Electrolysis vs Laser Hair Removal. These two have been battling it out for years, but which one is better? And which one can you do at home?
At home laser hair removal is very sought after due to the convenience and keeping one’s costs down. But is doing the procedure at home really the best laser hair removal technique? And is it better than electrolysis?
Electrolysis is certified by the FDA (Food and Drug Association) as a permanent hair removal method.
Laser hair removal is considered to be a permanent hair reduction method – it causes unwanted hair to thin out, but the procedure needs to be periodically repeated.
Traditional hair removal methods such as waxing and shaving are time-consuming. They can easily cause skin irritation, or even cause serious complications such as ingrown hair, which may need surgical treatment.
Facial hair cannot always be regulated with traditional methods – it can grow back enough to be noticeable within a couple of hours. Even on areas such as legs or armpits, some people aren’t able to use these methods regularly, because of hypersensitive skin, time constraints, or mobility issues.
Read more to find out the benefits of each hair removal technique and which one is best for you!
Quick Pros and Cons of Both
(Electrolysis Vs Laser Hair Removal)
Laser hair removal uses light to damage the follicle. Today’s methods use either laser or intense, complex light.
This treatment needs to be repeated periodically, though some people use it just to thin hair out in specific areas.
The best hair removal method is different for everybody. It is worth taking the time to consider every option, both permanent and temporary.
Both electrolysis and laser hair removal can be a good way to help you achieve a look you will be satisfied with. These methods can save you a lot of time and stress.
Both methods are particularly recommended for anyone with excessive hair growth (hirsutism), which is caused by hormone conditions. Hormone issues can be hereditary, or they can be the result of an illness such as PCOS. They might be caused by menopause. Some hormone disorders are a side-effect of medical treatments.
Electrolysis or laser hair removal can also mitigate the effect of HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Both methods are entirely safe to use even during hormone treatment.
Some people choose to go for permanent hair removal even though they do not have excess hair growth. This way, skin smoothness is easier to maintain long-term, and you can avoid some serious complications.
But choosing the right solution takes some consideration.
Electrolysis vs laser hair removal is a tough decision. Some people may decide that the effort and cost are not worth it, and they will look for the best temporary hair removal option instead.
Electrolysis uses an electric current to kill the hair growth cells in the follicle. This is a permanent solution for hair removal. If the treatment plan is followed carefully, there is no chance of hair growing back in the treated area.
Hair removal is achieved by inserting a probe into the follicle of the hair. This probe is usually the width of the hair, and it features a dull end. A cosmetologist can choose between a one-piece or a two-piece probe—depending on their personal preference.
For the procedure to be successful, the probe shouldn’t penetrate the walls of the follicle.
Once the probe is inserted, a low-level electrical current is sent into the follicle for up to 30 seconds.
There are three types of electrolysis treatments, depending on the modality of the current use:
Quick Pros and Cons
Here, a longer-wave current is used to cause a chemical reaction. The current creates sodium hydroxide out of the water and salt contained in the follicle. The sodium hydroxide (lye) kills the cells responsible for hair growth, working from the inside of the follicle.
Galvanic electrolysis takes the longest of the three methods, and it is not recommended for people with medical conditions.
Unlike galvanic electrolysis, which uses a chemical reaction to achieve results, thermolysis uses heat to destroy hair growth cells. Thermolysis is faster, which makes it the safer method to use.
The heat comes from a short-wave, low-intensity current, and it takes less toll on the body. During pregnancy, thermolysis is the safest choice.
The Blend Method
This is a combination of thermolysis and galvanic electrolysis. The chemical reaction necessary to kill hair growth cells is easier to achieve in the presence of heat, and heat serves as an additional catalyst. Like galvanic electrolysis, this method might not be safe for some users.
All three methods are considered unsafe for people with pacemakers. If you have any reoccurring or chronic health issues, you should inform your cosmetologist. In most cases, a treatment plan will still be possible.
Probes are made from stainless steel or gold, or they can be insulated. Stainless steel probes are great for general use, but when allergies are present, gold is a better choice. Insulated probes are used for thermolysis because they protect the skin from heat damage.
After the chemical or thermal reaction happens in the follicle, the hair is removed with tweezers. Because hair growth cells are completely destroyed, no hair will grow back from that follicle.
Following this procedure, the treated skin will usually show signs of irritation and needs to be treated with prescribed gels. Some cosmetologists also recommend using ice.
The procedure takes quite some time since the probe has to be inserted into every follicle individually. This increases the discomfort for many people. If staying still during a painful procedure is a problem for you, electrolysis might not be the best hair removal solution for you.
