What You Should Know About Laser Hair Removal Vs Electrolysis

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All of us have unwanted hair in some areas of our body that we’d prefer removing. And it’s not just us! Humans, particularly women, have been using tools to remove unwanted hair as far back as 3,000 BCE. From making razors with seashells to preparing sugar-based waxes, humans across cultures have come up with a variety of techniques to experience smooth and hairless skin. 

And while waxing and shaving are certainly available options, many of us would prefer to remove it permanently. As technology continues to improve, more and more people are starting their journey towards permanent hair removal. 

Permanent Hair Removal: Knowing Your Options

If one of your 2024 beauty goals is to enjoy smooth, hairless skin without the hassles of waxing or shaving, you’re probably considering permanent hair removal. In that case, your main options include electrolysis and laser hair removal. But what’s the difference between them? To make an informed decision, you need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each method. Let’s take a deep dive into the details surrounding each method, including the technology, expected results, and how long it takes before you’re officially hair-free.

Perhaps one of the most popular methods of permanent hair removal available today, the use of laser hair removal has increased by 30 percent since 2013. In contrast, electrolysis has been around for a long time but hasn’t gained the same level of traction as laser therapy. Both methods work by targeting the hair follicles under the surface of your skin, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Understanding Laser Hair Removal 

During a laser hair removal session, the technician will apply (surprise, surprise) a laser onto your skin. The laser, which transmits mild radiation, can travel through your skin and target the melanin in your hair follicles. The melanin absorbs the heat, which ends up damaging the hair follicles without damaging nearby skin. This results in delayed or inhibited hair growth down the line. 

In case you didn’t know, melanin is the natural substance in the skin that produces pigment. The pigment in your hair follicles helps create a contrast between the hair and skin, so it’s how the laser knows where to target.  Keep in mind that every person has varying amounts of melanin in their skin, so the results of laser hair removal are varied. Currently, it’s highly effective on fairer skin tones with dark hair, with advances in technology making laser hair removal suitable for darker skin tones as well. Although laser only damages the hair follicles and slows down regrowth, any new hair will be lighter. So even if you need maintenance sessions to stay hair-free, hair that grows back is easier to manage. 

Cost of Laser Therapy 

Because laser therapy is an aesthetic procedure that gives long lasting results, it’s a beauty investment. So, even though you’ll pay more for a laser therapy session than for waxing or shaving, you end up saving money in the long run. The average cost of a laser therapy session falls between $200 and $400, but it also depends on: 

  • The spa you’re going to,
  • The dermatologist, 
  • Most importantly, the size of the area being treated.  

Of course, keep in mind that the above-mentioned estimate is only for a single session, whereas it takes more for permanent results. Each treatment area can require around 4 sessions, but you may need as many as 9 or 10 for better results. 

Preparing for Laser Therapy

For best results, it’s recommended to take a few pre-treatment steps before your laser therapy session: 

  • Shaving 12 hours within your session can help remove enough hair growth to prevent stinging. 
  • Don’t get a fake tan or tanning bed exposure before the session. 
  • Wear high factor SPF and keep your skin moisturized. 
  • Don’t pluck, epilate, or wax for up to a month before your session. You can shave since it doesn’t harm the hair follicles under the skin’s surface. 
  • Keep your skin clean and dry, which means no makeup, deodorants, or lotions. 
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothes on the day of your appointment so that you feel comfortable afterward.

Since these are general guidelines, your preferred laser clinic may give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for your laser therapy session. 

Aftercare for Laser Therapy

After laser therapy, you can go back to your day-to-day routine without needing any downtime. However, you’ll need to take a few measures to ensure the best results: 

  • Cut back on sun exposure for two to four weeks after treatment.
  • Wear loose clothing for a few days after treatment.
  • Don’t exfoliate the area until the redness subsides. 
  • Don’t use deodorants for at least three days to prevent irritation.
  • Avoid taking very hot baths or showers for at least two days. 
  • Avoid applying makeup to the treated area so it has time to heal. If needed, you can use mineral makeup on the face. 

Since these are general guidelines, it’s best to consult your dermatologist to find out if there are other aftercare steps you should take.   

Side Effects of Laser Therapy

Laser therapy is accompanied by the risk of hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation, which means getting lighter or darker spots on the skin. To avoid this and potentially burning the skin, it’s recommended to see a certified dermatologist for laser therapy. Other potential side effects are changes in skin texture, redness, and swelling. However, these are usually mild and subside with the right aftercare.  

Advantages of Laser Hair Removal 

So, you’ve understood the basics of laser hair removal vs electrolysis, but why should it be your top choice for permanent hair removal? In case you’re still unsure, here are some of the benefits of choosing laser hair removal:

No Need for Downtime

One of the biggest reasons people prefer to get laser therapy is that they don’t need to take time off work, school, or their day-to-day routine. Aside from some aftercare like limiting sun exposure and not wearing form-fitting clothes, you can go back to enjoying regular activities.

