An interview with Dallas Electrolysis Clinic associate, Dan Wallace:
Frequently Asked Questions
Electrolysis and laser hair removal are both sought-after methods for removing unwanted hair, each with its unique processes and advantages.
Electrolysis involves the insertion of a small probe into each hair follicle, where an electric current is then applied to destroy the hair growth cells. This technique is effective on all hair types and colors; the skin type doesn’t affect its success. As electrolysis works beneath the skin surface, there’s no risk of damaging the skin, making it an excellent choice for precise work, such as shaping eyebrows or beard lines.
On the other hand, laser hair removal uses a medical laser to deliver heat to the skin’s surface, which then travels down the hair shaft, inhibiting its ability to grow hair. This process is especially efficient for treating larger areas quickly. However, the effectiveness of laser hair removal can vary depending on hair color and skin type. For instance, it’s typically less effective on light-colored hair, such as blonde or gray.
It’s not uncommon for both methods to be used in conjunction. Depending on individual hair and skin types, one might begin with laser hair removal for extensive areas and then follow up with electrolysis for any remaining hair or more detailed work. For example, a person with gray hair, which is often less receptive to laser treatment, would see significant benefits from electrolysis.
The most effective approach is personalized, based on individual needs and professional consultation.
Electrolysis is considered a permanent hair removal solution because it directly targets and destroys the dermal papilla – the primary source of a hair’s nourishment. Without access to these nutrients, hair growth is effectively halted.
While the base of the hair is often referred to as the ‘root,’ electrologists usually refer to it as the ‘base’ or ‘matrix.’ The base of the hair sits on top of the dermal papilla, a group of cells providing necessary nutrients for hair growth.
During electrolysis, a probe is carefully inserted down to the base of the hair. An electric current is then applied, damaging the dermal papilla. Once the dermal papilla is destroyed, the specific hair it was nourishing cannot grow back, making electrolysis a lasting solution for hair removal.
If electrolysis is performed effectively, the treated hair doesn’t regrow. However, you might observe new hair growth from other follicles in the area. This could happen for two reasons:
Firstly, the transition of vellus hair (commonly called ‘peach fuzz’) to adult hair can cause new growth. Secondly, neighboring hair may exit its resting or dormant stage, leading to the emergence of new hair. It’s important to remember that not all hair follicles are active at the same time.
You can differentiate between new growth and regrowth by examining the tip of the hair. New growth tapers to a tip, while regrowth has a blunt end.
In our early years, most body hair is light, vellus hair. The darker, adult-type hair, or terminal hair, is mainly found on our scalps, eyebrows, and eyelashes in childhood.
During puberty, hormonal changes, particularly the increase in testosterone, can cause some vellus hair to convert to terminal hair. This is visible when we grow hair in our underarms, legs, faces (for men), and other regions.
However, only the vellus hair most sensitive to testosterone converts during our teenage years. As we age, vellus hair may transition to terminal hair due to long-term hormone exposure. This is why men often develop ear hair as they age, and women may notice facial hair growth.
At Dallas Electrolysis, we utilize Apilus Epilators produced by Dectro.
Since 1978 Dectro International designs and manufactures specialized devices intended for the global market of permanent hair removal and aesthetic care. Its thorough understanding of modern techniques and its command of leading-edge technologies have enabled Dectro International to break new ground in the application of electrolysis and aesthetic care treatments.
Dectro International is now recognized as a leader in its field and distributes all of its products in more than 35 countries worldwide.
Hair growth isn’t a constant process but occurs in a cycle with three distinct stages: anagen, catagen, and telogen. Not all hair follicles are active simultaneously, and therefore not all produce hair at any given moment.
The anagen stage is the active growth phase, during which the hair follicle is deepest and rests on the dermal papilla. During this phase, hair can be effectively treated, and the dermal papilla can be destroyed through processes like electrolysis.
Following the anagen stage is the catagen phase, a transitional period where the hair grows as it consumes stored resources at the base. However, during this stage, the base starts to detach from the dermal papilla, cutting off the hair’s nutrient source, and the hair follicle begins to shorten.
The final phase is the telogen stage, a resting period during which the hair often falls out and the follicle becomes less apparent. Hair cannot be treated during this stage as the follicle is inactive. The duration of the telogen stage varies across different body areas, but eventually, the follicle reenters the anagen stage, beginning the cycle anew and producing hair again.
Approximately 70% to 80% of the hair follicles on your scalp are in the anagen stage, actively growing hair, while 20% to 30% are in the catagen or telogen stages. However, for your eyebrows, only about 15% to 20% of follicles are in the anagen stage, with 80% to 85% in the resting phase. These ratios can vary across different body areas.
While undergoing electrolysis, clients typically experience a sensation, but its intensity varies among individuals and the specific area being treated. Many clients feel less uncomfortable than with other hair removal methods like tweezing, waxing, or laser treatment. In fact, some clients find the process so comfortable that they fall asleep during their session.
Several factors can influence the level of discomfort during electrolysis. These include:
Pain tolerance: This varies from person to person. While some individuals have a high pain threshold, others might find the same sensation more painful.
Treatment area: The sensitivity to pain can differ depending on the area of the body being treated. For instance, a man’s shoulders are typically less sensitive, while a woman’s upper lip tends to be the most sensitive. Fingers and toes are generally sensitive areas, whereas the chin area is much less so.