Some cosmetologists prescribe using topical painkillers such as gels when using electrolysis, or they may recommend pain pills. This is a good solution, but it can cause problems of its own; some people are sensitive to painkillers or allergic to some common types.
How Many Treatments Does Electrolysis Take?
Once a follicle is treated, it no longer needs any attention. But because every single follicle needs to be found, the same area needs to be treated several times. The length of a session and the number of sessions both depend on the density of hair and the size of the area being treated.
Because this procedure irritates the skin, sessions are scheduled at least two weeks apart. Some people can be finished with electrolysis within a month or two, others take a year or two to complete their treatment plan.
Most people need to use temporary hair removal methods in-between sessions. Any traditional method can be safe to use, except for laser hair removal, but it is best to double-check with your cosmetologist.
Permanent Hair Removal at Home
Electrolysis is a permanent at home hair removal option. Although at home electrolysis is riskier than going to get it done by a professional, there are various machines you can purchase online.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Advantages of Electrolysis
- Apart from the insides of the ears and nose, any area of the skin, including the face, breasts and the genital area can be treated with electrolysis
- Any skin. Electrolysis works on any skin tone or skin type. It can be used on tattooed skin. It’s not safe for removing hair from moles, but it can be done on skin with patches of discoloration, as cosmetologists choose the hairs individually, and they can take care to avoid any unsafe areas
- Any type of hair. Electrolysis can handle both dark, thick hair and shallow, vellus hair. It is the best hair removal method for people whose hair is graying, or blond or red. Most other methods can’t be used for removing thin, surface hair
- 100% effective
Disadvantages of Electrolysis
- Scarring and keloids: This treatment causes skin irritation and may lead to scarring.
Keloids are raised patches of fibrous tissue. They develop overhealing scars and are caused by too much collagen. They are itchy and sensitive, and may continue to grow.
While keloids are not dangerous, they can cause significant discomfort, and they are very noticeable (they can be any shade from light pink to very dark).
The tendency to develop keloids is hereditary. If there is a risk of this happening to you, cosmetologists may need to alter your treatment plan for electrolysis.
This is why some cosmetologists will check whether the person they are treating has any vaccination scars, or scarring caused by piercings.
Darker-skinned people are particularly prone to developing keloids, so they might prefer to look for cosmetologists who have experience with dark skin tones.
Apart from this, there is no difference between using electrolysis on dark or light skin
- Pain: Electrolysis is considered by many to be the most painful hair removal method available. It does not affect everyone equally, but some have compared it to getting a tattoo. Home electrolysis can be even more painful if you don't know what you are doing.
- Cost: This is the most expensive way of removing hair, and a full treatment may cost over $1,000. It is also a significant time commitment. In some places, especially rural areas, it may be a challenge to find the right professional to administer the procedure.
Laser Hair Removal
Unlike electrolysis, which treats individual hairs one at a time, laser hair removal covers entire areas of the body.
This procedure is done with a small hand-held device—it can look similar to an electric shaver or a hair-drier. The device uses sensors to find dark hair on light or medium skin, and then sends a beam of intense light to the located spot. This damages the follicles and inhibits the growth of the hair.
Laser hair removal is done on clear, lotion-free skin. The hair needs to be shaved down, but kept a millimeter or two long, at least. Freshly waxed skin cannot activate laser hair removal devices, but hair that is too long may cause injury.
Some devices use a laser, which is more focused and more powerful. Others use IPL – Intense Pulsed Light (also called Variable Pulsated Light or VPL). Both procedure types are often just called laser heat removal.
Quick Pros and Cons
Main differences between laser-based and IPL devices:
- While laser-based devices use a single wavelength, IPL devices use a spectrum of light. This means that laser is easier to set to a specific wavelength. As a result, the settings here can be more precise, and are suitable for wider variety of skin tones
- Laser-based devices are more effective. The beam is more targeted, going straight for the root of the hair, instead of the surrounding area. IPL may cause burns on medium-dark skin, if the wider beam of light gets absorbed by the melanin
- Laser causes less irritation to the skin
- Laser is better for removing strong, thick hairs
- IPL is considerably cheaper
- IPL is a better choice for home use. Incorrect use causes less damage
It is very important to note that both methods are unsafe to use on dark skin. They also cannot be used on areas with tattoos or dark discoloration. Both the laser and the IPL beams are drawn to the melanin of your hair—but they can go for the melanin in skin too, and that is how injuries happen.
