Permanent hair removal for most consumers if performed
correctly (which requires considerable training and skill).
A hair-thin metal probe is slid into a 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
By far the best and longest track record of results.
Over 125 years of clinically proven safety and
Can be expensive.
Can be painful.
Can be tedious.
Can be difficult for large amounts of hair.
If done improperly, it can result in:
partial to full regrowth
lasting skin damage
spread of infection
Regulation varies by state, so inadequate controls exist
to ensure competent practitioners.
Regrowth rates have not been accurately established and
cannot be predicted due to numerous variables.
Some consumers do not respond to treatment.
"Painless" or "virtually painless"
While many clients tolerate electrolysis without requiring
pain relief, it's overpromise to state that treatment will be
painless for all consumers.
The vast majority of patients experience permanent removal of
treated hair over the course of treatment, but published studies
have observed that between 7% and 10% of consumers did not have
"Guaranteed 0% regrowth"
There is no published clinical data to substantiate this sort
“Easy to use” personal units
Small battery-powered probe units like the One Touch may
claim to be easy to use, but performing electrolysis on
yourself is very difficult and not recommended. [2,
Three kinds of energy are used:
Galvanic electrolysis works by causing salt
and water in the skin around the probe to be chemically altered to
produce a small amount of sodium hydroxide, or lye. Lye is the
active ingredient in some crystal drain openers. If enough is
produced, it can damage the cells that cause hair growth. The
chemical reaction is expressed like this:
NaCl (salt) + H2O (water) + direct current = NaOH
(sodium hydroxide) + Cl (chlorine) + H (hydrogen)
Thermolysis works by causing water molecules
in the skin around the probe to vibrate, which creates heat. If
enough heat is produced, it can damage the cells that cause hair
Blend is based on the theory that lye is more
caustic when heated. Theoretically, blend is more effective than
other methods if performed correctly. Blend is recommended
by several experts, [4, 5, 6] but electrologist
skill is by far the most important factor in safe and effective
Although several researchers were apparently experimenting with
electrical epilation after the Civil War, it's generally accepted
that St. Louis ophthalmologist Charles Michel was the first to
discover and publish permanent hair removal results with an
electrified needle. 
In 1875, Dr. Michel reported he had been successfully using a
battery-powered needle epilator to treat ingrown eyelashes
(trichiasis) since 1869.  This DC powered method was called
electrolysis because a chemical reaction in the hair follicle causes
sodium hydroxide to form, which damages the follicle. It's also
sometimes called galvanic electrolysis.
Use of electrolysis for hair removal continued through the early
part of the 20th century. Its commercial popularity as a cosmetic
treatment was briefly eclipsed by x-ray hair removal, which was
advertised as both “painless” and “harmless” (only one of which was
true, of course).
Subsequent innovations in the field included the use of multiple
needles, developed by Paul Kree in 1916, and the use of AC
electricity, which causes thermal damage within the follicle. 
This was first reported in medical literature in 1924 by Dr. Henri
Bordier, following over a decade of experimentation by numerous
researchers.  This method was called diathermy by Bordier and is
also called thermolysis, short-wave, high-frequency (HF),
radio-frequency (RF), etc.
Incremental improvements in the equipment and technique continued
through World War II. At that time, Arthur Hinkel and Henri St.
Pierre applied for a patent for a blend method they'd been
developing. They received their patent in 1948, and 20 years later
published the groundbreaking book Electrolysis, Thermolysis and
the Blend, discussing their use of scientific techniques to
improve the method.  In the wake of Hinkel's book, several other
useful practical overviews have been written. [4, 5, 6]
The second half of the 20th century saw more incremental
equipment improvements incorporating transistors and computerized
controls, as well as insulated probes and sterile disposable probes.
Despite improvements in equipment, electrolysis remains highly
dependent on the skill of the practitioner. Electrolysis trade
groups have set standards for member certification, but many U.S.
states do not regulate the practice of electrolysis.  For this
reason, it's very important for consumers to go to a practitioner
recommended by someone who is done and happy with the results.
Following a long absence from medical literature, electrolysis
was once again taken up as an issue worthy of research in the latter
part of the 20th century. [13, 14]. Good review articles by
physicians [15, 16] complement the practice manuals by professional
electrologists. [4, 6, 11]. The best electrolysis book written and
edited by a physician is Richards. 
