Do you want a safe and easy hair removal solution? You need electrolysis. Unwanted hair is no longer a problem. With electrolysis, anyone can remove unwanted hairs over a series of treatments. The process involves a trained electrologist inserting a thin wire into the hair follicles below the skin’s surface. An electrical current passes down the wire to the follicle, destroying the hair root. Because the hair root itself is dead, the hair can be removed with tweezers.
However, with multiple different types of electrolysis treatments available, which one is right for you? In this guide, we’ll discuss the different types of electrolysis treatments – looking at the pros and cons of each.
Find out more below.
Three types of electrolysis treatments
Electrolysis is one of the oldest forms of hair removal – aside from tweezers and waxing. It was discovered by ophthalmologist Charles E. Michel in the 1800s to remove excess lashes. The earliest forms of electrolysis involved the use of galvanic current, earning this type of electrolysis treatment the name galvanic electrolysis.
Since then, however, advances in science and technology have led to two additional treatments: short wave diathermy (SWD) and blend electrolysis.
Let’s go through each one.
Like all types of electrolysis treatment, galvanic electrolysis is a permanent hair removal process. It works, as discussed, by inserting a needle probe into the hair follicle. The electrologist then carefully passes an electrical current down the probe. Once in direct contact with a saltwater solution contained in the hair follicle, the electrical current causes a chemical reaction, producing sodium hydroxide, hydrogen gas, and chlorine gas. The former is corrosive and destroys the hair follicle permanently.
Multiple treatments are needed to ensure all hair follicles are destroyed. Because hair goes into a dormancy phase, not all the hair follicles will be visible during each session. However, noticeable and permanent hair loss will be visible as the sessions go by.
Galvanic electrolysis is one of the most effective forms of electrolysis, able to remove even the strongest, coarsest hair. It’ll also help remove distorted follicles, where the lye is fluid, flowing into the follicle’s base. That’s because the current is attracted to the area with the greatest moisture. It therefore always targets the hair root (or dermal papilla), meaning less re-growth.
Despite being amongst the most effective hair removal treatments, it’s also one of the slowest and most painful methods. Because eradicating the follicle takes time, the needle probe needs to remain in place for longer. This also increases the risk of adjacent skin damage.
Galvanic electrolysis is also less effective for fine vellus hair. Here the hair root is shallower and contains less moisture – insulating the dermal papilla from the probe.
Short Wave Diathermy
Short wave diathermy, also called ‘thermolysis‘ or ‘high-frequency electrolysis‘, uses an alternating current to heat the area and water surrounding the hair follicle. It was developed in the 1940s – after AC/DC current became more common.
The high level of heat doesn’t destroy the dermal papilla itself. Instead, it eliminates the papillary tissue around the follicle, depriving it of a blood supply.
Short wave diathermy is considered the quickest type of electrolysis treatment. Because it involves coagulation, not cauterization, it causes minor damage to the surrounding tissue. This speed makes it an attractive option for many people hoping for instant (or rapid) hair removal.
The downside of SWD’s speed is its effectiveness. Many people – including industry experts – believe SWD is less permanent, or rather, requires significantly more treatments to become permanent. However, it is less painful than galvanic methods and is often preferred.
SWD is also unsuitable for distorted and curved follicle removal because the heat effect doesn’t cover sufficient width.
Finally, blend electrolysis was created to combine the prior two types of electrolysis treatment. Or put another way, it’s claimed it has the efficacy of galvanic electrolysis with the speed of thermolysis. It sends alternating current and direct current through a needle into the hair follicle.
Professional electrologists often favor blend electrolysis.
Blend electrolysis is quicker than the galvanic method but slower than SWD. It is more comfortable than either method, however. Moreover, it’s often seen as more efficient and can be used to treat curved follicles – something impossible with SWD.
Because of its increased effectiveness, fewer treatments are needed, and less re-growth is seen compared to SWD.
Blend typically takes longer than SWD because currents are generally lower. But, as it is more comfortable, many clients prefer to opt for this treatment.
In addition, despite a consensus on blend’s effectiveness, some electrologists question the underlying mechanism. They argue that the method is insufficient to damage the hair follicles entirely, meaning hair will re-grow. Nevertheless, most electrologists recommend blend as an effective, safe, and reliable treatment – though other methods remain in use.
None of the types of electrolysis treatments is perfect. Galvanic electrolysis is old-school. It is guaranteed to destroy the hair follicle but takes longer and can cause adjacent damage. SWD or short-wave diathermy is less uncomfortable but takes longer and may be less effective. Finally, blend electrolysis combines the two prior methods. It is, therefore, in the “goldilocks” zone – neither as effective as galvanic methods nor as comfortable as SWD.
Which treatment you choose will depend on the area of hair removal. Speak to your electrologist to discuss your options. However, you may find it harder to find electrologists proficient with some of the other methods as newer methods become available. For more information about the hair removal process & a consultation regarding it, contact Alite Laser today.