Other factors: The type of electrolysis modality used, whether the client has exercised recently, and if the client has consumed alcohol recently can also impact the sensation experienced during treatment.
To help manage discomfort, topical anesthetics can temporarily reduce the sensation. Over-the-counter options usually contain 5% lidocaine, but stronger creams can be obtained with a prescription. These creams are generally applied 45 to 60 minutes before treatment, but always read the directions and use them carefully.
Interestingly, many clients find that their tolerance to the treatment increases after a few sessions. This might be due to the body’s production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers. By the third or fourth session, many clients often notice that the discomfort from the treatment seems to lessen. This may be due to the body’s production of endorphins, natural chemicals that can act as painkillers, becoming more effective in response to the electrolysis treatment.
In the short-term, electrolysis disrupts the cells at the base of the hair, including the dermal papilla, which can cause a reaction known as edema. Edema is the release of fluid under the skin, which results in a small, mosquito bite-like bump on the skin’s surface. This is often accompanied by some degree of redness. Typically, these symptoms fade within 30 minutes to an hour after treatment. If they persist longer, it’s important to inform your electrologist, as they may need to adjust their treatment settings or change the type of probe used. Everyone’s skin responds differently, and some people may be more sensitive to treatment.
Long-term side effects are virtually nonexistent with electrolysis, given the treatment occurs beneath the skin’s surface. Therefore, there should be no lasting skin damage, such as weeping from the follicles or scabbing post-treatment. Always remember successful and safe electrolysis relies on the expertise of the practitioner and clear communication about any reactions or concerns you might have.
Society has distinct views about body hair, which change over time. These views influence how people groom themselves. For example, we may evaluate someone’s cleanliness and appearance based on their hair maintenance.
Historically, women have often shaped their eyebrows, removed facial hair, and shaved their underarms and legs. Electrolysis offers a permanent way to manage these areas.
Today, grooming is no longer seen as a feminine pursuit, and men from all walks of life, including professional athletes, CEOs, and outdoor enthusiasts, are embracing it. Often, these clients are referred by their friends or coworkers, and although they may be nervous at first, they usually relax once they realize they are among other men seeking the same treatments.
Recently, grooming of intimate areas is becoming common for both men and women. Electrolysis is a less painful and permanent way to manage hair in these areas, helping individuals feel more confident.
The number of sessions and the overall cost can vary significantly depending on several factors. These include:
- The desired result: Some people may want to remove all hair, while others might only want to get rid of darker, thicker hair.
- The density of hair follicles: One person might have 15 hair follicles per square inch needing treatment, while another might have 50.
- The person’s pain tolerance: This can affect the type of treatment used.
- The specific body area: Certain areas may respond to treatment faster than others due to hair follicle depth.
Because of this variation, it’s challenging to generalize the number of sessions or costs based on broad estimates. After conducting two or three sessions, we can provide a more informed assessment of the time and cost involved for each client.
The ultimate goal is to reach a ‘maintenance mode’ where only occasional visits are needed to manage new hair growth.
Electrolysis practitioners typically receive their training in two primary ways: through specialized electrolysis schools or a master/apprentice model.
Electrolysis schools offer structured courses, where once completed, the student is eligible to take a certification examination. These schools provide diverse curriculum lengths, and even online options are available.
Alternatively, in the apprenticeship program, aspiring practitioners train under the guidance of a certified electrologist. They must fulfill rigorous study and training requirements set by the organizations that administer certification examinations. This includes specified study materials and a required length of training time. Once these requirements are met, the apprentice can apply to take the certification exam.
Mastering the skill of electrolysis is often more challenging than initially anticipated. Regardless of the chosen training method, aspiring electrologists should be ready to dedicate considerable time and effort to intensive study and practice.
For more information, please check out these websites:
www.electrology.com American Electrology Association (Electrolysis only)
www.scmhr.org Society for Clinical and Medical Hair Removal (Electrolysis and Laser)
Choosing a reputable electrolysis professional involves several steps. A referral from someone pleased with their electrologist is an excellent start. If that’s not an option, scheduling a consultation with a potential electrologist can be helpful.
During the consultation, you should be prepared to both listen and ask questions. Here’s what a good electrolysis consultation should include:
Understanding Electrolysis: The professional should clearly explain what electrolysis is and how it works. This might include visual aids or diagrams of hair follicles. You need to understand the process.
Sensation and Anesthetics: The electrologist should discuss what you may feel during treatment, including discussions on topical skin anesthetics if necessary.
After Effects and Post-treatment Care: The professional should review possible after-effects of the treatment and provide instructions for post-treatment care.
Sterilization and Sanitation: An explanation of the office’s sterilization and sanitation practices should be given. This is crucial to ensure your safety. For instance, current standards require the use of pre-sterilized, single-use, disposable probes.
Training, Certification, and Experience: The professional should discuss their training, certification, and experience to demonstrate their competence.
Sample Treatment: A good electrologist will offer a sample treatment. This lets you experience the treatment firsthand and allows the professional to determine the correct treatment settings.
After treatment, there should be no fluids weeping from the hair follicles or scabbing. If these occur, it might indicate that the professional is not performing the procedure correctly.