Laser hair removal and electrolysis are the two most effective, widely used methods for lasting hair removal. With endless resources, treatment options, and "expert opinions" now at our fingertips, it can be difficult for patients to decide which treatment route is best for them, and for practitioners to determine what hair removal technology they want in their clinics.
Within this article, we'll dive deeper into each hair removal treatment and shed some light on which technique may be best for you, as a patient or practitioner.
Electrolysis is the method of using electricity to damage and destroy hair follicles, and has been around for over a century (yes, over a century). This first account of using electricity to remove hair occurred in 1875 while treating ingrown eyelashes (Charles Michel). Since then, electrolysis has grown to be a popular method of hair removal. According to the FDA, electrolysis is the only permanent hair removal method, and this is due to the unique way in which electricity can remove hair. While laser hair removal targets the melanin in the hair shaft to deliver energy to the follicle, electrolysis can directly target the hair follicle and papilla.
During a treatment, an electrologist inserts a tiny probe into the follicle without puncturing the surrounding skin. Once inserted, the probe delivers an electric current in the milliamperes range to the skin tissue. The electrical current irreparably damages the follicle, allowing the hair to come out of the follicle easily, and removes the ability of the follicle to produce hair in the future. Electrolysis is capable of eliminating white and blonde hair exceptionally effectively. In contrast, removing hair with minimal pigment can be increasingly difficult with laser hair removal, particularly when treating tanned skin.
The issue with electrolysis is simple: time. An electrologist must treat their patient one hair at a time during a session. Practitioners can destroy each follicle, but the treatment time is often an issue. Administering treatment to a larger area with electrolysis is extremely time-consuming, especially on popular areas such as the legs and back. While electrolysis is an effective way to remove a single hair, there are faster methods to treat large areas much more quickly.
About Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal is newer to the aesthetics scene, having existed for only the past few decades. In reality, "laser hair removal" is more of an industry-born term than a proper name for the treatment. According to the FDA, laser methods of treating hair are cleared for "permanent hair reduction," as opposed to outright removal.
At its roots, laser hair removal uses the physical properties of light to target and remove hair. Hair removal lasers target the melanin in the hair shafts that are in the actively growing, or "anagen" phase of cyclical hair growth. When the melanin in the hair shafts absorbs the laser energy, the energy then causes thermal damage to the underlying follicle and papilla, reducing its ability to produce hair in the future. For many patients, laser hair "reduction" treatments result in permanent removal. Others may experience hair that grows less frequently, less densely, thinner, or lighter in color. It's important to note that laser hair removal treatments deliver permanent results for many patients. However, if a patient experiences hormonal changes (pregnancy, menopause, chemotherapy, etc.) after their completed sessions, they may see new hair return to the treated areas. All of these aspects earn laser hair removal the name "permanent hair reduction."
The most significant advantage of laser hair removal is the ability to treat any area of skin very quickly. For example, the MeDioStar® diode laser has a 10 cm2 spot size, which targets every hair shaft in that treatment field, in a fraction of a second. Using the 10 cm2 spot size handpiece, practitioners can perform an entire back treatment in under five minutes. To keep up with the cyclical growth of hair, patients should return for a handful of follow-up treatments over several weeks to target each individual hair during its anagen phase.
Laser hair removal thrives on contrasting hair and skin pigmentation, therefore blonde hair is more difficult (but possible) to treat with a hair removal laser, using proper settings and wavelengths. Results may be more difficult to guarantee, but practitioners can ultimately treat visible hair with a laser system.
Deciding Your Treatment Route
If you're interested in treating a single hair, electrolysis might be your best option. A skilled practitioner can give fantastic results on those problematic hairs that are difficult to remove, whether they are blonde or white, are sticking out of a mole, or perhaps just a rogue hair coming out of the eyebrow over and over again. These one-off situations are where electrolysis thrives. However, many electrologists are expanding their services to include laser hair removal solutions. The speed of treatment over large areas makes it much easier to offer hair removal for legs, arms, backs, and chests in particular - all of which are highly popular, profitable treatment areas.
Technological advancements in recent years have resulted in faster, more efficient, and more comfortable hair removal procedures. Patients are increasingly seeking the most pain-free option to achieve the results they want - and they're less likely to put up with an uncomfortable treatment if a better option is available. Having the best laser hair removal technology in your clinic can go a long way in meeting / exceeding patient expectations and earning more business.
Practitioners and patients should view laser hair removal and electrolysis as two sides of the same coin. Overall, both procedures can effectively remove hair and improve a patient's confidence in their appearance. There are suitable applications for both methods, and a patient's needs should always determine the route to take. It’s exciting to observe an increasing trend in electrologists implementing laser hair removal in their clinics. The decision to offer both methods shows that the practitioner is putting their patients’ needs first by seeking out more opportunities to meet individual needs.
Learn More about the Future of Laser Hair Removal
If you're a practitioner, it's essential to understand your patient’s wants and needs to decide which technology or platform will give them their desired hair reduction and removal results. To learn more about the advantages and future of laser hair removal, hear from Dr. Jason Emer, a world-renowned dermatologist and dermatological surgeon based in West Hollywood, during an exclusive webinar. Dr. Emer, a leader in the aesthetics industry, discusses the future of laser hair removal and the effectiveness and power of the new MeDioStar® diode laser. This webinar was previously recorded and is free to view upon registration. Click here or below to watch now.