Electrolysis improperly performed or performed on non-normal skin
can cause scarring,  spread infection,  and potentially
cause isomorphic outbreaks or spread of lesions. 
One well-designed study found that about 2% of women under 50 who
seek electrolysis have an undiagnosed glucose intolerance. 
Two studies, one small and one large, respectively demonstrated
that 90% to 93% of consumers have satisfactory results [21, 22]
Two well-designed Japanese studies demonstrate permanence in
treating underamrs. The thermolysis study showed "little to no
regrowth" at 6 to 36 months after 3 to 8 treatments to the underarm.
 The blend study observed no regrowth at 6 months after 7 to 14
treatments, while comparative plucking resulted in no significant
hair removal at 6 months. 
- Please see my selected list of published electrolysis medical literature.
- Caldwell IW. The electronic pencil. British Medical
Journal, 1972, 03 Jun(813):591-592.
- Please see hairfacts.com for a discussion of home-use personal electrolysis units: cons and
- Gior F. Modern Electrology: Excess Hair,
Its Causes and Treatments, 3d ed. 2000 and Published by
Hair Publishing, Inc., Roslyn, New York 11576. (previous edition
from Tarrytown NY: Milady Publishing, 1987) ISBN: 0-87350-413-5
- Richards RN, Meharg GE. Cosmetic and Medical Electrolysis and
Temporary Hair Removal: A practice manual and reference guide.
Toronto: Medric Ltd. 1991. ISBN: 0-9694746-0-1. Pages 37-40.
- Bono M. Real world electrology: the blend
method. Santa Barbara, CA: Tortoise Press, 1994. ISBN:
- But see Wagner RF Jr, Brysk H, Tyring SK. Revisiting the Michel/Green controversy of 1879: was
Carron du Villards the first to use probe/needle electrolysis for
permanent hair destruction? International Journal of
Dermatology 1997 Dec;36(12):947-51.
- Michel CE. Trichiasis and distichiasis; with an improved
method for radical treatment. St. Louis Clinical Record, 1875 Oct;
- Richards (1991) page 39. Available online via American Electrology Association.
- Bordier H. [New treatment for hypertrichosis with diathermy].
Vie Medicale, 1924, 5:561 [article in French]
- Hinkel AR, Lind RW. Electrolysis, Thermolysis and the Blend:
the principles and practice of permanent hair removal. Los
Angeles, CA: Arroway Publishers, 1968. ISBN 0-9600284-1-2
- Please see hairfacts.com for a list of states that regulate electrolysis.
- Chernosky ME. Permanent removal of superfluous
hair. Texas Medicine, 1971,
- Johnson E. Epilation of growing hair
follicles. Journal of Expermimental
Zoology 1975 May;192(2):259-63.
- Wagner RF Jr, Tomich JM, Grande DJ.
Electrolysis and thermolysis for
permanent hair removal.
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 1985
- Hobbs ER, Ratz JL, James B. Electrosurgical
Clinics 1987 Apr;5(2):437-44.
- Vogt HJ [Formation of keloids after
electroepilation]. [Article in
German] Hautarzt 1973 May;24(5):203-4.
- Ditmars DM Jr, Maguina P. Neck skin sporotrichosis after
electrolysis. Plastic and
Reconstructive Surgery 1998 Feb;101(2):504-6.
- Petrozzi JW. Verrucae planae spread by
electrolysis. Cutis, 1980, 26:85.
- Dumesic DA, Herrmann RR, O'Brien AM.
Estimated prevalence of
undiagnosed glucose intolerance from hyperandrogenic anovulation
among women requesting electrolysis. International Journal of Fertility and Womens
Medicine 1997 Jul-Aug;42(4):255-60.
- Verdich J [Treatment of hypertrichosis in
women by means of electroepilation] Ugeskrift for Laeger,
- Richards RN, Meharg GE. Electrolysis: observations from 13 years and 140,000
hours of experience. Journal of the American Academy of
Dermatology. 1995 Oct;33(4):662-6.
- Kobayashi T, Kamiyama G. Electroepilation using insulated
needles. Aesthetic Plastic
- Urushibata O, Kase K. A comparative study of axillar
hair removal in women: plucking versus the blend
method. Journal of Dermatology 1995
Items in this section:
How to choose
data on electrolysis
clearances of electrolysis