Electrical epilation, or electrolysis, uses a sterile probe inserted into an individual hair follicle to apply a low-level electrical current that permanently destroys the hair at the root. It is the only form of permanent hair removal approved by the FDA and the American Medical Association.
Electrolysis does have some risks and temporary side effects. It's time consuming and can be expensive. Electrolysis needs to be done over time, as it is only effective in the growth stage of the hair's life cycle. Since all hair isn't in the same stage at the same time, an average of 15 to 30 treatments are required, depending on the area being treated.
Side effects can include pain during the treatment itself, though that can be reduced with the application of a numbing cream. Temporary tenderness and inflammation are other risks. Skin color changes can also occur, especially in dark-skinned individuals.
There are three types of electrolysis: galvanic electrolysis, thermolysis and a blend of the two. They differ in the type of heat conductors they use in the destruction of the hair follicle. Galvanic electrolysis uses chemicals as the conductor, whereas thermolysis uses water. The blended method uses a blend of the two conductors. The choice may come down to what methods are available in a given area.