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Blog: Electrolysis vs Laser Hair Removal: What’s the Difference?

If you consider the amount of time you’ve spent shaving hair from your face and/or body since you were a teen, you might be considering a more permanent hair removal solution than the traditional razor and shaving cream. While there are many alternatives to shaving, electrolysis and laser hair removal are the two most popular types of permanent hair removal. This article will explain each system, discuss its advantages and disadvantages, and perform a head-to-head analysis between laser hair removal vs. electrolysis.

How Electrolysis Hair Removal Works

Electrolysis is the occurrence of a chemical change by the introduction of an electric current. For electrolysis, a technician inserts a needle into an individual hair follicle. A low-level electric pulse passes through the needle and into the follicle. Once the follicle dies, the individual hair falls out. The process is then repeated, follicle by follicle. Once a follicle is dead, it won’t produce hair. Because hair grows at different rates, this process may have to be repeated multiple times — sometimes more than a dozen for each treatment area — to achieve the desired results.

How Laser Hair Removal Works

Laser light is produced from electrifying the atoms in a specific material. Unlike natural light or artificial light from a bulb, the light photons emitted from a laser are all of the same wavelength and moving in the same direction. This makes the laser an ideal tool for the fine work of hair removal. When a laser is pointed at an individual strand of hair, the light is absorbed by the melanin (pigment) in that strand, which converts it to heat. The heat travels down to the follicle and destroys it. Unlike the electric needle in electrolysis, there is no physical contact with the hair or skin. In other words, the laser instrument does not need to touch or enter the cell to be effective.

Differences Between Electrolysis and Laser Hair Removal

While there are a few similarities between laser hair removal and electrolysis, the differences are significant and worth discussing. The objective of both methods is to destroy the hair follicle, thereby stopping its ability to produce hair, but that’s where the similarities end.

Number of Treatments

According to the Mayo Clinic, laser hair removal usually takes between 2 and 6 treatments. This has also been the experience of the laser technicians at Body Details True Laser® Centers. The treatments can generally be performed every 8 weeks for areas with average hair growth or 12 to 16 weeks for areas of slow hair growth. Electrolysis hair removal usually takes more treatments — possibly due to the additional precision required to pinpoint the follicles. Electrolysis may require as many as a dozen treatments, with a week between each session.

Effectiveness

Both methods are considered effective ways to remove hair permanently. The question often comes down to the patience of the person receiving the treatments. Laser hair removal will show immediate results but sometimes requires a more extended period between treatments to allow the remaining hair to become visible. Electrolysis allows the patient to have follow-up treatments more quickly, but they also must undergo more treatments.

Costs

Electrolysis is cheaper on a per session basis, but because the number of treatments is greater, the costs tend to even out. While paying less per session may appeal to many, most laser treatment centers offer financing, so cost tends to be a non-factor.

Pain

Both processes involve a small degree of pain for different reasons. Electrolysis involves inserting a very fine needle into the cell and running a low-level current through it. With laser hair removal, there is a heating of the cells, but many laser centers use the cryogenic cooling used by Body Details True Lasers® to offset the heating sensation. As long as the laser operator uses this type of device, laser hair removal tends to be less painful than electrolysis.

The Pros and Cons of Each Hair Removal System

While both electrolysis and laser hair removal each have pros and cons when compared to one another, there are also advantages and disadvantages over other types of hair removal methods like shaving, plucking, waxing, or depilatories.

Pros of Laser Hair Removal

  • Cost-Effective – Laser hair removal is a permanent hair growth solution. Once you’re done with treatments, you don’t have to worry about grooming that area. You may have to go back for an occasional touch up treatment if some hair starts to grow due to hormonal changes.
  • Time Efficient – After five or six 30-minute sessions, you don’t have to deal with your hair anymore. Compare that to combined hours of shaving or waxing throughout your life.
  • Safe – Body Details True Laser® Centers use the GentleMax Pro True Laser Class IV, which combines a 755 nm Alexandrite laser with a 1064 nm ND:YAG laser. It is the most powerful laser in its class approved by the FDA and has multiple wavelengths to safely treat all skin types.
  • Relatively Painless – With the cryogenic cooling, laser treatments are virtually painless. In any event, the sensation is gentler than with waxing or electrolysis.
  • Fewer Sessions – Laser hair removal requires fewer sessions than electrolysis.

Cons of Laser Hair Removal

  • The cost per session is higher than with electrolysis. However, laser hair removal requires fewer sessions and financing usually makes this much more manageable.
  • Some people have skin irritation after their treatments. This does not last, though.

It’s important to note that some sites have listed that laser hair removal is not suitable for all skin coloring as a “con.” This is not always true, however. For instance, Body Details True Laser® Centers uses equipment that can penetrate to the blood vessel feeding the follicle, and has a wavelength specifically calibrated for darker skin, which is why it is not considered a con for the purpose of this article.

Pros of Electrolysis

  • Cost-Effective – Electrolysis is cheaper in the long term than shaving, waxing, or repeatedly using depilatories.
  • Safe – Electrolysis is FDA-approved and is considered very safe.
  • Permanent – Electrolysis is a permanent process. Once it’s done, you will not have to shave or wax again.

Cons of Electrolysis

  • More Treatments – Electrolysis requires more treatments than laser hair removal.
  • Can Be Painful – Many patients find the process uncomfortable.
  • Slower process – The process of Electrolysis is much slower than laser hair removal treatments.
  • Invasive – Due to the needle penetrating the skin, the procedure does have a risk of infection.

The Advantages of Laser Hair Removal

While electrolysis is a safe and trusted procedure, laser hair removal is superior in many ways. Laser hair removal can attack multiple follicles at once, which means that a patch of hair can be treated faster and more effectively than with electrolysis. In one study conducted by dermatologists entitled “Comparison of Alexandrite Laser and Electrolysis for Hair Removal,” the researchers concluded that laser hair removal is “​​60 times faster and less painful than electrolysis.” LHR requires fewer sessions than electrolysis. Additionally, because electrolysis requires the insertion of a needle into the skin multiple times, there’s a greater chance of infection.

Frequently Asked Questions about Laser Hair Removal

If you are considering a more permanent solution for unwanted hair, these frequently asked questions and answers may be helpful.

Is Laser Hair Removal Painful?

Some people do find laser hair removal to be mildly painful. When compared to electrolysis or waxing, however, the consensus is that laser hair removal is far less painful.

Does Laser Hair Removal Work on Darker Skin?

Older methods of laser hair removal required contrast between the skin and hair color to be effective. This is no longer the case. With darker skin, it’s necessary to target the blood vessels feeding the follicles. Body Details True Laser® Centers use an ND:YAG laser to penetrate those blood vessels. This laser is calibrated based on skin tone and sensitivity. Consequently, people of color can benefit from laser hair removal.

Is Laser Hair Removal Affordable?

When compared to other hair removal methods, laser hair removal is cost-effective. Laser centers like Body Details offer generous financing packages to make the payments achievable for nearly everyone.

Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal

Many hair removal centers offer no-commitment free consultations. If you are still uncertain whether to choose laser hair removal vs. electrolysis, your next step should be to schedule a free consultation at a Body Details True Laser® Centers near you. Call today to speak to one of our licensed medical professionals.