Great for Dark Hair

If you’re someone who struggles with dark, unwanted hair, even the slightest growth can appear all the more prominent. With laser therapy, you’ll see faster and more visible results; not just because it slows down regrowth, but because it makes the hair thinner and lighter.  

Faster Results 

With laser therapy, you don’t have to start with the expectation that you’ll only see results after a couple of sessions. In fact, you’ll see that hair starts falling out in a few weeks after the treatment. The hair will appear less prominent and thinner, making a visible difference in your appearance. So, even if you decide to get laser therapy a few weeks before a major event like a vacation or wedding, you’ll still get impressive results. 

Affordable in the Long Run 

A major reason people prefer laser therapy over electrolysis is that they don’t have to spend a lot of money to see results. Let’s suppose you decided to get electrolysis. In that case, you’d need to get more sessions before you start seeing any results. That means paying more to see the same results you can get from a few sessions of laser therapy. Not to mention, laser therapy is the cheaper option if you’re considering full-body hair removal. If you were to go with electrolysis, that cost would add up quickly.  

Shorter Sessions

If you have a busy schedule and can’t find the time for hours-long electrolysis sessions, you’ll enjoy laser therapy instead. In contrast, laser hair sessions are much shorter, which makes them more convenient to fit into your schedule. Hypothetically, you can get a laser therapy session done during your break at work. 

No Need for Hair Growth 

Another benefit of choosing laser therapy over electrolysis is that you don’t need to maintain specific hair growth in order to prepare for a session. That’s because the technician won’t need to grab onto individual hairs in order to pull them out.  

Painless Procedure 

Ask people who got laser therapy why they chose it, and it’s likely that they’ll say, ‘because it hurts less.’ This is true, and thanks to the latest innovations, newer laser therapy machines cause even less discomfort. It’s commonly described as being snapped with a rubber band.  

Disadvantages of Laser Therapy 

Despite the numerous advantages of laser therapy, there are a few disadvantages you should consider before scheduling a session. 

Requires Annual Sessions 

On the whole, laser therapy is generally safe and effective. However, you’ll still need to book annual sessions to maintain your appearance. Don’t worry, though; these sessions don’t take much time and you can easily fit them into your schedule. 

Higher Per-Session Cost

A caveat of choosing laser therapy is that you’ll end up paying more per session. This is attributed to the high cost of operating and maintaining a laser machine. And considering how you’ll start seeing results much sooner, it’s worth the cost.  

Redness and Swelling

Another consideration is the potential for side effects. It’s common for people to experience some swelling and redness after a session, but these symptoms subside after a few hours. Other possible side effects include irritation and dryness. 

Understanding Electrolysis 

Electrolysis has been around since the 19th century, when scientists were exploring it as a possible universal cure. Unlike laser hair removal, which involves the use of mild radiation, electrolysis is a bit more invasive. Your dermatologist will insert a thin needle into each hair follicle, delivering a low-level electrical current that destroys the follicle. Then, each hair is removed individually using a pair of tweezers. Compared to laser hair removal, electrolysis really is permanent because it destroys the hair follicle responsible for growing the hair. 

When done properly, it can discontinue hair growth and clear your skin. But considering that it requires inserting a needle into each follicle, you can expect this process to take much more time. Not to mention, each follicle needs to be treated more than once to ensure permanent removal. Initially, you can expect to undergo between 4 to 8 courses every 4 to 6 weeks. Since electrolysis doesn’t require the technology to detect a contrast between the skin and hair, it can remove hair from a variety of skin tones.   

How Much Does Electrolysis Cost? 

Just like with laser therapy, the cost of a single electrolysis session can vary depending on where you’re based, the doctor, and size of the area needing treatment. But it’s important to remember that the overall cost can quickly go from hundreds to thousands of dollars. 

Because it involves such a detailed and lengthy process, a larger area like the thigh may require multiple sessions to cover the area once. You also have to add in the cost of multiple sessions since it’s necessary to over the area more times for better results. So, a single-hour session can range from $50 to $200, and the total cost of treating a smaller area like the face can cost up to $500. Meanwhile, bigger areas like the abdomen can cost you thousands of dollars in total. 

Aftercare for Electrolysis

Although there’s no need for downtime after an electrolysis procedure, dermatologists recommend taking a few steps as part of your aftercare routine. This includes: 

  • Applying an antibacterial cream on your skin after treatment. 
  • Avoid strenuous activities that could lead to excessive sweating. 
  • Not scratching or excessively touching the treated area for a few days following treatment. 
  • Not applying makeup, soap, or perfume to the treated area. 

Of course, this is just a list of the common things you can expect. It’s recommended to consult your dermatologist for a detailed list of aftercare instructions for the best results.

