Daily hair removal can definitely be a tedious and time consuming job, especially if you remove a lot of it. If you find shaving, waxing or using depilatories a daunting task, you might want to consider electrolysis or laser hair removal of any hair you want permanently removed.
Permanently is the key word here, since both these procedures aim to do just that. As a result, careful consideration needs to be given to which hair you're willing to commit to living without forever, particularly facial hair removal, since it will determine which facial hair styles you can or can not wear.
Both laser and electrolysis hair removal has become increasingly popular for men who have excessive hair on their backs, chests or legs. Athletes, in particular, may opt for these types of hair removal as a way to easily maintain hairless skin, which is beneficial to their respective sports. Many men also opt to have laser hair removal before getting tattoos on their chest, back, or bicep, which makes tattooing easier, and avoids having the tattoo hidden by excessive hair. Eyebrows are another popular area men have treated; turning unibrows into two separate entities, or simply to clean the brows up by removing stay hair. That being said, let's take a look at both type procedures to help you decide if either is right for you.
Electrolysis has been around for over a hundred years, and is the only permanent hair removal method approved by the FDA. Fortunately, like most things, it has been improved upon, making it less painful and more effective than years past.
Today's medical electrolysis devices destroy the growth center of the hair with either chemical treatment (galvanic), heat energy (thermolysis), or both (blend). A very fine, sterile needle-shaped metal probe is inserted into each hair follicle, which destroys the root. The hair is then removed with tweezers.
Since there are several stages of hair growth: growing, resting and shedding, and hair follicles are not all on the same growth schedule, electrolysis needs to be performed multiple times, in order to address the individual hairs as they reach the growth stage. In other words, not all hair is present at the same time, so you'll need to have the procedure done as the hair appears. Everyone's growth is different, so the number of treatments vary depending on the individual and the area of the body that's being treated; however 15 to 30 is the average number of treatments required. Again, this is an average amount that can easily be exceeded, especially if a large area like the back is treated. Most clients return once a week or every other week, as necessary. The unwanted hair will be gone forever once the series of treatments have been completed. Each treatment lasts between 15 minutes and one hour.
Electrolysis usually does not cause much pain. Modern electrolysis methods have reduced the discomfort to a mere tingling. For those sensitive areas of the body, or for anyone who finds electrolysis too uncomfortable, a topical anesthetic can be used in most cases, which numbs the skin and eliminates most sensations.
Okay, let's get to the important questions: who can have it done, and how much does it cost?
Fortunately, electrolysis can be performed on light and dark hair, as well as grey hair, since it targets the hair follicle and not hair pigment. It can also be done on most skin types, making it a good option for anyone who isn't a candidate for laser hair removal. The reason someone may not be a good candidate for electrolysis is if their hair follicles are bent or deformed from previous waxing or tweezing. The follicle's distortion makes it harder for the probe to reach the root, but not always impossible. There's no way of knowing unless you have a consultation or treatment.
Cost varies depending on the electrologist performing the procedure, but the price tag is normally between $45.00 and $125.00 per hour. When you add it all up, electrolysis can be very expensive and time consuming, so be certain you're ready to commit before you begin. Beware of cheap prices, since what's being advertised as electrolysis could be electronic tweezers or photoepilators (burst of filtered light directed at individual hair follicles), which are not permanent hair removal techniques.
I've heard complaints of electrolysis discoloring the skin. This is possible, but usually only happens if it's performed incorrectly, which is one reason you must be sure of the qualifications and reputation of the electrologist you choose. The electrologist's lack of competency is usually the reason for too much pain and inferior results, as well. You'll probably be able to avoid these situations as long as you choose a credible, licensed, or at the very least, certified aesthetician who went to an accredited electrology school, and who uses the most up-to-date machines available. Certifications should be in sight, hanging on a wall somewhere in the salon, so if you don't see it, ask to. Not every US state requires electrolysis licensing or certification, and if you live in one of these states, you'll have to do a little more homework before choosing a salon. Regardless of your state laws, it's always smart to talk with other customers who can give insight to an aesthetician's reputation, or who can give a referral. Another factor that should never be overlooked is the cleanliness of the salon. If it looks dirty, it is... so run, don't walk!
The money, time, and energy may be worth the effort since results are pretty much guaranteed. The hair root is destroyed, normally making it a done deal; however, clinical studies show about 7% to 10% of people don't respond to treatment. Obviously, you won't know if you're one of the few or not until you try it.
Now let's take a look at laser hair removal.
Laser removal has some definite advantages over electrolysis. Supposedly, it hurts less than electrolysis and even waxing, but more than tweezing or depilatory creams. Normally, fewer sessions are required than with electrolysis, with greater intervals between treatments - typically every four weeks. The sessions can take less time than electrolysis, but that's determined by the size of the area receiving treatment. All this sounds pretty good, except laser hair removal is not guaranteed. With about an 80% reduction in hair growth, efficacy is not a sure thing.
More bad news is the cost.
Pricing is basically determined by the type laser used, and the number of "pulses" it takes to remove hair on the various body parts. Salons use different methods of pricing, but generally, you can expect to pay more for larger areas of hair removal than smaller ones; regardless of how they determine their fees. The bottom line is many salons charge around a $1.00 per pulse, with a minimum fee. That sounds steep, but each pulse, which only takes a second, covers an area anywhere from a half inch to an inch; lasering about 100 hairs at a time. Still, an average laser session often costs at least $150.00 to $200.00. Since each treatment should present less hair than the previous treatment, the cost of each session should decline as the series progresses. Also, an important fact to know is it will take 10 to 14 days for hair to fall out, so results are not immediate. Don't forget to factor this time frame into scheduling that big date or pool party! As with electrology, getting a consultation before agreeing to treatment is smart, so you'll know what to expect before hand.
Laser hair removal has more limitations than electrology, and, unfortunately, is not for everyone. It works best on dark haired, light skinned people because the laser targets the melanin found in dark hair. Since melanin is also in dark skin, skin will also be a target, resulting in pigmentation problems, since hitting the skin can't be avoided. So, be careful - be very careful. Hopefully, salons will not use laser on any individual who's not a safe candidate. If you do find one that will, I'd question their ethicality.
In conclusion, both of these hair removal methods are expensive.
Don't be tempted by discounted salons or services, since we usually get what we pay for. I recommend choosing a less expensive way of removing hair if the expense isn't in your budget. Always remember neither technique is guaranteed, and brings with it some risk. Visiting the salon and meeting with the aesthetician for a consultation is always the best way to broach the situation. Use common sense and don't fall victim to inadequate conditions, since putting yourself into someone's hands who lacks skill can be life altering. Realize that this is a business, and as with every business, employees are salesmen.
Research, in addition to talking with others who have had these procedures, will be the best ways to gain valuable information. I'd love to hear comments from anyone with electrolysis and laser experience, so we can help educate fellow members. Thanks and hope to hear from you!
by Aaron Marino