Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal


Maya, a reader from the UK, wrote in asking me about her best options for removing hair from her chin and upper lip. She was curious about electrolysis and laser treatments but was worried about the process involved, including having her upper lip shaved before a laser treatment (she didn't want her hair to grow back thicker).

Lasers and electrolysis are the only options for permanent hair removal on the chin and upper lip, but there are pros and cons to both.

Laser Hair Removal

Lasers work best on dark hair, light skin because the laser targets melanin which is found in dark hair. There are some lasers that now successfully remove blonde hairs, but from what I've read, they've not yet perfected them. If you have dark skin, beware also, because the laser will target the melanin in your skin as well, which can cause pigmentation problems.

The pain factor. I've found lasers aren't as painful as waxing, but are more painful than depilatory creams or tweezing. I am going through laser hair removal on my legs right now and it's working great. A pulsed light from the laser can feel like a rubber band snapping your skin. I recommend taking a couple Advil an hour before.

How much time, how much money? The good news is a laser session on the upper lip and chin is fast compared to the legs and bikini. Each session will take about 10 minutes. You'll need 5-6 treatments spaced four weeks apart. The bad news is laser hair removal is not affordable for everyone. Depending on where you live, each session can cost $150-$200.

To shave or not to shave? As for your concern about shaving, you may have to shave the area for a particular machine to work. But the good news is that all the hair falls out within 10-14 days. I have fast-growing leg hair, so when I get laser hair removal the hair grows in immediately per its usual tricks, but then it magically falls out (with a bit of exfoliating help on my part) within that magical 14-day period. Depending on how fast your hair grows, you might have a bit of coarseness for a few days, but it should all fall out.

And just so you know, shaving never makes hair grow back thicker. Virgin, never shaved hairs have fine, soft ends. Shaved ends are coarser. This is why the hair that grows back after you shave seems to be thicker.

Are results guaranteed? Results, unfortunately, are never guaranteed with laser hair removal. You can expect an 80% reduction in hair growth, but some people see more, some less. I have had great success with lasers, while a friend of mine turned to electrolysis because all his back hair grew back after his laser treatments.

Find a reputable aesthetician. Beware the cheap places that offer discounts. You want to make sure you are going to a credible, licensed aesthetician who is most likely using the best, most up-to-date machines available.


Electrolysis is a more guaranteed form of hair removal and works on dark AND light hair.

How it works. The licensed electrologist (make sure yours is licensed) inserts a sterile needle into every hair follicle. A low-level electrical current kills the follicle. Because electrolysis focuses on one hair at a time, it can be a tedious process, which makes it ideal for small areas like the brows, upper lip and chin.

The pain factor.  The pain from electrolysis is greater than laser and it may feel like 20 pricks to your one for laser hair removal. Cost is about $60 for a typical 30-minute session, but the con is you need about 15-30 visits to see the best results (ouch!).

Are results guaranteed? Yes. Unlike laser and pulsed lights, electrolysis kills every follicle the electrologist treats.