Electrolysis Versus Laser Hair Removal

Choosing the Right Method to Get Rid of Facial Hair

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Electrolysis and laser hair removal are the two best methods for permanently getting rid of hair, or at least reducing the amount. However, it can be difficult to pinpoint which one is better when it comes to removing facial hair.

Facial hair can be the most annoying of all unwanted hairs because we can’t hide it under clothing if we wanted to (like we can with other areas of our body). Everyone, and especially females who have struggled with a large amount of facial hair, knows how annoying the process of constantly worrying about ways to get hairless can be.

Electrolysis Versus Laser Hair Removal

The mainstream laser unit can only be used on those with light skin and dark hair. It can burn those with dark skin and doesn't give optimal results for people with light hair because the laser targets pigment (dark color). Advancement is being made in laser technology for those that don’t fit in the light skin/dark hair profile by using a combination of radio frequency and laser treatment. Electrolysis can be used on anyone, despite their skin or hair color, because it attacks the hair follicle itself, and not the pigment in the hair.

How Long Sessions Are and How Many Are Needed

When it comes to laser removal, facial zones are small, so they aren't that time-consuming. For instance, treatment for the eyebrows generally takes about 15 minutes. Usually, four to eight treatments are needed, spaced out about a month apart to achieve the best hair reduction results.

With electrolysis, each hair follicle has to be individually treated, and approximate times depend on the type of electrolysis used, as some are more advanced than others. For example, one treatment on the eyebrows may take 15-30 minutes with an experienced technician. Anywhere from 15-30 sessions are needed to get the best results.

Costs

Each laser removal visit averages $200-$400, based on the size of the area being treated, and the facility itself. Since the facial zones are fairly small, they're on the lower end of the price spectrum. On the other hand, an average 30-min electrolysis session is about $45 and will treat a small area, like the eyebrows.

Pain Factor

With laser removal, it feels like a rubber band ‘snapping’ against your skin, along with a heat sensation. Everyone has their own tolerance for pain and discomfort, but coarse and dark hair feels more of the burn. Typically, a man’s laser hair removal in the beard and mustache area will feel more painful than a woman’s lip, cheeks, or chin. Electrolysis, however, has been likened to a stinging and pricking sensation, and each follicle has to go through it.

Possible Side Effects

Laser hair removal on the eyebrows can be dangerous if the laser light comes into contact with the eyes. Therefore, you need to wear protective eye shields and keep your eyes closed for the entire treatment to avoid any contact. Scarring, although rare, is a possibility. Laser removal can also stimulate hidden facial hair to grow in women. With electrolysis, the skin can get discolored if it's done improperly.

Results

Laser removal is approved by the FDA for permanent hair reduction. According to The Mayo Clinic, lasers can reduce hair counts 40 to 80 percent. Facial hair on women is often lighter and finer than on the body, and this hair may not respond as well to the laser because it targets pigment (color) in the hair follicle.

Electrolysis is also approved by the FDA for permanent hair removal. It has the best track record but isn’t 100% guaranteed for everyone. For example, hair follicles can be bent or misshapen from previous waxing or tweezing, making the path of the electrolysis needle to the root more difficult to destroy the follicle. However, electrolysis is effective for ridding fine facial hair, whatever the color may be.

Electrolysis or Laser at Home 

Tria Laser Hair Removal Precision and Silk'n SensEpil (IPL) are two home devices cleared by the FDA for permanent hair reduction through laser hair removal, and it can be used from the cheek down on women.

Electrolysis units are also sold for use at home. But with the way it's performed (by inserting a needle into the follicle), it may not be done safely or effectively.

The Bottom Line

If you have dark skin or light hair, you can’t rely on standard laser hair removal for safety issues or to give you optimal results on your face. A hybrid of laser and radio frequency used for dark skin or light hair may not be available in your area. Electrolysis may then be your only option.

If you have light skin and dark facial hair, then you can choose between either option. Laser removal is generally the less expensive of the two and requires less time and treatments. Laser might also be your better choice if you are happy with most of the hair being removed, or the hair being finer and lighter. If you have a lot of light hair removed, or you want the best chances of getting permanent hair removal, then electrolysis is recommended.