gloves at all (just properly washed). But this would go against what we all have been trying to achieve for a long time: a clinical, not “beauty shop,” atmosphere. So, I support wearing gloves.

However, >>> I would definitely ask your electrologist HOW she sterilizes her instruments. I would like you to SEE the actual equipment she uses. (Boiling them on the stove is not an approved method.) The way you explained it here on Hairtell?… I don’t believe her! Yeah, I can see her using that one tweezer on everybody all day long.

I would say to her, “Oh I’m interested in which system you are using: The autoclave or the dry heat? I’m just curious, and wondered if I might see your unit?”

Now, don’t go “overboard” on the “sterile thing” either. Your risks in this procedure are extremely low indeed.

Sadly, as I’m finding out slowly, some practitioners are completely “full of it” and will say anything to win a client. I think those days are numbered.

I see. Thank you to take your time with such an informative explanation =)

I think she mentioned the autoclave thing once, but I am not certain. Yes, next session I will ask her about it and ask if it is possible to see it.

Maybe I am just overly concerned but lately after each session I have an infected pimple on the neck area where she works on. (I have four infected pimples now. Of course, it could also be from how I sleep, because I had area on the belly and on the upper eyebrows done and there was no problems there).

Hmmmmm, I’m feeling a little worried/cynical now about the tweezers in test tubes with corks that I see each time I go in…
I do see new gloves every time, but the tweezers are definitely not coming out of a steri-pack, and last time they just came off of the floor. I notice that she also leaves the gauze she wipes blood off with on the chair I’m laying on and doesn’t wipe down the chair between clients.

Hi “guys,”

Those tiny pimples after a treatment are technically infected but not serious. What are they? Well, mostly your own dead tissue (from electrolysis) and a few dead (resident) bacteria that got killed-off by your own immune system. “Not to worry!”

I’m a big fan of washing these “pimples” off, and I even supply all my male clients with a fresh new back-brush in the likely event that they produce these common post-treatment pustules. “Just gently scrub them away.” (They get specific instructions to follow.)

A real infection is something else (usually staph bacteria). In my 40 years of doing electrolysis … and thousands of patients … only one person got a “real” infection (and he was a picker!)

The tweezer in the tube might be fine and (I think) these can be used in heat sterilizers? Maybe Barbara can verify this? “Off the FLOOR” … well, that’s not a good storage area AT ALL! YIKES!

If you have any reservations about the tweezer being used on you, why not order your own tweezer? Find out which type tweezer she prefers and get one (or two) yourself. There certainly will not be any cross-infection because these are only being used on you. (Cross-infection is getting something from another patient … and THAT’S the BIG worry.) Tweezers only cost $15 - 20 and that seems like a pretty simple “insurance policy.” I would do it.

A wipe down of the table and new fresh paper is the standard procedure. While you won’t get infected from dry blood on the table, it’s disgusting. (You can’t get infected if your skin is intact. But DAMN!) Any “fluid-containing” gauze should be put in a separate closed container and not tossed on the table. YUCK!

Yes, I’d heard of the small pimples, I get those as well. Only I also get bigger, more painful ones with white heads that are just like infected acne and hurt a lot. I usually leave them alone and have been treating the area with Cicalfate from Avene two times a day (along with a small area that was done by another electrologist some two months ago and refuses to heal up).

I’ll post a picture eventually, when I am not lathered with the ointment. Also, I’ll be on vacation soon and my next electrolysis appointment is within a month, I’ll see how it’s doing then.

Hm I’ll definitely purpose using my own tweezers to my electrologist, if only for the remainder minutes of the session time I bought, if I do decide to stop with electrolysis. Sometimes I think the anxiousness I get from all this (will it infect, will it scar?, etc etc) is not worth the trouble =/ I do hate seeing the hairs I have, though.

I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist, just in case. It’s by the end of July, though, but until then, if anything I’d have stopped for the summer months.


While I understand why you might want to “bring your own tweezers” I do want to point out a couple flaws in your plan:

  1. the tweezers used for electrolysis tend to be very high end ones with a light touch when it comes to the amount of pressure required to use them and they are made to be very precise. They also tend to be on the more expensive side . What i use costs me $28 a pair, and they arent even close to what you would find in one of the pro’s offices.If you walk into the office with your average pair of tweezers from the corner drug, chances are your electrologist wont be able to use them.

  2. Do you have an autoclave at home? So you know they can easily range from $1000-$2000 for a used one! If you arent able to bring your tweezers in as sterile instruments sealed in sterile pouches, then any advantage you might gain by bringing your own in, is lost, in fact you could be making the situation worse!Also note that in most cases it’s desireable to have at least 2 pair of tweezers available when beginning a treatment on a client.Otherwise should something happen to contaminate a pair ( getting some contaminant on them, or dropping them tot he floor) then it’s treatment over until a new sterile pair can be made available.