Most devices are used with a cooling gel to protect skin from heating up too much.
Even when performed correctly, laser hair removal can be uncomfortable. Sometimes, topical pain-killers are a good choice.
After treatment, you may experience skin irritation and swelling. This shouldn’t last for longer than a couple of hours. Icing the area can be a good idea.
Specialists recommend staying out of the sun after laser hair removal for at least a week. Depending on how your skin reacted to the treatment, you may be advised to avoid direct sunlight for a longer period. Using sun lotion between treatments is a good idea. If you are planning to work on a tan, definitely consult your specialist.
Because the hair must be in the right phase of growth, laser hair removal needs to be repeated several times in the same area. Although some thinning of hair is noticeable after a single session, it is highly recommended to follow the treatment plan prescribed by the specialist.
If you need to remove hair between laser treatments, shaving is your best choice. Strong, visible follicles are necessary for this method to work, so waxing can cause problems—it thins the follicles. Laser hair removal should absolutely never be combined with electrolysis.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Advantages of Laser Hair Removal
- Much faster than electrolysis. It is possible to cover the whole back in a few hours. With electrolysis, this would take many sessions
- Less painful than electrolysis. Some people find it even less painful than waxing
- No medical risk from currents. As this method uses light rather than electricity, people with heart issues are more likely to be able to use it safely
- At-home options. A lot of people dislike the hassle of regular sessions with a specialist and prefer to do at home laser hair removal.
Disadvantages of Laser Hair Removal
- There needs to be a contrast between hair and skin. Laser hair removal does not work for dark-skinned people and can even cause injury. In addition, it’s ineffective with blond, red or graying hair. Nor can it be used to remove thin, vellus hair. It is not a good option for teenagers either
- A risk of discoloration. Laser hair removal can cause pigment changes in the treated area. This is almost always temporary, but if it happens, it is important to switch to a different setting
- Scarring and keloids are a potential problem here too
How Much Does Laser Hair Removal Cost?
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost for laser hair removal in the US was $306 in 2016. It is a considerably more affordable method of hair removal than electrolysis.
Laser hair removal cost depends on several things. The most important factor is the size of the area you want to treat. The number of necessary treatments is worth considering as well.
We highly recommend doing some research before you agree to this method of hair removal. Make sure that the professional you are working with is using appropriate safety equipment—protective glasses for them and for you.
There is some slight risk of injury if the devices used aren’t entirely clean.
Some laser hair removal procedures are offered by cosmetologists or plastic surgeons, while others are done by technicians under the supervision of a doctor. There is a significant difference between the cost of the equipment used—devices that use IPL are cheaper and less effective.
Accordingly, there is a massive difference in prices between laser hair removal options.
Most health insurance plans don’t cover this procedure, but it is worth looking into in-house patient financing plans, offered by many dermatology clinics and cosmetic surgery centers.
As a long-term solution for unwanted hair, laser hair removal costs can be lower than the sum cost of traditional methods, which need to be repeated weekly or daily.
For some people, buying an affordable home device is a better choice.
If you are looking for permanent hair removal at home make sure to look into home electrolysis. There are various machines you can purchase online to make this possible.
At Home Laser Hair Removal
At home hair removal is a safe alternative if you don't want to pay a professional. The most important rule is to avoid going over the same area twice.
If you are a beginner, marking a grid on the area you plan to treat is a good idea.
When deciding which product to get make sure you take in consideration the cost, lamp life, ease of use, and effectiveness.
Most at home laser hair removal devices are portable—you can easily fit them in your travel bag. If portability isn’t important to you, it might be better to go for a device with a power cord.
Most at home kits are going to run you anywhere from $99 - $499. Most laser hair removal devices available at a low price do not come with a warranty, and it is difficult to get them repaired as well.
The lamp life of an at home laser hair removal kit can range from 5,000 to 65,000 flashes at the top end. If you are planning to cover large areas, a high lamp life is important.
Ease of Use
Most kits are fairly easy to use. Read the instructions and you should be fine.
Just because a kit is more expensive than another doesn't necessarily mean it is more effective. Make sure to read the reviews. Some products deliver results faster, but come with quicker hair regrowth.
Best Laser Hair Removal Devices
Bosidin IPL Hair Removal System
Here is an affordable product that achieves great results within 2 months of use.
With this device, five treatment levels are available. Keeping to low levels is a good way to avoid skin irritation. The device uses three filters. Once the UV light gets filtered out entirely, there are fewer side-effects or potential for swelling and redness in the treated area.