Preparing For Electrolysis

When preparing for your electrolysis session, you’ll be asked to take a few pre-treatment measures, such as: 

  • Shave 2 to 3 days before the appointment so that the hair is 1/8th of an inch. This is so that they can grab the hair with tweezers. 
  • Don’t wax or pluck hair from the follicles. Shaving is fine. 
  • Exfoliation is recommended a few times a week before the treatment. 
  • Keep yourself hydrated to reduce discomfort during treatment and allow better results. This includes avoiding caffeinated or alcoholic beverages since they can cause dehydration.  

Side Effects of Electrolysis 

With electrolysis, there’s a risk of experiencing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This happens when the skin produces additional melanin due to irritation, and can require specialized treatments like retinoids or lightening creams. Similarly, there’s a risk of burning the skin near the edges of the hair follicle. Other side effects associated with electrolysis are: 

  • Blisters and scabs 
  • Tenderness and swelling
  • Redness and irritation 
  • Keloid scars (raised scars that may not fade with time)

Advantages of Electrolysis 

If you choose electrolysis for permanent hair removal, you get the following advantages: 

Permanent Hair Removal 

While electrolysis and laser therapy give long-lasting effects compared to waxing or shaving, the former offers more permanent results. It completely stops hair growth, while laser therapy reduces and slows down the process. 

Suitable For All Skin Tones 

If laser therapy isn’t giving desirable results because of your darker skin tone, then electrolysis may be recommended. This method can destroy hair follicles without needing to detect a contrast between the hair and skin. 

No Need for Maintenance Sessions

Granted, electrolysis takes much more time initially, but once you’re done, you won’t need any more sessions. For instance, you won’t have to book yearly maintenance sessions to retain similar results. 

Disadvantages of Electrolysis 

Although electrolysis is a suitable choice if you want permanent hair removal without the need for yearly maintenance sessions, there are still a few disadvantages to consider. 

Much Slower Than Laser Therapy 

A common reason people don’t prefer electrolysis is that the process takes a lot more time. Compared to laser therapy, which targets a large area at once, electrolysis involves eliminating one hair follicle at a time. Because of this, it can be challenging to book long appointments. And let’s not forget that removing hair from larger areas such as the legs or arms will require even more time when done using electrolysis. 

Full-Body Hair Removal Can Get Expensive

Because electrolysis requires a detailed process involving treating each individual hair follicle, removing hair from larger areas can end up requiring multiple sessions. Then, you’ll need more sessions so that the entire area is treated again. Consequently, electrolysis can end up getting quite expensive very quickly. 

Hurts More Than Laser Therapy

If you’re someone who chooses hair removal methods based on how much they hurt, electrolysis isn’t for you. Even though the technology used for the procedure has come a long way in terms of reducing pain and discomfort, it still stings because of the electric current. Because a thin needle is inserted into each follicle, it feels similar to a bee sting. And considering how electrolysis treatment requires more time, sessions can get quite painful.  

Requires Multiple Sessions to Show Results

If you have a major event a few weeks away and are considering getting electrolysis for long-term hair removal – think again. Despite providing permanent results, you’ll still need to get between 10 to 14 sessions before you start seeing visible results. And that’s the minimum – many people report waiting between 8 and 18 months to start seeing results. 

Laser Hair Removal Vs. Electrolysis: Both Methods Require Multiple Sessions

When comparing laser hair removal vs electrolysis, a similarity between both methods is the need for more than one session. That’s because electrolysis and laser therapy are most effective during the anagen phase, also known as the beginning of the growth cycle and active growth stage. In this phase, you’ll be able to see visible hair on the surface of the skin that’s attached to the hair follicle. 

In laser therapy, the laser light targets and disrupts the follicle, preventing hair from coming back. Meanwhile, electrolysis requires inserting a needle into the follicle to destroy it. Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of your hair is currently in the anagen phase. So when you take your first permanent hair removal session, less than a quarter of the hair follicles are treated. All other hair is currently in the catagen and telogen phase, so treating it with electrolysis or laser therapy won’t prevent further growth. It’s why you need to schedule more than one session for long-lasting results.  

Laser Hair Removal Vs Electrolysis: Which One Should I Choose? 

Considering all the factors we’ve discussed above, it’s safe to say that laser therapy is a superior hair removal option compared to electrolysis. Not only is it safe and hurts less, but you also get better results in less time and can choose it for larger areas of the body, the abdomen, thighs, and arms. So, if you’re ready to kiss your razors and waxing appointments goodbye, permanent hair removal via laser therapy is a step in the right direction. 

Of course, ensuring a safe process and quality results requires going to a licensed professional with experience. Donna Bella Laser MedSpa is a licensed clinic specialising in safe and efficient hair removal. Call our clinic today to book a consultation and find out if our experts can help you. 

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