Some think that a home canner can be used as an autoclave. The reality is this doesn’t really work.In order for the sterility to occur, they have to be brought up to a specific temperature for a specific period of time AT A SPECIFIC PRESSURE. For this reason when pressure cookers are used for sterilizing, it is with a higher value weight on the pressure valve in order to increase the pressure inside the pressure cooker.

Unless you have a way to sterilize the tweezers and package them , bringing your own probably wont work out for you.


I do not agree with you Seana.

Which would be better for this patient: having her own tweezer, or having her electrologist use a (contaminated) tweezer on her that she has been using ON ANOTHER PATIENT … maybe an entire day of treating others?

That’s the issue here.

What you say has validity Michael.

I know I for working on myself, will often use the same tweezers. It hasnt done me any harm ( I dont break skin with them!) . But working on others I’m not sure I would ever do that.I just know better.

That said, given that the option is to use possibly contaminated ones from someone else, I agree having your own, even dirty ones is a better option.


I appreciate your advice as well, Seana.

For now I’ll ask her next session about the sterilization process and will ask her that she opens the packages with the tweezers in front of me, like she does with the needles. I’ll see how that goes. She’s always been a very open person to feedback. I hope she remains true.

If it doesn’t work out I think I rather give electrolysis a time, maybe contact the other few professionals there are around here.

If a person wished to sterilize their own tweezer/forceps (you know, the ones you use to remove splinters - or even “god forbid” - tweeze their brows or something) they could do so by first cleaning them with soap and water, rinsing them, drying them, and then placing them in a test tube with a real cork (I haven’t heat tested those fake corks) then placing them in a pre-heated oven set at 350 degrees (higher than recommended) for one hour.

I’m not recommending this, and kitchen ovens should not be used as a sterilizer, but it makes sense for a consumer to know that a home-use tool can be made safe for the next use. I do wonder about that filthy pair of tweezers my parents had in a bathroom drawer for 30 years…Amazing we survived to adulthood.

I just had to Barbara…sorry…

Should we save some electricity and bake a cake with our tweezers?

Actually, this is how I used to do mine when I dont go to the tattoo shop a block away and have them do it which is what I do most of the time.They charge me $15 for 2 pairs of tweezers. Hint, almost all tattoo shops have the means to sterilize… I have a (new and never used for food) toaster oven. After I boil my tweezers I put them in there for an hour in a test tube on high. I know I need to invest in an autoclave, but I just dont have the money. One thing to note is to ensure tweezers are dry if doing this. I once popped the cork because I put them in wet. Scared me half to death. Ensure you have fresh corks every time. They dry out and arent that re-useable.Another thing to note is to make sure you are only using UNCOATED stainless tweezers. Not nickel plated and no rubberized coatings. I once had a pair with a rubberized coating ( tweezerman brand) which made a heck of a mess and were un-useable after. you can buy sterilization pouches also on ebay but I dont know how well they would stand up to dry heat. They are meant for an autoclave and are exactly the same thing as what Michael posted about above. Generally about $10 for a box of 100 or so.

Still if you are unable to do them yourself or unwilling to take a risk, then visit a tattoo shop. I have found them very willing to do this sort of thing for a little extra money. I end up going to the one here a couple times a week to get some done.Also if you happen to have a friend who is a registered nurse they often have access to an autoclave. Same goes for many university labs, they often have autoclaves that can be put to use.

Since I’m doing more work these days I’m getting an autoclave. It’s next on my equipment list. I recently had an influx of people asking for electrolysis and I’m not willing to to risk it.


Dry heat sterilizers are less expensive than the autoclave. You can use test tubes or special paper bags (fox?) in them. I usually get several months out of the corks before trashing them.

I have seen them, and yes they are somewhat cheaper, but I havent seen any locally and it would still be $300 or so with shipping to buy one off ebay or similar from the US. I also cant find any mention of dry heat sterilization on the Ontario Ministry of Health guidelines.Since I cant find this, I have concerns investing money into something that a health inspector could come in and tell me I am not allowed to use.
I probably overtime my tweezers when I do this ( which I dont at all if I can avoid it now in fact I JUST came back from the tattoo shop) so this probably explains why my corks degrade, but as they are a couple bucks for 100 or so I dont really care if I can re-use them.They get “crunchy” if that makes sense.Thanks for the information. I’m getting busier these days by a factor of 2 or 3 and I’m trying to make sure all my proceedures are up to snuff. Amatuer hour is over I think.