300,000 flashes is a relatively long lamp life. This means you will be able to use this device for a long time, even if you use it to treat large areas.
It is recommended to use this device once every two or three weeks, for the first 3-5 treatments. After that, repeat it monthly at least five more times. Regular re-touching will be necessary once the treatment is over.
- This device has a wider than average treatment area. This means the device head covers a relatively large patch of your skin (over 5 cm2), so you’ll be done quicker with your treatment, and there’s less risk of going over the same area twice
- This device comes with a photo-rejuvenation attachment, which uses yellow light to soothe irritated or delicate skin. If you want a full skin treatment experience at home, this is a great option for you
- There is also a free adapter, for international use, as well as a detailed set of instructions and safety glasses
- This hair removal system works slowly, compared to similar products. You need eight weeks of regular use to notice any results.
- If you use this device on the highest power setting, it can easily cause burns, even if you follow every instruction to the letter.
- After complete smoothness is achieved, you only get a month or two before re-touching is required.
CosBeauty IPL Permanent Hair Removal
At a somewhat higher price, this product guarantees quality and endurance. It is particularly simple to use.
This epilator is FDA-certified, which guarantees quality and safety. If you go for this product, you get a lamp life of 200,000 flashes, and a design that won’t easily break down.
The first results are noticeable after 3 months, and considerable results can be seen after 4-6 months. While it is necessary to repeat the procedure periodically, the CosBeauty Epilator guarantees smoothness for a year.
With this device, you get five levels of intensity. Low levels are recommended for the first few treatments, but later, a higher level can be used on coarser hair, making this device even faster and more effective.
During the first two months of treatment, it is recommended to use this epilator once every two weeks. After that, monthly use is sufficient. Six to ten treatments are enough to achieve permanent smoothness. You will only need to reapply this epilator occasionally, when you notice some regrowth in the cleared area.
- A very high flash rate per minute, combined with the possibility of switching between intensity levels, means that this epilator will treat large areas of the body very quickly. Eight minutes can be enough to clear a leg
- The CosBeauty epilator comes with both a skin contact sensor and a skin tone sensor. When it comes into contact with skin, this device emits a warning signal. Since it can be dangerous to use laser hair removal on dark skin, this epilator scans your skin tone first, and it only starts if there is no risk of injury
- Because it’s shaped like a hair-drier, it’s easy to use on any part of the body
- This device comes with very clear instructions and a pair of free safety glasses
- The CosBeauty epilator is not the most affordable option on the market. If you only want to treat a small area, you might prefer a lower price range
- Although this epilator delivers very reliable results, it takes some time to achieve smoothness
- 200,000 flashes is a shorter lamp life than what some products in the same price range feature. However, this might not be a problem even for long-term use, since using the CosBeauty epilator means that you won’t need to repeat the hair removal procedure very often
DEESS Permanent Hair Removal Beauty Device
In a similar price bracket as the Pro Light Based Face and Body IPL Hair Removal device, this DEESS product is particularly good for fast hair removal. If you want to achieve smoothness on a tight schedule and want to do it at home, this could be the best hair removal method for you.
Five treatments are necessary before noticeable results emerge. DEESS promises that nine or ten treatments are enough to get rid of 90% of treated hair.
This product delivers 350,000 IPL flashes, and comes with a 20-year lifespan. However, it does not come with a warranty.
Weekly treatments are recommended for the first month. After around ten treatments, you will go two or three months without needing to re-apply this product.
- Since the IPL is not particularly intense, this device is almost painless to use and is unlikely to cause skin irritation
- You don’t need to use cooling gel with this device.
- Free safety glasses are included.
- It comes with a 50Hz/60Hz adapter, so you can use it anywhere in the world
- For extra safety, there is a skin contact recognition system, which alerts you if you accidentally pressed it on the surface of your skin
- Disappointingly, no skin tone sensor is built into this product. This means users need to be extra careful and follow the included chart
- Since the instruction manual is not very clear, we recommend looking up instruction videos online
- This device can be irritating to use, as it frequently needs to be switched on and off, in response to the flashing signal
- Short-circuiting is a frequent problem. Warranty is not included with this product, so you may just end up investing in something that doesn’t work at all
- There are more powerful and more reliable IPL hair removal devices out there. Some buyers have mentioned that their DEESS device does not work on strong, thick hair. It might be best to only go for this product if you want lighter hair removal, such as upper lip hair removal.
Alternatives For At Home Hair Removal
Sometimes, it is possible to treat excessive hair growth by using prescription hormone medication, such as birth control pills.
