If the millions of razors and blades sold every year is anything to go by, unwanted body hair is a significant source of irritation for countless men and women in the U.K. And shaving is only the first of many hair removal techniques people use to reduce or eliminate unwanted hair. With endless resources, treatment options, and "expert opinions" now at our fingertips, it can be difficult to decide which is the best treatment route.
Also, many of these options are effective in the short term and often require significant upkeep to maintain the results. That being said, two popular procedures—laser hair reduction and electrolysis—are breaking away from the pack due to their effectiveness in preventing future hair growth. How are they different, and which treatment is most likely to give you the outcome you want? This post delves deep into electrolysis vs laser hair reduction: the similarities and differences.
Both Target the Hair Follicles
Electrolysis uses a thin metal probe to deliver a low-level electrical pulse that targets and destroys the hair follicle. On the other hand, laser hair removal uses specific wavelengths of light to selectively target the melanin in hair follicles. Both have the same goal—to damage the hair follicle and prevent hair regrowth.
Both Need Multiple Sessions
The total number of sessions needed to remove hair permanently from a particular area will vary from person to person. For example, electrolysis requires lengthy sessions (15 to 60 minutes) spaced one month apart (for roughly 12 to 30 sessions in total) to destroy the hair follicles permanently. On the other hand, laser hair removal requires only six to eight sessions to achieve an 80%-90% reduction in hair growth.
Though Generally Safe, Both Treatments Pose Some Risk
Both electrolysis and laser hair removal are safe and FDA approved. That said, like any other cosmetic procedure, they still pose some risks. After either treatment, your skin may be red, swollen (inflamed), and tender. These are temporary side effects that should clear in a few days.
With laser hair removal, there is the risk of developing light spots or dark spots and even burning or scarring if the wrong laser or wrong setting is used. You can reduce your risk by scheduling the procedure with a fully trained, certified electrologists or laser technician. To further lessen the chances of complications with laser hair removal, you should avoid sun exposure to the treated area.
Laser Hair Removal is More Tolerable than Electrolysis
Many find laser hair removal more tolerable than electrolysis, comparing the pain of laser hair removal to a rubber band snapping. At Dr Aesthetica, we use Splendor X from Lumenis for our laser hair removal procedures. This device has an integrated cooling system that delivers cold air precisely over the laser beam treatment area, significantly reducing discomfort.
Most people experience a bit more pain with electrolysis, described as a stinging or pricking sensation as if they were getting a tattoo.
Electrolysis Provides More Permanent Results
While laser hair removal provides a significant permanent reduction in hair, you might experience some hair regrowth down the line. For example, if a patient experiences hormonal changes (pregnancy, menopause, chemotherapy, etc.) after their sessions. Many opt for an occasional laser treatment to maintain to have a long-lasting result.
All the same, any regrown hair usually will appear lighter or thinner. With electrolysis, the unwanted hair will be gone forever once the series of treatments is complete.
Laser Hair Removal Produces Results Faster
The electrolysis process is tedious and time-consuming as the practitioner can only treat one hair at a time. This makes administering treatment to a larger area with electrolysis extremely time-consuming, especially on popular treatment areas such as the legs and back.
Laser hair removal requires fewer treatments, and the desired outcome is achieved sooner. (6-8 treatments vs 15-30 of electrolysis). This treatment can also treat any area of skin very quickly as it targets multiple hairs at one time. The result is treating a large area like the back or legs in less than 15 minutes.
Electrolysis is More Versatile
Electrolysis is effective for people with any skin type, skin colour, hair type, and hair colour. On the other hand, laser hair removal works best on people with light skin and dark hair. The contrast makes it easier to target the melanin in the hair follicle. But recent advances in laser technology have made it much safer for people with dark skin tones.
Laser Hair Removal is Cheaper in the Long Run
Electrolysis costs less money per session. However, you’ll need more sessions to get rid of your body hair. You might be able to get away with just a few sessions on small areas of the body, but larger areas can get quite expensive. Laser hair removal treatment usually costs more per session, but it takes only a few sessions to see results.
In the long run, laser hair removal might prove to be cheaper.
Deciding Your Treatment Route: Electrolysis vs Laser
So electrolysis vs laser hair removal: which one is better? If you’re interested in getting rid of a single hair, electrolysis might be your best option. A skilled practitioner can give fantastic results on those problematic hairs that are difficult to remove, such as a rogue hair popping out of the eyebrow repeatedly or sticking out of a mole. These one-off situations are where electrolysis thrives.
Laser hair removal is ideal for someone looking for a quicker solution to general areas such as armpits, bikini, and legs.