Hair removal by electrolysis can be effective for hypertrichosis

Information on hypertrichosis and hair removal treatments
Cosmetic hair removal
Laser hair removal

Electrolysis – Hair Removal Treatment

Excessive hair disorder, such as, hypertrichosis and hirsutism are a source of great embarrassment and emotional stress to the affected individuals. Cosmetic treatment, which improves the appearance, is essential to lessen the pains of these unfortunate people.

Of all the cosmetic treatment techniques available today, electrolysis is the only cosmetic treatment, which has the potential to become a permanent hair remover. It is a kind of electrosurgical depilation where the hairs are electrochemically destroyed using electric current. Electrolysis treatment is carried out with a very sophisticated machine, called the depilator, which is operated by highly skilled personnel. This apparatus is used to send a regulated and controlled electric current to the hair follicle.

Today, by broad consent, the term electrolysis is used to describe the general process of electrochemical destruction of hair. Under this broad term there are three available techniques to carry out the process. These are galvanic electrolysis, thermolysis and a blend method. The aim of all three techniques is to destroy the hair follicle without causing any serious scarring.

Galvanic electrolysis

Galvanic electrolysis uses galvanic direct current to destroy the hair growing cells of the hair follicle. The process uses a disposable fine wire needle which is inserted into the hair follicle. Passage of electric current produces hydroxide ions, which destroy the hair growing cells and congeal the hair. Galvanic electrolysis is a slow process but destroys more hair in one treatment as compared to thermolysis.


Thermolysis uses high frequency alternating current. Unlike galvanic electrolysis, which targets the hair growing cells, this method removes hair by destroying the hair follicle.

The treatment uses a probe, which can be rigid or flexible. This probe functions as an electrode when it is inserted into the hair follicle and a high frequency alternating current is passed. Under FDA regulations the frequency has to be around 13.56MHz. The current may be low intensity, applied for 3 to 20 seconds, or high intensity, employed for less than one second - used in the so called flash techniques.

The alternating current generates the heat that destroys the hair follicle. In the process some pain is also caused. The pain can be lessened by using shorter pulses of the flash technique. Forceps are used to remove the congealed hair. Thermolysis is a faster method but shows a higher hair re-growth.

Blend method

In blend method a combination of galvanic direct current and low intensity, high frequency alternating current is used to destroy the hair. This method is considered by most users as the best method of hair removal by electrolysis. It is reported to be more effective in removing coarser hairs.

Shaving 4 to 5 days before treatment is absolutely essential as it makes it easier to identify the affected anagen hairs.

One of the main disadvantages of electrolysis is the duration and the number of treatments needed to obtain a satisfactory and permanent resolution of the excess hair growth problem, at any particular body site. Normally operators can remove only 25 to 100 hairs in one session and individual treatments take any where between 15 minutes to one hour. The discomfort caused by electrolysis is another disadvantage which can be significantly reduced by using a topical anesthetic cream, one hour before treatment. But despite such reduction of discomfort, the treatment remains unsuitable for children.

Hair re-growth to the extent of 15% to 50% has been observed after electrolysis. There are several reasons for this. Since electrolysis uses a sophisticated machine the success rate depends on the operator and varies with the individual operator’s skill. These operators are usually non-medical personnel and the training they undergo varies from place to place.

The current parameters like amount of current, pulse and frequency vary between electrolysis machines, as do the length, diameter, insulation and flexibility of the probes, thereby affecting extent of insertion. Faulty insertion will affect hair destruction. On observation it has been seen that part of the re-grown hair consists of untreated telogen hairs. In case of hirsutism, a faulty set up could result in the transformation of fine vellus hairs into terminal hairs under continuous androgen stimulation. Also telogen hairs are less likely to respond satisfactorily to electrolysis treatment, for reasons as yet unknown.

Generally there is still a lack of standardization of machines, treatment procedures and personnel training. Electrolysis has been found to be most suitable for localized coarse hair growth such as nevoid hypertrichosis.

The side effects of electrolysis include superficial scarring, hyperpigmentation, hypopimentation and local infections.