Upsides to using this method
You can go to the root of the problem. This is particularly a good choice if your hair growth is the side-effect of medication, etc. or if it is a consequence of menopause.
Hormone treatment can be taxing for the body in other ways. It can have unwanted side effects. For a sophisticated hormone treatment plan, it is not always easy or cheap to find the right specialist. Insurance may or may not cover this treatment.
It may require an extended period to work, and it will do nothing to slow down hair growth that isn’t caused by hormone issues. For people who are using medication, hormone treatments can be dangerous or impossible to use.
Over-the-counter creams, gels and lotions
These can be the best hair removal method for anyone who wants a completely painless experience.
After they are applied to the area with unwanted hair, these creams dissolve the proteins in the hair. Once it has partially dissolved, the hair is simply washed or scrubbed away.
This method is good for most hair types. Special depilatory creams are available for use on the face.
Upsides to using this method
You can cover large areas very quickly. If done correctly, this hair removal method is painless.
This is a very short-term solution. It can cause severe reactions, which is why it’s important to test every product before use, and to wash it away in time, according to the instructions. The dissolution of hair comes with a strong, unpleasant odor.
This method covers most hair types. The effects last a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
Prescription creams for slowing hair growth
These do not remove hair at all, but they slow down its growth. This method is only recommended in combination with other methods, such as shaving or waxing. It is also frequently recommended for use between laser hair removal sessions.
Waxing or sugaring
Wax or heated sugar is spread over the unwanted hair. Then it is either peeled off when it dries (in the case of sugaring and “hot wax”), or covered with cloth strips and then peeled off (in the case of “cold wax”).
This procedure can be done at home, or by licensed professionals. It won’t work on freshly shaved hair. ¼ inches is the ideal length for waxing. Sugaring is considered by some to be less likely to irritate the skin.
Upsides to using this method
This method is suitable for use anywhere on the body, including the face. Waxing usually weakens the follicle of the hair, which hinders re-growth, and it is relatively quick and efficient.
There is a major risk of infection and long-term complications such as in-grown hair. If the sugar or hot wax aren’t applied by professionals, there is a considerable chance of burns.
Smoothness should last 3-6 weeks, which makes this the longest-lasting temporary hair removal option.
Shaving and tweezing
Shaving does nothing to alter the root of the follicle, but instead cuts the hair down to nearly the surface of the skin. Both electric shavers and razors can be a good choice, if you do not mind repeating the procedure frequently. Tweezing means removing hairs from the follicle, one by one.
Any area on the body can be shaved, but a shaved beard grows back in a few hours. Tweezing is usually only used for eyebrows, chin hair, etc. It’s absolutely not suitable for larger areas. Shaving is usually done at home, while tweezing can be done at home or by professionals.
Both options are very affordable and straightforward. If done correctly, tweezing has a fairly long-lasting effect.
High risk of ingrown hairs, and both methods can also be tedious.
Tweezing should last 3-8 weeks if the hairs are successfully removed. You only get 1-3 days of smoothness from shaving or even less than that.
You might be tired of using traditional, temporary hair removal methods, or maybe they aren’t effective enough for your needs. It can be a huge relief to find a good permanent solution to the issue of unwanted body hair.
Electrolysis is a way to permanently remove hair from your body. It uses electricity to cause a heat or chemical reaction in the follicle of the unwanted hair. Because it kills the hair growth cells, the treated hair will never grow back.
Apart from a small number of medical conditions, anyone can use electrolysis, anywhere on the body. There are no major risks, so long as it is done by a professional cosmetologist. This is a painful procedure and comes with swollen skin.
Some electrolysis treatment plans may last years, and they can be too expensive for some people.
Laser hair removal does not kill hair growth cells, but it damages the follicle and slows or stops the growth of the hair. This method may use an actual laser, or it may use IPL—a focused beam of light—to locate and heat up the hair. Although laser hair removal needs to be repeated from time to time, it delivers a long-lasting effect.
A major downside of this method is that people with light hair or dark skin cannot use it. If you have the right skin tone for it, it is a fairly safe procedure, and it is less painful than electrolysis. Skin irritation is a concern with this method, too.
If you want the quicker option, you should go for laser hair removal. Cost is another upside: it is much less pricey than electrolysis.
Some people like the option of doing laser hair removal at home. They can choose between a variety of devices, some of them very affordable.
Once you have chosen the best option for you, permanent hair reduction and removal can help you to find a more comfortable and more confident self. Most people who have used these methods consider them a good investment.