is the practice of electrical depilation
to permanently remove human hair
. The actual process of removing the hair is referred to as electrolysis
. The practitioner slides a hair-thin metal probe into each hair follicle
. Proper insertion does not puncture the skin. Electricity
is delivered to the follicle through the probe, which causes localized damage to the areas that generate hairs, either through the formation of caustic lye
(galvanic method), overheating
(thermolysis method), or both (blend method).
Three methods or "modalities" are used in electrology. Galvanic, Thermolysis, and Blend all have their own merits, and one method is not better than another. The success depends on the skill of the electrologist, the type of hair being removed, the condition of the skin and the pain threshold of the client. All three methods, when properly performed, can be thorough at destroying the hair matrix cells, and leaving follicles incapable of regrowing hair.
This modality is named after Luigi Galvani
and uses a person's body as an electrolytic cell
. Galvanic electrolysis was first reported in the medical literature by ophthalmologist Charles Michel
to remove ingrown eyelashes in patients with trichiasis
. A galvanic epilator is essentially a positive ground power supply that delivers 0-3 milliamperes
through the body. The follicular probe is the cathode
of an electrolytic cell. Sodium hydroxide
formed at the cathode by the process of chemical electrolysis
kills the hair matrix cells. Modern galvanic epilators automatically adjust the voltage to maintain constant current.
Another method is known as thermolysis, RF, shortwave or diathermy.
Thermolysis was developed in the 1920s and first reported in medical literature by Henri Bordier. A thermolytic epilator is essentially a radio transmitter, usually with an output of about 0-8 watts at a frequency of 13.56 MHz. RF energy emanates from the probe tip to tissue within about a millimeter. Thermolysis works by heating the hair matrix cells to about 48°C (118.4° Degree Fahrenheit), causing electrocoagulation.
Galvanic and thermolysis are often combined in a method known as blend
, developed by Arthur Hinkel
in 1948, which uses both RF and direct current, combining many of the advantages of galvanic and thermolysis. All three of these methods use a metal probe 50 to 150 µm (0.002 to 0.006 inches) in diameter which is inserted into the hair follicle
to the depth of the dermal Papilla
or hair matrix, which is the site of formation of hair from highly mitotic
and keratinized cells
Most practitioners will advise that complete removal of facial hair takes between 1 and 4 years, with an average treatment length of 2 years.
Status of profession
In the United States, electrolysis is regulated in many states, requiring training and licensure.
Electrolysis as a profession faced new competition in the 1990s after laser hair removal was developed and promoted as a quicker and easier way to remove hair permanently. However, electrolysis regained lost popularity after the Food and Drug Administration declared laser and similar devices can only claim to reduce hair growth, not permanently remove it.