In recent years, the field of permanent hair removal has seen expansion and increased competition as consumers have had the option of electrolysis vs. laser hair removal. While electrolysis has been a common practice for over a century, laser hair removal was only been popularized in the 1990s. Both methods of hair removal have their own merits, which potential clients must consider in tandem with their unique needs.
Permanent hair removal techniques are based on the same goal, which is to cause localized damage to the hair follicle so that hair re-growth is stopped at the root, and differ in the means they use to achieve that damage. The process of epilation is preferable to depilation, including shaving and the use of creams, for those who tire of the constant routine of hair removal. Electrolysis involves the insertion of a thin metal probe into the follicle, and the use of electricity to cause overheating, the formation of caustic lye, or both, thus preventing hair re-growth. Laser hair removal has provided an alternative for those think based on electrolysis information that the process does not fit their needs, although it has not yet been successful in the permanent removal of fine or light hair. Laser hair removal has also not been officially recognized as a permanent hair removal technique in the United States, and is instead labeled a form of “permanent hair reduction.”
Laser hair removal involves the use of a laser to target and heat the melanin in the hair follicle so as the prevent the growth of hair. The targeting of melanin, that which gives color to hair as well as skin, means that only dark hairs can be removed at this time using laser technology. Several different laser wavelengths are currently used for hair removal, including Alexandrite (755 nm), which is considered the most effective, and Nd:Yag: 1064 nm, which can be used on darker skin tones.
For long-term reduction of unwanted hair, an average of 5-7 sessions of laser removal is recommended. However, as many as 12 may be necessary to achieve the desired results. Treatments must be spaced out to allow affected hairs to shed, which takes 3 to 12 weeks for the initial sessions, and depends on the growth cycle for the area being treated.
Laser hair removal requires more expertise than electrolysis, as laser treatments may have side effects such as hyper- or hypopigmentation (dark or light spots), swelling, and burning of the treated skin. Different forms of laser treatments have been used effectively for other dermatological needs besides hair removal, including skin rejuvenation for burns, dark spots, and signs of aging. Although laser hair removal is not permanent, as electrolysis is, it has definite advantages: less discomfort during treatment, easier removal of large areas of unwanted hair, and more consistent results. Laser removal is also more expensive than electrolysis, running up to $450 per session. If you are interested in laser hair removal vs. electrolysis, consult a licensed, experienced practitioner in your area for specific pricing and treatment information.